Sunday, August 13, 2006

Movie Log: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

I saw three movies in about a 25-hour period, Friday to Saturday, so these might be quick.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead was from Netflix, and I knocked it off on Friday night. I was stunned to see that the movie was from 1990, and that I'd somehow managed to miss seeing it before now.

The play was one of my favorites in high school (which will tell you quite a bit about what kind of teenager I was -- introspective, moody, found of theatricality and philosophizing), so perhaps the movie just came along a couple of years too late for me to have jumped right on it when it finally appeared. (In 1990 I was just graduating college.)

For those who've never heard of it, R&G Are Dead is a Tom Stoppard play (if I'm remembering right, his first produced play, from about 1966) which takes two minor characters from Shakespeare's Hamlet (Ham's old college buddies, the guys in the title) and puts them through some very post-Beckettian situations weaved in and around the events of the Shakespeare play. The movie was scripted and directed by Stoppard, so it's definitive in a sense.

It's a movie of quick dialogue, and I had to turn my DVD volume up all the way; it seemed to have been mastered very quietly. It also had no subtitles, which was annoying -- I've come to rely on them for movies like this, to make sure I don't miss anything at home (where I can't set the volume to shake the house, since there are two sleeping boys above me). So I missed more of it than I would have liked.

It's a good version of the play, and exploits space in a movie-like way rather than feeling like a filmed play. It is somewhat depressive, of course -- it's a serious mid-20th century play, how could it be otherwise? -- as the central themes are death and the impossibility of avoiding fate. Neither the play or the movie can really be summarized; either you know Hamlet or you don't, and what happens to R&G outside Shakespeare's scenes is interesting in a theatrical sense, but not really heavily plotted. The movie, like the play, is for people who like artifice and stagecraft and impending doom. I still do, so it worked for me, though I'd like to see it again, someday.

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