Sunday, April 28, 2013

Act IV, Scene 4 - Hamlet 2000

You'd think this modern adaptation, with countries represented as corporations, would cut Fortinbras' "powers" and this scene altogether. You'd be wrong. Instead of a snowy plain, we're on an airplane. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are sniggering, reading Wired and eating peanuts in the aisle opposite Hamlet who is watching in-flight television and looking at postcards that symbolically represent his exile. A plane taking off, a nude painting, a stone mask. We're heading back in time, to parts unknown, to Hamlet's reptile brain, and away from the civilization and intellectualism that has plagued him to date. On the television is Fortinbras, or so a flight attendant says when Hamlet asks. At least, he looks like a flight attendant, until he puts the drink he's holding to his mouth. Is he then just an officer of some kind? In the play, it's Fortinbras' captain, but here, is he the plane's captain? If so, he shouldn't drinking or walking around the craft. It's an odd moment. If I were to give it purpose, I'd say it's a representation of Norway usurping Hamlet's Danish power. A steward approaches with a drink, but then doesn't give it to the passenger and drinks it himself. It foreshadows' Fortinbras' corporate takeover. Not that this is is any way clear.

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.
The plane seems incredibly long, and the dramatic vanishing point behind Hamlet makes him akin to a bullet in a cannon, about to be fired. In the bathroom, he speaks to himself in the mirror, gives himself a mission. Has he become the Ghost himself? He dares himself to act, nose to nose with his reflection, and he will take that dare.

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