Monday, August 1, 2011

III.i. Briefings - Olivier '48

As Rosencrantz & Guildenstern do not appear in this version of the play, only Ophelia need be briefed. And as "To be or not to be" is uttered in Act II, she need not be subjected to overhearing it. So what are we left with? Quite an interesting piece of staging, actually. The innocent Ophelia's status as a victim is emphasized in this film. She comes down a corridor, unawares, and his ambushed by her father, just as he intends her to ambush Hamlet. His hand holding a book comes out of nowhere, and surprises her - a violent penetration into her interior world. This Ophelia has not been prepared for what is to come, which will add to her confusion and the unfairness of the situation. It's very clever.

Once she gets her instructions, Polonius and the King go behind and arras, though not before Polonius points repeatedly at the spot where he wants her to stand. As ever, he means to control members of his family - something he has in common with Claudius - though once he's hidden, Ophelia is left to mill around, despondent. In Ophelia's every movement, there is discomfort. She is going back and forth in her own mind as to whether she should or even could disobey her father. The decision is taken out of her hands when Hamlet finally enters, startling her.

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