Sunday, September 17, 2006


Adaptation of the week.

First of all, in case I don't mention it later on, and it's not made blatantly obvious in my discussion, this is a comedy - a funny one.

Have you ever seen a performance of Shakespeare's "Hamlet", either a stage play, or perhaps one of the fine movie versions? You know the story. Hamlet's uncle kills his father, marries his mother, tries to have him killed, yadda yadda yadda.... His mother thinks Hamlet is going insane because he's been acting depressed (ya think). So she sends for his companions, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to keep an eye on him. Every now and then, you'll read "Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern". They then have Shakespeare-like banter with Hamlet or Queen Gertrude or Polonius or ........... whatever. Then you'll read "Exit Rosencrantz and Guildenstern". Ever wonder what happens to them after they exit, when they're not on stage?

No? .......... Neither did I.

This movie is their story, from the moment they were "sent for", to their ultimate demise (I'm not giving anything away here, they get killed in Hamlet - it's the name of this movie, for cripe's sake). But despite that, it's very funny. Tim Roth and Gary Oldman never come out of character. They are in Shakespeare mode all the way through, but the conversations they have are priceless. In fact, the entire film is completely driven by dialog. Not unusual, since Shakespeare's main strength is dialog.

Not everyone will like this film. The dialog is fast and funny, and you have to be quick and pay attention. Not everybody is willing to put in that kind of effort. If you don't, you'll miss the point, and it may be rather boring. Some people think Shakespeare shouldn't be "messed with", and won't like the satire and comedic puns that are rife throughout the script. Some people will think it's rather vulgar - it's not. "I hated it! There's no plot!" What are you talking about? It's Hamlet! But do you know who liked it? My kids. I played it for them when they were fairly young and they loved it. They didn't get everything, but they got enough.

Here's why I like this film.
  1. An excellent screen adaptation by Tom Stoppard, of the play by Tom Stoppard, and then directed by Tom Stoppard. Think of all the money they saved.
  2. The banter between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is very reminiscent of the banter between Dante and Randal in the movie Clerks, - not exactly, but reminiscent. Sort of like Kevin Smith writes Shakespeare.
  3. Rosencrantz always seems to be on the verge of some discovery, which we recognized, but which then eludes him.
  4. Hamlet's story, somehow not as interesting as R & G's.
  5. So many great quotes - if only I could remember them.
  6. Here's one - by Richard Dreyfuss as the head of the acting troupe. "We're actors! We're the opposite of people!"
  7. Here's another by Rosencrantz. "I can't think of anything original! I'm only good in support." - a reference that neither character ever appears without the other.
  8. Shakespeare wishes he wrote this play. He told me so.
  9. If you ever do a coin toss with R & G, call out "heads" before they do ........ trust me on this one.
  10. It's just four floggin' beats.


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