Saturday, October 8, 2011

III.i. To Be or Not to Be - Hamlet 2000

Hamlet 2000 has a unique placement for the speech: Just after the spies make their plans, and before Hamlet meets up with Rosencrantz & Guildenstern. It's a scene completely divorced from the rest of the characters. No one sees or hears Hamlet (who goes in and out of voice-over anyway), nor does the Nunnery scene (still to come) weigh on him. The staging is, I must admit, a little precious for my tastes.

The scene takes place in a Blockbuster, specifically its Action section (to go with "lose the name of action"). Hamlet is a film buff and amateur filmmaker, which makes the setting fairly natural for him. The screens behind him show fiery explosions of the same kind seen during Hamlet's meeting with the Ghost, where they evoked the hell the latter had escaped from. Here, it is the "undiscovered country" Hamlet fears. Though chronologically before Hamlet's meditation on the Player in the film, we at Hyperion to a Satyr can remember that scene's use of James Dean as the nominal actor. When we discover at the end of the "To be or not to be" speech that the explosive film behind Hamlet is The Crow, a link is made between Dean and The Crow's star, Brandon Lee (who gives a kind of salute to camera). Hamlet seems to be fascinated by actors who tragically died young, his own death prefigured in those of his idols.

As for the performance, Ethan Hawke makes his walk as nonchalant as possible, whispering the words when they aren't coming from voice-over, running through.lines at a quick, pause-free pace. This is a jaded Hamlet, one who is either verbalizing things he's already thought about, or repeating words he's written for one of his short films. It takes away from the power of the speech, but is legitimate in the context of the film.


Craig D. said...

I think it's actually the second Crow movie, City of Angels, that's playing on the TV screens. The two films have practically the same plot, but one significant difference is that the main character in Angels comes back from the dead to avenge the loss of his son rather than his girlfriend (along with his own murder), which may be why it was chosen over the first movie. Fathers and sons and bloody vengeance and all that. I doubt the filmmakers were giving it much more thought.

I noticed the 1998 Godzilla on the new release shelves in the background, which is interesting (to me at least) for two reasons: first, it gives you a rough idea of when Hamlet was filmed (late 1998 or early 1999), and second, it's probably the first and only time that Godzilla and Shakespeare ever crossed paths... unless you count the fact that some of the talent from the Godzilla movies worked on Kurosawa's Shakespeare films Throne of Blood, The Bad Sleep Well, and Ran, both in front of and behind the cameras.

Siskoid said...

Fast becoming the strangest game of movie connections ever played.