Sunday, April 1, 2012

III.ii. The Mouse-Trap - Hamlet 2000

Hamlet 2000 features some important cuts, including the entirety of the play within the play, replaced by a dialogless art film of Hamlet's creation. While it serves the same function as the play, by showing images designed to perturb the King and Queen, it does mean a lot of commentary on the play had to be cut as well ("'Tis brief", "doth protest too much" and "is there no offense", for example). Still, staging the scene in a movie theater does have its uses. There's a depth to such a room that allows the entire audience to be seen at different levels in the same shot, and the director keeps the Royals in the background kissing until Claudius finally pulls focus by speaking. Hamlet's words are for Ophelia alone, keeping up the barrage of insulting words started in their previous scene together, playful but highly sardonic. What comes across is that Ophelia really doesn't understand him. Everything she says in this section is wrong, either a misunderstanding or really Hamlet switching things on her. Hamlet seems angry with her for not understanding him, though it's also his fault for behaving differently.

Only at the end of his diatribe about people forgetting his father does he raise his voice enough for Claudius to notice him and ask "How fairs my cousin Hamlet?" The answer is cut down to a simple "excellent" after a pregnant pause that dismisses the King and let's it be known he really has nothing to say to his stepfather. Polonius, meanwhile, is absent from this scene entirely, and after all, there's no reason for him to have the Brutus lines seeing as there are no Players or talk of acting.
The film starts with white on red title cards that plays on Hamlet (the play)'s own title: "The Mouse-Trap, a Tragedy by Hamlet, Prince of Denmark", a visual reminder, perhaps of his aborted rise to the throne. The images shown include time-lapse photography, clips from old movies and Monty-Python-style animation. In order, we see a flower opening, clips of a happy childhood with a father and his son, the world turning, a bottle of poison, animation showing the poison going into the ear, scenes of murder and death, athletes falling like dominoes, the flower wilting, a child comes down the stairs, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra (a reference to another adulterous relationship in Shakespeare), some pornographic material, a crowd applauding and a king crowning himself before the mirror.
At the sight of the poison, Claudius starts to sweat, catching the obvious accusation. For Gertrude, the difficult part of the film is the pornography, and given her innate lasciviousness, it must be because she gets the inference. She is the pornographic Cleopatra on the screen, and it's her son (there are no other authors of this drama, no "Murder of Gonzago" template) who has represented her this way. Claudius will walk out of the theater at the end, fighting with his demons, while Gertrude attempts to follow, speechless as she turns towards her son.

By virtue of the many cuts, this Hamlet is less active than the text's, but he needs to prod the King and Queen much less because he made the film, whereas in the text, The Mouse-Trap is meant to be a play he ordered from the Players' repertoire. The message is more direct, and Hamlet need not jump on stage to make his own intent clear.

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