Saturday, April 13, 2013

Act IV, Scene 4 - BBC '80

Though the studio-bound production is spare in its scope - the white plain a set, and Fortinbras' army a small collection of extras, reproducing the feel of a staged play - the scene is still well set, with flags and sound effects that evoke an army on a war-footing. A fairly soft war-footing, as it turns out. As part of the staging, Fortinbras' last line, "Go softly on", isn't spoken to the Captain, but to another soldier staying with the main of the army as if to evoke a sense of stealthy movement to Fortinbras' troops. They're asking for permission, but perhaps Claudius doesn't know exactly where the army is going, or how many men it represents. Fortinbras is hiding something.

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.

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