Monday, December 12, 2011

III.i. The Nunnery Scene - Hamlet 2000

In this version, Ophelia is wired by her father and heads for Hamlet's apartment. The transition to that scene is a wall of water (a fountain in Elsinore), water being Ophelia's totem element. She's brought Hamlet a somewhat psychedelic box filled to the brim with letters and other mementos (like a rubber ducky - again an image of water). The whole scene feels particularly modern and, in a sense, mundane. We recognize the (ex) boyfriend-girlfriend dynamic here, playing out an argument as old as time. She's reproachful of his attitude, and he plays the cold bastard with her. Cutting the lines about the paradox makes the dialog more of this time as well. Hamlet's more ambiguous explanation of "are you honest/fair?" is the simpler "I did love you, once", reducing, perhaps, the emotional equation to there being no beauty without honesty. Alternatively, he may be telling Ophelia he loved only her falsified image, and that he does not love the person she actually is under the surface.

The scene really hinges on the line "I loved you not", after which Ophelia for the first time seems to feel emotion (her usual attitude could be described as "numb", or at least, "guarded"). After these wounding words, we cut to a shot of a jet, overhead, an image of something departing, or just a way to underscore a silent beat? And yet, Hamlet isn't without kindness. He seems comforting as he moves to her and rubs her shoulders, and his speech sounds like someone saying "it's for the best" and justifying why the two of them shouldn't marry lest they revisit the sins of their parents on their partners and children. It's one of the play's themes, isn't it? Hamlet's struggle is that having found his parents lacking, he fights not to become like them. One might even find enough evidence here to show that Claudius is Hamlet's biological father, as the latter resists the former's romantic and murderous aspirations. At least this Hamlet tries to leave Ophelia with some measure of kindness. Overwhelmed by emotion, she kisses him out of desperation, perhaps only now understanding that it's over between them. When he tells us to "believe none of us", it may be a warning to keep her safe from the plots that are about to unfold - his madness, yes, but also the courtly schemes, her father's most of all.

And as the scene gets hotter and heavier sexually, he suddenly finds the wire under her blouse. He's been trying to warn her about the conspirators in their midst only to find she's one of them. "Where is thy father?" is spoken with a hand over the microphone, but even under that muffled safety, she doesn't answer (because OF COURSE he would be at home, this is a remote "arras"). Hamlet shouts some of the next lines right into the wire, leaving no doubt that he's discovered it. Ophelia, caught, embarrassed and upset, puts all her things in the box, rips off the wire and packs it too, leaves in a rush. Most of the time, we don't even see Hamlet in frame. This is her scene, her point of view, her pain.
After a bike ride home, we see her burn Polaroids of Hamlet. Why, when the rest of the scene seems to tell us she's still in love with him? She probably thinks it's all her fault if it's over. Things were looking as if they might get back together for a moment there, and then the wire was discovered. Foolish girl, allowing your father to use you against the man you love like that. Because Ophelia's story ends in a suicide, we know her to be self-destructive, and here she destroys the better part of herself, so to speak, as her answering machine picks up Hamlet's curses and nunnery talk. It makes "no more marriages" something more intimate, something only she hears since Claudius and Polonius cannot possibly overhear it. From kindness, Hamlet has moved to cruelty. There can be no ulterior motive to yelling this part of the speech at Ophelia (though one may easily presume Polonius taps her phone).

And as she breaks down, we cut to Hamlet renting videos. He's moving on. From the relationship, and to a more active role in the play itself.

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