Gotta love the royals' comic take in the first panel. They're also given a panel (not shown) in which to despair, again in mirroring poses that would suggest these versions of Claudius and Gertrude are still a solid couple. The adaptation sadly doesn't do a lot to flesh out the characters, so the underwritten Gertrude is more underwritten (underdrawn?) still, often just an ornament on Claudius' arm, placidly receiving dialog more than she ever doles it out. We can't really know what she thinks of the King, if anything.
The Berkley version
Friday, July 26, 2013
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Ophelia begins with a sad song, but as soon as either of the royals try to touch her - as Claudius walks in with papers that later prove to be news of Laertes' rebellion - she grows manic, screams "PRAY MARK" and starts whirling about the room. She's a dangerous creature to the realm and that sense is given by sudden moves, like her jumping at the Queen's hair, or ripping off the King's jacket. Director Greg Doran apparently rehearsed Ophelia separately from the other actors at first, so that their reactions would be truthful and the mad girl's antics all the more surprising. As she moves to the mirror and goes to touch a sharp shard of glass, they fear she might do a desperate outrage to herself (and she will, through something else that gives a reflection). Some of her madness is real, as in the moment where she looks vacantly into the distance reliving her father's burial, but sometimes she feigns madness to terrorize the royals. The story about the owl, for example, is accompanied by an epileptic fit to mime the transmogrification. This ties her more solidly with Hamlet. She's his mirror, but perhaps in more realistic psychological terms, her imitator. Note also the hilarious reading of the line "I hope all will be well" as a mockery of Patrick Stewart's mannerisms and voice. As such, it means Ophelia does not hope all will be well, and indeed wishes doom on this entire family at her brother's vengeful hands.
The production does not shy away from the more sexual aspects of the scene. In her manic state, Ophelia quickly removes her dress and slip during the tumbling song and refuses the Queen's attempts to drape a shawl over her nakedness. Although Ophelia still has underwear, Claudius looks away embarrassed, contradicting Hamlet's portrait of him as a lust-filled beast. She runs off, clothes in hand, when she suddenly finds herself vulnerable with the thoughts she'd been avoiding all along, those touching her father's death. But make no mistake, this was a coded attack on the royal family.
Claudius, ever the unctuous politician, seems all too calm about the situation, his priority to cajole the distance Gertrude into his frame of mind. His smooth tones betray his intentions, this is a spin job, and he makes sure to blame Hamlet for their problems, an accusation she shrugs off angrily, as if it's been his mantra now for a while and she's tired of hearing it. But he's not exactly wrong.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
Oddly, the songs are not gender-translated like the rest of the play. "He is dead and gone" can now only mean Hamlet, because Ophelia has lost no father. Hamlet isn't dead, though they might have said that to comfort her. She might be talking about Hamlet Sr., as she is one of the people who seems able to see the Ghost when she's high on heroin. Fodor had a perfect excuse for Ophelia's madness even in his modern context, but he doesn't seem to use it here and the scene is the weaker for it. Polonia was Ophelia's pusher, and the girl could have been crashing hard at this point. However, the performance has none of that, and the way Ophelia recites the songs by rote, without inflection or inner discourse, doesn't work either as withdrawal OR madness.
Fodor suggests a number of dark happenings in both past and present, but they don't come together satisfyingly in this scene.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
The King walks in with a bodyguard in tow and Ophelia gets more and more agitated. Not feeling like they're listening to her, she screams "Pray mark". Gertrude turns to the King for help, her smiles still trying to cover for the girl's antics. "When they ask you what it means", she tells the royals to convey not the original song, but an incredible scream that startles the guests (pictured above). The film translates her trauma differently than the play does, cutting out most of the "nonsense songs", replacing them with moments such as this, which we might call "nonsense sounds". What we lose in poetry we gain in visceral immediacy.
The rest of Ophelia's performance, including the warning about her brother, is given while being dragged away by the bodyguard, again keeping things moving. The scene's rather surprising punchline is that Laertes comes out of nowhere before the King can utter more than one line of the final speech, grabbing him by the throat. Ophelia's appearance was but the first volley in this "rebellion", played rather more personally in this version of the play, as we'll discuss when we tackle the next scene.
Saturday, July 6, 2013
Venora really presents two Ophelias. The child who dreams of being Queen, who sees imaginary ladies-in-waiting (in lines which, on the stage, might well be directed at audience members), sings and dances and passes notes (what is the significance of the crumpled piece of paper she gives Gertrude? An old love letter? Is this a corruption of the scene in which Polonius reads on to the royals?). The other Ophelia is the traumatized, grieving daughter who scratches at the floorboards (where the audience knows ghosts live), rhymes rather than sings, moans and beats her chest. They don't co-exist. When she moves from orphan to child at one point, she realizes her face is wet with tears and starts wiping it, as puzzled as she is ashamed. Ophelia is out of joint.