Thursday, April 7, 2011

II.ii. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern - Zeffirelli '90

Zefirelli, in addition to many cuts, disrupts the usual order of the play at this point. From the fishmonger scene, he moves to Hamlet's arranged meeting with Ophelia, then to "To be or not to be", before finally moving us outside Elsinore for our first encounter with Rosencrantz & Guildenstern. Hamlet takes a horse ride and lays down on a carpet of greenery, all very idyllic, perhaps as an ironic counterpoint to his contention that Denmark is a pestilent prison. The director is keen to keep things as visual as possible, making many cuts in the dialog, which I personally find annoying because the visuals definitely don't replace the nuances of the text, nor do they always bring anything to the film except a change of pace for the audience's eyes. For example, this sequence will move from this secluded spot to an open cabin facing the beach where the friends can have lunch. This does not perceptibly illuminate the nature of their relationship, and the way it is staged, even confuses it.
R&G are played by Michael Maloney (Laertes under Branagh, and Hamlet in Midwinter's Dream) and Sean Murray, respectively. They come upon Hamlet where he reclines, almost Christ-like, and in a change from the play, they are escorted by Horatio and (young) Marcellus. So what does this suggest? Have they been to Elsinore, had their meeting with the Royals, and have gone to look for Hamlet? Or does Horatio have a privileged relationship with R&G? The former seems more probable. Without any lines, Horatio is basically there to look at Hamlet with sadness as his friend either bares his soul or lies to common friends (again, ambiguous), or to receive pregnant looks from Hamlet (as in the "What a piece of work is a man" speech; where the prince either acknowledges his friend's compassion or means to pass on the message that he is putting on a show for R&G).

Hamlet's entire attitude towards R&G gets away from the usual idea of describing melancholy or depression. He is quickly angry at them for withholding their true intentions, something they admit to only after a show of violence when he kicks a stool from under Rosencrantz. His delivery of key speeches is rather more venal than other Hamlets', as if to say "I'm not happy and there's nothing you can do about it, gents". He doesn't put on any particular show of madness (and the line about being mad north-north-west is cut in any case), but states his point-of-view matter-of-factly. And since most of the speech is spoken to Horatio, back to the others, it can't even be said that he shows a moment of vulnerability to R&G. This follows an introduction in which Hamlet hardly seems to remember their names.

As I said, there are many cuts made to this sequence. Most of the playful banter between the friends is gone. Hamlet no longer welcomes them to Elsinore. He doesn't let slip any remark about his uncle. And of course, the theatrical gossip has been excised. Now the grubby players show up in a large wagon, and Rosencrantz points at them. Zeffirelli then gets back to his visuals, with a long sequence showing the troupe enter Elsinore.

No comments: