Tuesday, July 9, 2013

IV.v. Ophelia's Madness - Hamlet 2000

Hamlet 2000 uses heavy cuts to ramp the scene's momentum up, focusing on Ophelia's disruptive influence at "court". The scene is set on an interior balcony overlooking a central atrium. On several levels, there appears to be a company function going on, some cocktail party attended by shareholders perhaps. Ophelia seeks the Queen, going round and round the concentric balconies, an image of her own mind spinning out of control. She finds Gertrude laughing, drink in hand, and seemingly untouched by the feeling expressed by her speech, done in voice-over. This is the face she shows the shareholders, a brave front to keep confidence in the company up, which makes Ophelia's intervention all the more destructive. She stumbles into guests and Gertrude naturally tries to smile over the incident and lead the girl away. With this more sinister Queen, it becomes possible for the song "How should I your true love know / From another one?" to be directed at her, the mother-in-law who has apparently spurned her and spurned her own son. One of Ophelia's transgressions is to question the love Gertrude bears her son (which she let the King exile), and her loyalty to Polonius' family (who died while theoretically under the Queen's protection).

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.

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