Sunday, April 28, 2013
One thing that is missing from the exchange is the idea that soldiers are about to die for a useless cause in Poland. Because we know the play, we might infer it ourselves. Fortinbras dismantles a Polish company for no other reason "than the name", costing untold numbers their jobs. But there's no way to show this with Shakespeare's text, so Hamlet's exhorting examples don't have anything to do with Fortinbras' war. This Hamlet lives in the modern world and is surrounded by "examples gross in nature", many of which he's used in his art films. We accept his growing determination without it needing a trigger. The staging is crucial. Hamlet heads for the bathroom at the other end of the plane, speaking his soliloquy as he walks down the aisle, an echo of "To be or not to be" in Blockbuster's aisles. This forces him to walk through economy class - largely empty, a sign of severe class divide? - and sees a woman holding a baby. The examples before him, though different than in the play, may still cause his personal call to arms. Seeing other children and other parents only reinforces the unnaturalness his own family relationships.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
The second difference is the sense of suspicion surrounding Hamlet. The Captain makes a face when Hamlet asks him about the army, as if deciding what exactly he will tell him. Is this a sign that the entire Polish campaign is a lie? Doubtful, as he gives too many details. Or perhaps it's all part of a cover story, since obviously, people (including Claudius) might question why Norway attacks this useless piece of land. And the Captain isn't just an officer, he's an ambassador, trusted to deliver a message to the Danish King. He could be skilled in the art of diplomatic deception. If Hamlet is lied to, it creates a layer of irony. Fortinbras, doubling back to attack Elsinore, is at once on the same mission he is - dethroning/killing Claudius - and mimicking Claudius' own actions - usurping Hamlet's rightful place on the throne. Claudius is the alternative to Hamlet Sr., and Fortinbras the alternative for Hamlet Jr. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern also treat Hamlet with suspicion, taking a long time to go "a little before", as if fearing Hamlet might escape their custody. This possibility is made entirely more possible by the army's proximity. He might easily lose himself in the crowd. But as usual, they get it wrong.
The third major difference in the performance is that tears stream down Hamlet's face during his speech. Kline's Hamlet is a rather weepy one, but why here? The scene is done mostly in tight close-up with a bitter Hamlet, getting louder only later as his anger and determination grow. But is he crying for the men who will lose their lives, for the Ghost of his father still trapped in limbo, or because he's disappointed in himself?
Saturday, April 13, 2013
The conversation between Hamlet and the Captain features some of the rare cuts in this adaptation of the play. The Danish Prince doesn't ask as many questions and doesn't react out loud to the futility of this war. Sending Rosencrantz & Guildenstern ahead, he turns to the camera/audience, as usual, to speak his soliloquy in quiet and intimate terms. The contrast with Branagh's bombastic call to arms is striking. Jacobi's Hamlet is bitter and rueful, at once angry and sad that he hasn't yet been able to take revenge and lay his father's ghost to rest. Where Branagh motivated his army of one, Jacobi explains and reasons, until only one conclusion can be drawn from it. His thoughts are now "bloody" as he looks over to R&G, an implied threat, and one the camera lingers on. We are slow to exit the scene and are meant to understand that these two men, Hamlet's untrustworthy escort, are to become his first victims. And there's a certain sadness in Hamlet that it must be so.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Hamlet isn't grilling the Captain in this version, rather more puzzled than irate (except with Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, flies buzzing at his ears), and he introspectively realizes that wealth and peace breed war by making men like Fortinbras restless to the point of launching capricious forays into other nations in search of glory. When we compare the two princes, we might see Hamlet as a man so preoccupied that he cannot choose the right course of action, whereas Fortinbras lacks any kind of preoccupation, and so must spring into action, ANY action, to chase the doldrums away.
And of course, the dramatic presentation of the speech makes for a better act break - leading to an intermission/disc change in bloody red letters - than a more intimate moment might otherwise have been. The music is big, the words are large, but the man himself is rendered small in the shot, a single individual defiant before his destiny, affairs of state, and a hostile world, the backdrop against which this drama is played. It is Hamlet in scale with the universe of the play, so to speak, and in being smaller becomes bigger.