Sunday, September 29, 2013
And the danger is very real here. Laertes comes in brandishing a handgun, pushes the Queen down to the ground, and waves the pistol in Claudius' face. It could go off at any time, without much effort, if he thinks he's being juggled with. Claudius is completely calm throughout, and by keeping the Gentleman who comes in with the news of the rebellion in the room, a nice contrast is created between two sorts of men. At one point, Laertes waves the gun in HIS face and the Gentleman falls down in terror, trying to squirm away from imagined bullets. He's the common man, Claudius is something else - a King protected by divine favor. He can even afford to walk towards the gun.
Usually, Claudius then crassly approaches the stunned Laertes and continues his appeal as if nothing happened. In this case, Laertes takes his gun out again, giving the King a lot more justification for the continued appeal. I love to watch Downie's performance here. Gertrude is riveted by Claudius' speech, and I can't decide if it's because she's fascinated by his charisma, impressed/alarmed that he would give up everything if found wanting by Laertes, or in the final seconds of the scene, shocked at how Claudius just threw Hamlet under a bus.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
At the beach, this Laertes proves too gross in nature to keep to the Shakespeare's lines, dropping a number of F-bombs into his speech that emphasizes his beastliness. Of course, the text was going to suffer a lot of changes anyway, since he's not asking after his father's death, but his sister's, Polonia being this adaptation's other feminized character. The sexual politics that come into play actually give Claudius a better motive for Polonia's death, and Laertes more justification to come after the King. After all, Polonia had been Claudius' lover, so both Royals would have had reason to want her killed. Their discussion becomes a shouting match, which is perhaps the only way one can communicate with this brutish Laertes. While present, Horatio of course has no lines during this scene, but that can easily be attributed to a bruised throat. Gertrude is also largely taken out of it as the King's pleas for her to let Laertes ("Let him go, Getrude") become "Let her go, Laertes", in reference to the captive Horatio.
The the sound drops back in, the colors return to normal, and the scene regains a sense of normalcy (such as it is) as the girl frenetically looks through her brother's pockets, likely looking for heroin, though she finds nothing. Remember, Polonia was supplying her with it, and a large part of Ophelia's breakdown in this version is attributed to withdrawal. Angry and bitter, and holding back tears, she then proceeds to distributing her flowers before walking off, her final words completely cut as we move back to Claudius' seduction of Laertes. She does tweak some the lines she IS afforded to interesting effect, in particular "You must sing a-down a-down, / An you call him a-down-a" pronounced "a-down-er", a clue to the drugs that are on her mind, as well as a less-than-stellar appreciation for her cruel, manipulative sister.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
One note about the room: It somehow doesn't appear to be on the same floor as the balcony it seemed adjacent to. The street outside makes this no more than the second or third floor, while the balcony was high indeed. It gives the sense that the reception hall is a pit dug into the ground, a funnel into hell itself.
"Where the offense is let the great axe fall" is now part of the next scene, not spoken to Laertes, but to Claudius himself, in the broken mirror up in his bedroom, just before he manipulates Laertes into helping him kill Hamlet. It takes on another meaning. Rather than trying to sound sincere for Laertes, he's rather psyching himself up for the task of "turning" an antagonistic "Laertes". The moment may imply that Claudius is ready to take his lumps if he can't work his magic, and that success in this instance is a sign from above that he shall prevail against Hamlet as well. The things we tell ourselves in the mirror to convince ourselves we're on the correct course.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
In a white dress with a long train, Ophelia looks like she's come from her own demented wedding, and perhaps she has. She hold a paper flower made of what might very well be Hamlet's letters to her, unraveling them like the life she believed she would lead, and letting them fall on the floor, parallel to her tears. It takes a beat before she recognizes her brother and embraces him, though in her confusion, she almost kisses him full on the mouth, hiccuping her line about remembrance to stop herself. That's Hamlet represented. As for her father, she speaks her lines about him ("he made a good end" and so on) in a tone that parodies the platitudes one might hear at a loved one's funeral. Like Hamlet before her, she keeps changing character. Mocking and sincere, impish - stuffing a paper petal down Gertrude's cleavage, for example - and overwhelmed with grief. At the end of the sequence, she struggles with her brother and positively screams her prayers for God to have mercy on them all, finally collapsing in his grip, spent. And she'll walk out the same way she walked in, confused and deaf to the world.