Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Nunnery Scene - Fodor (2007)

The scene comes on the heels of the conspirators discussing their plans to spy on Hamlet while Ophelia boards him, even as they watch him practice fencing from behind a two-way mirror. Hamlet reclines on the floor, and they send Ophelia to him. She kisses him to wake him, and never really seems hurt through the scene. This is an Ophelia that's controlled by her sister (Polonia) through drugs, and one that might well be just as manipulative as her sister. In no way does she appear to be as vulnerable as other Ophelias are, but her confidence may be bolstered by drug use. In any case, the accidental image created by her hair connecting her mind with Hamlet's (above) is merely illusion. There is no emotional understanding between them.
The two-way mirror device is well-used, allowing both Hamlet and Ophelia to look straight at Claudius and Polonia. The effect is different depending on the speaker. Hamlet's words are ironic because he doesn't know (at least initially) who he's really speaking to, while Ophelia can give meaningful looks to her co-conspirators. The image of that free-floating mirror creates an ironic wedding portrait. But while Ophelia remains rather cold, it's Polonia who reacts the most, giving weight to Hamlet's words. While Claudius shakes his head in disbelief, Polonia seems to feel the stings Ophelia does not. This is a new side to her character. Normally, she's basically psychotic, but do we glimpse here empathy for her sister? Or is she as selfish as ever and seeing the stepfather in the son? There's an obvious relationship between Claudius and Polonia in this film, but does he love her? And does she even care seeing as she's manipulating him anyway? It's an effect created by the mirror and the transgendering that we have two couple on each side of the glass. At least some of her reactions come down to embarrassment at being proven wrong about Hamlet's love-induced madness. Certainly, Claudius reacts quite strongly at having his time wasted by this exercise. Is that loss of power over him what she's really reacting to?

As the sound design becomes more and more bizarre - strange, anxious birds, and finally funereal bells - Hamlet seems to realize they might be watched. Having grown up in this house, he probably knows it's a two-way mirror. Ophelia doesn't answer him when he asks where her sister is, either because it would be absurd (the house is everyone's "home") or as a continuation of her passive, numb attitude. He leaves and she's left standing there, with no real reaction, and certainly no speech. On the other side of the mirror, Claudius also leaves, disagreeing with Polonia's take though not resolving to send Hamlet to England. We're left with two sisters, left by their lovers, staring at each other.

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