Tuesday, August 9, 2011

III.i. Briefings - Zeffirelli '90

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern's debriefing is played silently in Zeffirelli's vision, with them running up to the King while Hamlet looks on, unseen, and is moved to utter what words of the "O what a peasant slave am I" speech the film retains. This makes their treachery more brazen and/or gauche, which will always have the perverse effect of weakening Hamlet. It's no great achievement to outplay the too-incompetent R&G.
Ophelia's own briefing takes place well before - "To be or not to be" and the nunnery scene are placed at the end of Act II, just after the "Words, words, words" sequence - and is missing the front end of the conversation. We begin at Gertrude's "I do wish that your good beauties", which has the strange effect of giving Gertrude control over the scheme. Though the Queen treats Ophelia with much affection, but looks over the girl's shoulder at Polonius as if instructing him as well as his daughter, or perhaps letting him know that he's on the hook for his theory. Gertrude then has a silent moment with her husband as Ophelia and Polonius go down the stairs to the "lobby", hands are kissed and cheeks stroked before Claudius leaves her too. She stands at the top of the stairs a moment before leaving. That position of power again seems to point to a more manipulative Queen, at least pushing this ploy against her son. She does not "obey" Claudius, but seems to command him to do her dirty business. She means well, of course, but it does put her role in court politics into question. While perhaps not aware of Claudius' crime, how much did she actively seize a moment when she allied herself with him?

Another important cut: Claudius does not make a confessional aside. Zeffirelli does his best to take away any kind of regret from this character. His Claudius is a more obvious and one-dimensional villain (unfortunately), and it would not do to make him more sympathetic with even the perception of pangs of regret.

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