Sunday, September 22, 2013

IV.v. Laertes Returns - Fodor (2007)

Fodor's Laertes is a psychotic brute, never more apparent than in his return from France. Instead of leading a rebellion directly to the King and Queen, he first makes a move on Hamlet's friends, Horatio and Francisco, knocking the latter out and viciously beating the former to some heavy metal music. It appears as if he's about to rape Horatio, but Laertes actually takes his belt off to choke her with it, dragging her to the beach as a hostage when he meets Claudius and Gertrude. Though the disturbing inference is there, I'm relieved the film didn't go there, as it would have been a paltry misuse of Horatio's feminization.

At the beach, this Laertes proves too gross in nature to keep to the Shakespeare's lines, dropping a number of F-bombs into his speech that emphasizes his beastliness. Of course, the text was going to suffer a lot of changes anyway, since he's not asking after his father's death, but his sister's, Polonia being this adaptation's other feminized character. The sexual politics that come into play actually give Claudius a better motive for Polonia's death, and Laertes more justification to come after the King. After all, Polonia had been Claudius' lover, so both Royals would have had reason to want her killed. Their discussion becomes a shouting match, which is perhaps the only way one can communicate with this brutish Laertes. While present, Horatio of course has no lines during this scene, but that can easily be attributed to a bruised throat. Gertrude is also largely taken out of it as the King's pleas for her to let Laertes ("Let him go, Getrude") become "Let her go, Laertes", in reference to the captive Horatio.
Then a strange moment that foreshadows Ophelia's death. Laertes hears a noise, turns around, the sound drops out in favor of eerie music, and Ophelia stands there, flowers in hand, in saturated whites and blues. She's a ghost, already dead as far as fate goes. She comes forward and kisses him passionately, something Laertes has the surprising decency to find disturbing. If there's something this whole sequence proves is that while painted as a coarse monster, Fodor's Laertes isn't sexual, only violent. He would probably be intolerable if he were both.

The the sound drops back in, the colors return to normal, and the scene regains a sense of normalcy (such as it is) as the girl frenetically looks through her brother's pockets, likely looking for heroin, though she finds nothing. Remember, Polonia was supplying her with it, and a large part of Ophelia's breakdown in this version is attributed to withdrawal. Angry and bitter, and holding back tears, she then proceeds to distributing her flowers before walking off, her final words completely cut as we move back to Claudius' seduction of Laertes. She does tweak some the lines she IS afforded to interesting effect, in particular "You must sing a-down a-down, / An you call him a-down-a" pronounced "a-down-er", a clue to the drugs that are on her mind, as well as a less-than-stellar appreciation for her cruel, manipulative sister.

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