Tuesday, June 7, 2011

II.ii. The Players - Fodor (2007)

Polonia walks into the room to announce the players' arrival. She seems disinterested and impatient in a way that reminds of Much Ado About Nothing's Beatrice taking pleasure "upon a knife's point". Hamlet and Horatio openly hate her. As she goes through the players' list of qualifications, it sounds like sarcasm, but it goes on so long, Horatio seems to wonder if she's for real. And then the players come in. Electronic music blares. The picture is polarized. We're in an 80s music video. The self-satisfied Polonia smiles and appears to find them cool. She blushes and fans her face. Our three players (two men, one woman, sizzlingly intense) are hot! They're radioactive! And it certainly seems like Polonia has fallen under their spell. It's the sycophant in her. Just as she's latched onto the King and the power he represents, so does she succumb to the players' star power.
In fact, everyone does. Hamlet is up and excited. Horatio smiles expectantly. The prince asks for a speech, and the players merely stare at him impassively. It's this uncomfortable moment that may prod Hamlet into starting the speech himself. Horatio smiles kindly at Hamlet's attempt, encouraging where the players are not (indeed, they're rather sinister). As Horatio becomes more and more apprehensive about the players' non-reaction (a complete inversion of the emotional Player that gives Hamlet reason to soliloquize), the prince recites his portion of the Priam speech with smiles. He enjoys the words, but doesn't perform them as so many other Hamlets do. Polonia applauds him for it, one might say sarcastically.

The players move to a carpet that will act their stage and face each other. Horatio shares a gleeful smile with Hamlet at their eccentricity. As Hamlet places himself in the center, the players start to walk around him, in various directions, reciting what I imagine is the Priam speech in German, sharing lines among them. The soundtrack has the quality of chanting monks. The bizarre ceremony sends Hamlet into a flashback sequence featuring his father's funeral as each character, in turn, kisses the corpse on the lips. A cacophony of bells, children's laughter and German words scores this seance which conjures up the oft-seen ghost(?) of child Hamlet. And this time, Horatio sees him, touches him, shakes him.
She leaves the silent but laughing child to support his adult self as he comes out of the trance and feels faint. Hamlet then gets a clear vision or the players, matching each one with the role of King, Queen or Ghost, and we understand how and when Hamlet got the idea for the "mouse-trap". He goes on to ask the First Player to play "The Murder of Gonzago".

Now, this is a very strange sequence and one that doesn't really work for me. It fits the "horror story" aspect that Fodor tries to bring out of the play, but robs us of Shakespeare's words and their intended performance. What we have instead is creepy German performance art, confusion where ironically things become clearer for Hamlet. His lost childhood appearing to Horatio in the flesh isn't explained, nor can it be.

No comments: