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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: January ::
Re: Claudius and the Mousetrap; Branagh's *Hamlet*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0030.  Friday, 10 January 1997.

(1)     From:   Mark Mann <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Jan 1997 13:04:29 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Claudius and the Mousetrap

(2)     From:   Norm Holland <
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        Date:   Thursday, 09 Jan 97 12:40:51 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0023  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*

(3)     From:   Ivan Fuller <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Jan 1997 13:21:42 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0023  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mark Mann <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Jan 1997 13:04:29 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Claudius and the Mousetrap

Many productions of Hamlet have Claudius rising in exteme agitation as the
player King is poisoned, which sends the other attendees into chaos...Claudius
shouts " Give me some light!" and sweeps off, sending Hamlet reeling across the
stage in manic glee...

The BBC production makes the moment much more powerful and focused. Claudius (
Patrick Stewart) rises, the play stops, he crosses to Hamlet in silence, in
control, and they stand in front of each other for what seems an eternity, and
the point is driven home  that they have just looked into each other's hearts
and both found true danger there. Claudius reaches back and quietly, without
taking his eyes off Hamlet, says " Give me some light", a torch is handed to
him, and he exits, still masking his private fears before the public. A much
more powerful, tho admittedly cinematic, framing of the moment the " line in
the sand" was drawn between them.

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norm Holland <
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Date:           Thursday, 09 Jan 97 12:40:51 EST
Subject: 8.0023  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0023  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*

Re: Branagh's and Jacobi's remarks at a showing of the new _Hamlet_--

1) It's Sir Derek, and well-deserved, IMHO.

2) My recollection is that Claudius is at first indifferent to the performance
of the play-within; he is flirting with Gertrude, drinking, but as he catches
on he gets angrier and angrier.  Branagh did cutaways to the court audience to
show how perplexed and nervous they were getting--they were evidently being
told something, but what? Something very dangerous to think or know.  I've
always felt that Hamlet's speech, interrupting the play, destroyed any chance
of an "objective" test of the Ghost's veracity or the King's guilt, and I
thought that was particularly true in Branagh's film, where he delivered the
speech, to my eye, as an out-and-out accusation.

3) Branagh's directorial tactic of having Jacobi "do it bored," "do it angry,"
etc., then selecting what he wanted on the editing table-- that seems to me
excellent film technique.  It's a classic illustration of the director's power
over interpretation and theme, the _auteur_ theory if you will.  I remember a
film (was it _Revolution_?) about the making of a Revolutionary War movie in
which the onscreen director bragged that he would change the outcome of the
battle in the editing. The Kuleshov effect is relevant here, too.  How we read
Jacobi's face will depend, not just on Jacobi's acting, but on what shots the
director splices next to that acting.  --Best, Norm Holland

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ivan Fuller <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Jan 1997 13:21:42 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.0023  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0023  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*

Interesting directorial approach on Branagh's part, telling Jacobi to "do it
angry," "do it bored," "do it mystified."  It seems to me that if Jacobi and
Branagh had thoroughly discussed the role, then Jacobi as King would simply
have to "act naturally"...to do what anyone would do feeling the way he did,
knowing what he knew and witnessing what was happening in front of him.  To
tell an actor to play emotions quite often leads to shallow, watercolor
characters who don't really seem to know why they're doing what they're doing.
I haven't seen the film yet, but from past Branagh films that I've seen, I am
not surprised to hear that he tells his actors to play the scene using
different emotions and then refuses to tell them which version he wants.
Branagh and his co-stars often strike me as being surface-level performers who
simply rely on technique, beautiful as that technique may be to watch.

Ivan Fuller, Chair
Communication & Theatre Dept.
Augustana College
 

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