Friday, August 19, 2011

III.i. Briefings - Hamlet 2000

We get into the sequence through the invitation to The Mouse-Trap, the title of Hamlet's film within a film, spoiled a good while before it is in the text. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are on the phone with the King, speaking the single line "We shall, my Lord" together, comically. It's an efficient piece of modern staging, putting great distance between the royals and the sycophants, and playing on the duo's "sameness" by having them huddle around the same phone (at least, in our imaginations).
While that is going on, Polonius is strapping a wire onto Ophelia, yet another piece of modern technology used to simulate the Elizabethan "behind an arras" technique. There's something rather creepy and hilarious at the same time about all this. Polonius winking at the royals as he seemingly fondles his own daughter, the gesture made more inappropriate by the royals ogling the situation lasciviously. There's in fact something very sexual about Gertrude in this adaptation. Here, she's halfway sitting on her husband, and talking about Ophelia's "virtues" in ironic quotation marks. She seems to infer that Ophelia's power over Hamlet is sexual, and that all her son really needs is a good roll in the hay. This Gertrude is someone who solves her problems with sex, having promptly changed her widow's fortune into a wedding, and definitely enjoying the honeymoon period. There's no real affection for Ophelia here. it's about using the girl as a sex object, if not to "fix" Hamlet, then at least to get information from him.
There are a lot of lines cut from the sequence - we come in late on the phone conversation, and the modern spin must avoid mentioning certain anachronisms - but the most important are Ophelia's. She has no lines at all, remaining silent and weeping through the entire ordeal. Cutting "I wish it may" makes her an unwilling participant in the scheme and supports her later suicide, making the royals and her father share in the responsibility along with Hamlet. The cuts also support the idea that the meeting will not be accidental. Ophelia will have to go to Hamlet while the older men listen in on the conversation. It also means that they won't hear "To be or not to be", nor will they be able to see what's going on. But those are all matters for the next time we pick the adaptation up, and I won't spoil them here.

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