Saturday, August 2, 2014

V.i. Ophelia's Funeral - Zeffirelli '90

Zeffirelli cuts so many lines from this sequence as to cut its INTENT. The funeral is no secret burial, attended by dozens, singing hymns in broad daylight. Naturally, the priest's part is cut, his exchange with Laertes contradicting all of this. In this version then, Ophelia is not suspected of suicide, or if she is, the director has sapped the Christian mores of the past out of the play. There is no casket, Ophelia is naked (so to speak) to the sky, on a stretcher. Gertrude goes to her, kisses her, and sheds a tear, her words private. So when Laertes takes her in his arms, there is no melodramatic leap in her grave, no hellish irony. He merely does what the Queen just did, Ophelia is on the ground, not in a pit, and his words are soft and kind, not spectacle for the assembled grievers.

Hamlet walks into the scene with as little fanfare. He doesn't announce himself, and the dialog is cut to shreds, his list of Herculean tasks gone. What we're left with his Laertes trying to strangle him, both men standing tall, not much of a brawl; the Queen going to Hamlet to kiss and calm him down, as if her were a wild beast whose emotions needed constant managing; and the Prince allowed to walk away after he kisses flowers and puts them on Ophelia's body. The lines that remain give Hamlet a sense of futility, which isn't quite the same as fatalism, but may run in parallel. "What wilt thou do for her?" is sad, more than angry, because there is nothing more to be done (I echo here the priest's cut lines). "Dog will have his day", not slung at the King or anyone else, but that same understanding that what will be, will be, and that Ophelia's corpse is somewhat the manifestation of that idea.

As Hamlet leaves, Claudius shares a long look with his Queen, trying to share a smile or smirk with her, but narrowing his eyes. Has he stopped trusting her, or is he realizing he can't openly condemn Hamlet because she loves her son too much. We know he's plotting something, because in the restructuring of the play, only THEN does he approach Laertes to seduce him into killing his stepson (just like in the Olivier version).

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