Saturday, September 14, 2013

IV.v. Laertes Returns - Hamlet 2000

Seconds after Ophelia is carried off by security, Laertes comes out of nowhere to confront Claudius (well, security IS distracted...). It's a quick, furious scene on a balcony overlooking a pit. It screams danger just like the Danish rabble at Laertes' heels might have. Claudius quickly moves to an adjacent room, his fear more about the public relations aspect of Laertes' rebellion than about his physical safety, though the younger man soon has his hand around the elder's throat, and image that is reversed by sequence's end when Claudius does the same, but in a kind of bond-creating embrace. In this version, the Queen is portrayed as being just as decadent as her husband, so she gets a good portion of Laertes' abuse. He screams at her to drown out her protests. He tells HER he dares damnation. In a sense, she's the King's only bodyguard in this scene, his only enforcer.

One note about the room: It somehow doesn't appear to be on the same floor as the balcony it seemed adjacent to. The street outside makes this no more than the second or third floor, while the balcony was high indeed. It gives the sense that the reception hall is a pit dug into the ground, a funnel into hell itself.
Ophelia comes in with Polaroids of flowers instead of the flowers themselves, which makes sense for the photographer she is in this adaptation. In great distress, Ophelia barely recognizes her brother and appears to be in a constant state of swooning, going weak at the knees and cross-eyed. Is she on drugs, medicine, or is this just how her madness manifests? Notably, many of her lines are cut and she does not make any reference to prayer. She's merely helped out of the room by her brother. This is because Christian notions have largely been weeded out of the text to better represent young people of Hamlet's and Ophelia's social class circa the year 2000.

"Where the offense is let the great axe fall" is now part of the next scene, not spoken to Laertes, but to Claudius himself, in the broken mirror up in his bedroom, just before he manipulates Laertes into helping him kill Hamlet. It takes on another meaning. Rather than trying to sound sincere for Laertes, he's rather psyching himself up for the task of "turning" an antagonistic "Laertes". The moment may imply that Claudius is ready to take his lumps if he can't work his magic, and that success in this instance is a sign from above that he shall prevail against Hamlet as well. The things we tell ourselves in the mirror to convince ourselves we're on the correct course.

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