Friday, November 30, 2012

III.iv. The Closet Scene - Fodor (2007)

Fodor's Hamlet really scrambles this scene up, changing the order of lines and events, to get the most creepiness out of it, but also to cover the fact that Gertrude hates her romantic rival Polonia, and the latter would not scream for help if Gertrude were in danger. Polonia's death scene thus comes at the end, rather than early on.

One of the points of view in the scene is a security monitor watched by the Ghost, who looks bored and distant, cold. This is an odd conceit, but as the scene develops, one used to create an image of the land of the dead. When the Ghost appears to Hamlet, there's a flicker that makes the normal image desaturate and distort, as if we were suddenly looking through the monitor. The effect heralds the Ghost's presence and is not sustained throughout the visitation, though Hamlet's POV is blown out, irridescent, whereas his mother's is normal. It's not just the sense of the supernatural that's conveyed here, but perhaps that he's having some kind of psychotic episode, hallucinating. And indeed, it's the Ghost that nods pointedly in the mirrored closet's direction from where Polonia watches. Real or not, it's the proverbial voice telling Hamlet to kill. And it makes sense that this Ghost would want Polonia dead, as she appears to have been a co-conspirator in his murder, or he may just want to push Hamlet over the edge to turn him into the weapon he needs him to be. If the Ghost is NOT real, the Hamlet is merely picking up on his mother's early reference to seeing black and grained spots as she looks right into the mirrored door, a silent cue to warn him they're being watched, something his psychotic break makes him subconsciously realize. Because we so often see the Ghost from an omniscient, third person POV, we must surely accept the Ghost is real, however, though it may be we are as mad as Hamlet.

The way the lines are stacked (and performed) in this adaptation, Hamlet is less of an accuser and more of a convincer. That's because Gertrude is already well on her way to rejecting Claudius, who she knows is already being unfaithful to her (with Polonia). As her son begins to speak, flashbacks to such indiscretions cross-fade through the screen. These same words and if somehow shared, images, bring a smile to closet queen Polonia's face. There is no real violence between mother and son, even once Hamlet pulls out a gun, and after Polonia's death, Gertrude easily promises not to let Claudius tempt her to bed, nodding emphatically, comforting him, completely sincere. Once again we must contend with parts of her dialog being delivered in German, which isn't so baffling in the context of royal pairings. Gertrude might well have been another country's alliance with Denmark, a rare pearl from another realm that two brothers fought over, though that's not very relevant to this modern staging.
After the Ghost leaves, a pounding beat is introduced in the score, Hamlet makes his mother sit in front of the mirror (introducing the line about setting up a glass much later in the scene) as he points a gun at her reflection. Her death will be a symbolic one, the death of the mother he hates, allowing her to be reborn on his side rather than her husband's. Polonia senses the bullets flying around her, and in an interesting bit of editing, flashes (as perhaps Hamlet does too) to the icepick murder shown in Hamlet's film. As the icepick enters the ear, so does a bullet penetrate her. The door opens, and to Hamlet's horror, he hasn't killed Claudius but Polonia (horror at having killed, at any rate, and in realizing he must kill again to honor his revenge pact). Polonia is framed in a smaller screen, her skin blue, with a treatment that makes it seem like she's part of Hamlet's film, odd slowed-down, choking sounds coming from her. This is where the fantasy of death and its reality converge, the cognitive dissonance Hamlet experiences. Polonia's death is almost painterly, a posed tableau. And eventually, the screen, colors and treatment adjust to normality (or what passes for it in this horrific version), and her death becomes real. Hamlet cries, for his own soul if not for this villain's.

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