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Showing events from the point of view of two minor characters from Hamlet, men who have no control over their destiny, this film examines fate and asks if we can ever really know what's going on? Are answers as important as the questions? Will Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (or Guildenstern and Rosencrantz) manage to discover the source of Hamlet's malaise as requested by the new king? Will the mysterious players who are strolling around the castle reveal the secrets they evidently know? And whose serve is it?Written by
Mark Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the play and film Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are portrayed as bumblers who are trying to understand the goings-on while being slowly guided to their fate. In Hamlet, the two are agents of the usurper, King Claudius. Their mission is to renew their childhood acquaintance with Hamlet so that the king can spy on him, report on his madness, and relate any information that would show him to be a threat.
Shortly before Hamlet's speech about the positive and negative capacity of man, he comes to see that his two friends are not friends after all. Claudius then has them accompany Hamlet to England with a note to the British monarch requesting that Hamlet be killed. Hamlet finds the letter and changes it so that Rosencrantz & Guildenstern should be killed rather than him. The title of this film and the play it is based on, is the line from Hamlet reporting the fate of the two false friends. See more »
Throughout the movie there are scenes where day suddenly changes to night and vice versa. This is a running gag of Tom Stoppard plays which often have "time jumps" written into the stage directions. See more »
[Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are riding horses down a path - they pause]
[Guildenstern rides away, and Rosencrantz follows. Rosencrantz spots a gold coin on the ground]
Whoa - whoa, whoa.
[Gets off horse and starts flipping the coin]
Hmmm. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads.
[Guildenstern grabs the coin, checks both sides, then tosses it back to Rosencrantz]
[...] See more »
As an architect, I am often asked what is the world's best building. The answer: a small chapel outside Barcelona started by Gaudi but never finished. We have the model (a bunch of strings) and the basement. But when one visits, it is a profoundly lifechanging place. Gaudi exceeded the building's budget, and then that of the whole community (which was to have been built) before getting out of the ground. But the ambition was so grand, one can see it with only the barest explicit minimum. But, you have to have the reference of what the master intended.
Hamlet is the same. It was never really finished, being so large a conception. Shakespeare tinkered and added over decades. So what Stoppard does here is expand Hamlet by shrinking it. The plot is only glimpsed, but that part was always incidental anyway. The play is about reasoning, and when things are real and when not, and about what element of reality is causal. So instead of giving us the language, Stoppard seizes on one device, the play within the play.
In the raw Hamlet, this is pretty rich, but Stoppard weaves new dimensions of inversion and self-reference. There are at least four levels of play here, and we keep switching about, together with most of the characters. This is not just amusing, but elaborates on `Hamlet,' when is fate real? would it change if we could see the larger clockworks of the universe? does language (specifically query) aid in this endeavor? considering that, are ideas tied to time and fate? This last point is comically illustrated as one of the pair (they don't know who is who) keeps `stumbling' on great ideas, which then vanish.
The play (Stoppard's first) seems to have been his one excellent work, followed by the mundane. Some are unhappy because the film is not so frantic as the 1967 play, but I think that is because there is a different dynamic with a film audience than a stage audience. Fewer tricks can be played. But this is a wonderful solution to the problem of language in film: it is just not cinematic, so best to exploit the dissonance.
There's risk here. The film as film is not great, so set that aside. And the notions are dangerously sophomoric. But that's what makes the whole thing so darned funny. Some critics (notably the normally intelligent Stanley Kauffmann) think Roth and Oldham are poor. But this is a strange sort of acting demand, one for which no measures exist: part surreal, part comic (in different traditions, half Monty Python, half Abbot and Costello) and part tragic confusion. They reward my trust and that's what matters I think. Dreyfus is supposed to be over the top, and he complies.
In the great Hamlet sweepstakes, many recommend seeing Mel Gibson and then Gwyneth Paltrow. I suppose that's a colorful route. But the real sense of what this is all about comes through with more real reward via Branagh and then this clever film.
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