Sunday, August 31, 2014
The burial itself is observed mostly from Hamlet point-of-view. Laertes usually has his back to us, even when he has lines to deliver. By necessity of the location, perhaps. You could also say we're seeing it from his point of view, hypersensitive to how others react to his sister's death. The priest's disdain. The gravedigger in the background checking his watch. Gertrude is the kindest, so is in close-up, but Laertes only focuses on her because she dares suggest a marriage between his sister and his most hated foe, Hamlet. It leads him to try and hold Ophelia in his arms once more, her arms flopping about in a sickeningly macabre embrace. For Hamlet, this is unbearable, and he shows himself, his sadness turning to outrage and anger. Defiance even.
Hamlet tries to warn Laertes that he is dangerous and that he shouldn't try his patience, he can hardly finish a sentence before Laertes jumps him. There's a scuffle, as a skull looks on from the mound of mud. Foreshadowing. Creepier still is Claudius looking on, a cruel smile creeping on his lips. This is exactly what he wants, to keep Laertes in the right frame of mind so he can kill Hamlet for him. When he says "He's mad", it's to fuel Laertes' fire and stain Hamlet's reputation with any onlookers.
Tennant's performance is, as usual, energetic, but also violently destructive. No one is spared, though some weather it better than others. Having indirectly caused Ophelia's death, he lashes out at everyone and insures the duel that will be his undoing.
Friday, August 22, 2014
In a "shocking" production like this one, you'd expect the leap into the grave to be include some objectionable element, but Fodor surprises by letting Laertes show actual kindness. It's not a full-on, incestuous embrace, but the stroke of a cheek, the covering of her face with the shroud, and notably, the taking of a red scarf, the only real color in the scene. It's the color of blood, a symbol of his revenge perhaps. And then Hamlet reveals himself and Laertes goes limp. Not literally, but his performance does. They've built him up as a thuggish monster too much for this confrontation to be so tepid. A couple of men hold him, but they probably shouldn't even have been able to pry him off Hamlet's throat. Horatio, a member of the burial party, is immediately at Hamlet's side (missing the black eye Laertes gave her, oops!), but he doesn't need much holding. Gertrude is so shocked she reverts to her native German. Claudius flies into action, giving orders and shuffling the characters about. He gives the words urgency and power, but when you think about it, he merely sends everyone where they would naturally have gone. Gertrude and Horatio with Hamlet, Laertes with him. It's like telling a cat to do something it's about to do and calling it trained. Such is his power in Denmark.
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Hamlet as aggressor is the innovation here. A hurt Laertes tries to ignore him, tries in fact to respect the plan he and Claudius concocted. Now is not the time. But Hamlet keeps pressing him. Why? Well, in this context, the lines take the bent of a suicide hotline, tough love perhaps, but love. Laertes just asked the gravediggers to bury him with his sister, and Hamlet, passed master at grieving, aims to shock Laertes back into life. His list of great feats do not have a competitive intent, but are rather used to show Laertes there is nothing he can do, however extreme, that will bring his sister back. He's trying to make him move on more quickly than he was able to (never able to). "Why do you use me thus? I loved you ever" becomes more immediate, a reference to what he was trying to do just before Laertes' hands wrapped themselves around his throat.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
Kline's adaptation is played as if on stage, and the planks are visible in this scene. There is no grave to put Ophelia or leap into. The sequence is played as a rest from the walk to the cemetery, and made to work. Claudius then has the rest of the short trek to remind a still shocked Laertes of their plans. Perhaps he senses the boy's reticence. This is not a particularly angry Laertes, and nothing, except Hamlet's presence, really inflames him. The priest is kind to him, answering his surprise at the slim rites kindly. His request to take Ophelia in his arms once more is dramatic, but shown by Hamlet's ranting to be somewhat insincere, like something he think he ought to do, not something he profoundly feels. Confronted by true emotion, he's no sure what to do. And perhaps are sewn the seeds of doubt, an empathy with the Prince.
Saturday, August 2, 2014
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).