Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1893  Monday, 30 July 2001

[1]     From:   Arthur Lindley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 28 Jul 2001 09:46:33 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1884 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet

[2]     From:   Graham Bradshaw <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 28 Jul 2001 12:32:49 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1884 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 28 Jul 2001 12:29:42 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1864 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet

[4]     From:   Arthur Lindley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 30 Jul 2001 14:08:03 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1864 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur Lindley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 28 Jul 2001 09:46:33 +0800
Subject: 12.1884 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1884 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet

Our Library at the Nat'l U of Singapore was able to get a video of this
film for me a few years ago, I believe from an outfit called Hendring
Ltd.  I've asked the Media Librarian if she can provide further info.

Arthur Lindley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Bradshaw <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 28 Jul 2001 12:32:49 +0900
Subject: 12.1884 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1884 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet

For a Russian audience, Smoktunovsky's own past gave his Hamlet added
bite. After being released from a Nazi prison camp he soon found
himself  in one of Stalin's. This Hamlet was being played by a brave
oppositional hero.  Which must have given an extraordinary contemporary
urgency to (say) the first soliloquy, which is heard as a voice-over
while Hamlet walks through the assembled court, watching the
lickspittles and their leader with undisguised contempt. And of course
Grigori Kozintsev (the director), Boris Pasternak (whose translation was
used), and (who provided the music) had all suffered under Stalin.

Imagine the excitement of a Russian in 1964, setting off to see a new
Hamlet film produced by that extraordinary quartet! For a thoroughly
dispiriting contemporary contrast, one might take the acclaimed
Ninagawa, who is content to have Hamlet played by any pop star or soap
opera idol with the right consumer image, and then shows how far "great
theatre" can go in trivializing great drama.

However, Kozintsev's film was obviously not interested in the Tragedy of
Claudius: in effect, Claudius "is" Stalin, with no redeeming features.
Smoktunovsky's Hamlet is powerful and dangerous, as any Hamlet should be
(Sarah Bernhardt said she decided to play Hamlet because the male actors
weren't manly enough); but Pasternak's translation omits or sanitizes
some of Hamlet's nastier moments or moods, and (as in Dr Zhivago) sees
Hamlet as a kind of redeemer. Or that was the tendency.

An earlier generation of Russians, including Chekhov (in Ivanov), had
been far more critical of Prince Hamlet; Turgenev's great essay on
"Hamlet and Don Quixote" (1860?) had paved the way for these later,
sharply critical views of the Prince.(Which had no counterpart in
nineteenth-century England, because Coleridge had such a retarding
influence.)

From this point of view, the 1964 Kozintsev/Pasternak/ Smoktunovsky
Hamlet was bringing the Russian critical wheel full circle, by
reinstating a more heroic and imposing Hamlet.  At the time some Russian
critics, notably Alexander Anikst, protested that this Hamlet was too
noble, and nobler than Shakespeare's Prince (who shows no concern for
the fate of Denmark and its people).

So, from another point of view, this magnificently moving film (like
Peter Brook's recent production---represented a paradoxically
old-fashioned return to the habit of seeing the play through Hamlet's
eyes.

In short, the Russian-ness of this great film is both enabling and
limiting. It's well brought out in Kozintsev's wonderful book, when he
remarks that Hamlet is "Lermontovian" in the first four acts but
"Pushkinian" in the final act. There are some good studies of these
Russian contexts,including Eleanor Rowe's HAMLET: A WINDOW ON RUSSIA
(1976), Anna Kaye France's BORIS PASTERNAK'S TRANSLATIONS OF SHAKESPEARE
(1978), and Arthur P. Mendel's "Hamlet and Soviet Humanism" in the
December 1971 issue of the Slavic Review, vol.30 no.4. John Joughin's
SHAKESPEARE AND NATIONAL CULTURE (1997) includes an enthralling essay by
Robert Weimann on how the "humanist" Hamlet of Soviet criticism failed
to impress Brecht's East Germans: that cultural-critical collision now
seems like one of history's best jokes! And of course Bernice Kliman's
remarkably comprehensive study of Hamlet in film, TV and audio, provides
an indispensable starting point for all discussions of Hamlet in
performance...

Best wishes, Graham Bradshaw

P.S. Could somebody persuade Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese to help
get such movies back into circulation, as great foreign movies that
contemporary Americans cannot see? (Chiefly because contemporary America
has such a dumbing-down, Hollywood-pulp-first stranglehold on what
movies can be shown in Britain, France, Japan etc. This is yet another
context where chatter about the "post-colonial" seems like a sick joke.)

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 28 Jul 2001 12:29:42 -0700
Subject: 12.1864 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1864 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet

Hi, all.

Kozintsev's other book is called King Lear : the space of tragedy : the
diary of a film director.  It's very good:  he proposes, among other
things, that the knights need not be represented.

Cheers,
Se

 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.