Monday, August 22, 2011

III.i. Briefings - Fodor (2007)

The conspirators are in a dark space, made stranger by often abstract angles, watching Hamlet practice his fencing from behind a two-way mirror. There is much to learn about the characters as Fodor imagines them here. The camera follows glances from Polonia's chest to Claudius' eyes, for example, and the two characters are sometimes standing next to each other, sometimes have Gertrude between them. Continuity mistake? The effect is to make the Queen's relevance intermittent at best. Even Ophelia, naive in the way she gazes at Hamlet, gleefully smiles at the end of the sequence when the Queen notices, powerless, that Polonia and Claudius are holding hands. The Queen knows of her husband's infidelities, but bears them and the scorn and ridicule of the entire house. This is a world with far more palpable corruption, and one gets a sense from these events that the King is not so much do things for Gertrude as he is for Polonia. Polonia's motivation is manipulation for manipulation's sake, or simply to do evil. She drugs her sister to control her, keeps her away from Hamlet, and is now bored with that and tries something else. Hamlet is either the object of a certain vengeance (he and Horatio have humiliated her with the truth of their words - a more distracted, older Polonius would probably not react like that), or a pretext for getting closer to the King. The idea that she is in control here is presented visually by having Rosencrantz & Guildenstern seem to speak to her more than to the King. The King is not in the frame, and Polonia, being closer, becomes the most powerful (largest) figure.

R&G are less sycophantic in this version, they just share Polonia's evil bent. In fact, only Gertrude in any way smiles. The others are all cold and calculating. They report their findings while watching Hamlet, as if he were some laboratory animal. "There did seem a kind of joy" is said with the voice of a scientist, observing an intriguing behavior. Polonia entreats the King to "hear and see the matter" in what sounds like a further variable. There is no sincerity in Polonia's voice; she essentially says "Let's see what happens when we humor him." It is an experiment.

Hamlet ends his practice (with an unnamed characters), and tells his sparring partner that he "fights like a girl". This departure from the text has an ironic bent, since Hamlet's adversaries in the play include two women (three in this adaptation), and he is about to have a confrontation (possibly violent) with one of them. He then goes up to the mirror to fix his shirt. Ophelia looks right into his eyes, unseen. She's a manipulator too, though her goal may be different. She is happy to be part of this plan and will not show the doubt and fear other Ophelias have been prone to. As he lies down to rest in the white room, Ophelia leaves the dark one to join him.

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