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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: August ::
Best Cinematic Hamlet?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1599  Thursday, 26 August 2004

[1]     From:   Cheryl Newton <
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 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Aug 2004 12:39:42 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[2]     From:   Edward Brown <
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 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Aug 2004 12:41:12 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[3]     From:   Stephen C. Rose <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Aug 2004 12:30:52 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[4]     From:   M Yawney <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Aug 2004 15:10:00 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cheryl Newton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Aug 2004 12:39:42 -0400
Subject: 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

Tad Davis <
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 >

 >Polonius isn't nosed out under the stairs in the lobby but
 >inside a coat closet in the same room where the rigged swordfight takes
 >place. If there were an obvious need for the change, it wouldn't bother
 >me as much.

This same row of closets doubles as a hiding place when the King &
Polonius spy on Hamlet & Ophelia.  I think one could make the connection
of betrayal & retribution.

Matt Henerson <
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 >

 >The one I wish I could find is a joint British/Canadian production done
 >in the early 60's.  Christopher Plummer was the Hamlet, and I'm sure
 >he's fine, but I'd be much more interested in seeing what Robert Shaw
 >made of Claudius and Michael Caine of Horatio.

This sounds like fantastic casting! If anyone has a copy or knows where
to find one, please 'fess
up!

Bill Arnold <
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 >

 >you can understand that some of us, who
 >also love Shakespeare, and value his plays, might wish to see some
 >*integrity* with the script.  Caveat Emptor!  Yes, I admit that in order
 >for us to get to the *integrity* of the script with a production in
 >terms of its performance, we must agree on the *interpretation* of the
 >play.

I do agree with your point about integrity with the script.
Unfortunately, unless the players & the audience are up for the uncut
'eternity' version, the script gets whacked to a mere 1/2 of its length
in most productions.  So much gets lost. Ie, Hamlet is a Prince
surrounded by secret plots & deceptions, yet many directors choose to
gut his interactions with Horatio, his one unwaveringly faithful
companion.  At the risk of being cyber-stoned, I'm particularly put off
by Olivier's Jones/Freud slant, which went on to color countless
productions.

 >And I have *yet* to see any book, any
 >scholar, et al., deal with the basic question of whether or not Hamlet
 >the character was mad, insane, whatever word you wish to use.  My
 >reading of the play has him sane as any normal person in real life, and
 >I admit that that standard might not hold up well <g>!  However, because
 >that seems to be the crux of the play, man talks of talking with a
 >ghost, and man is accused of being mad, and man dies in the end, and
 >play is tragic, it really seems to ultimately turn upon that
 >interpretation: was Hamlet the character mad or not?

~smile~ If we can agree that depression is situational, & not madness, I
think the text gives plenty of support to playing the Prince as "merely"
depressed by his father's death.("Merely" because the majority of the
audience probably has limited frame of reference for how debilitating
even temporary depression can be.)    My interpretation is that Hamlet
is what we now call bipolar - a mood disorder that can rapidly range
from depression to normalcy to mania.  C.Scott's depiction is right on
the money.

 >OK: therefore, in conclusion, I cannot get into a *best Hamlet
 >cinematic* version unless we start with the conclusion, he was *not*.(mad)
 >
 >Using *that* standard, do you have a Best Cinematic Hamlet?

Wow - hard.  I think Kevin Kline.  I'd argue that he is depressed but
not mad,  & I like his rather gentle, hurting Prince.  Until I say the
C.Scott production, Kline was my favorite.


David Levine wrote:

 >And before this latest Mel Gibson thang, his performance was still just
 >incredibly boring.

*snort*  I disagree - Mel is all excess, never boring.  Sometimes I
would get lost in the script-rips, though.

Cheryl

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Brown <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 25 Aug 2004 12:41:12 -0500
Subject: 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

The standard in American law is "beyond a reasonable doubt", not "beyond
a shadow of a doubt", and like most "standards" this one is subjective.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen C. Rose <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 25 Aug 2004 12:30:52 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

Bill Arnold writes:

 >OK: therefore, in conclusion, I cannot get into
 >a *best Hamlet
 >cinematic* version unless we start with the
 >conclusion, he was *not* [mad].
 >Using *that* standard, do you have a Best
 >Cinematic Hamlet?

I agree. Nor is Ophelia mad -- nor in particular are her songs and
statements without design.

Maybe we can only imagine who might do justice to such an interpretation.

Sean Penn. Twenty years ago. The Ann Todd of The Seventh Veil at age 18.
However long ago that might have been. Throw in James Mason as Claudius.

Enjoyable speculation for the ancillary gems that it unearths.

Cheers, S

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           M Yawney <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 25 Aug 2004 15:10:00 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

Bill Arnold wrote;

 >OK: thank you for a wonderful and thoughtful
 >response, and I can fully
 >appreciate your love of *Hamlet* in its very many
 >Protean
 >manifestations.  But surely, you can understand that
 >some of us, who
 >also love Shakespeare, and value his plays, might
 >wish to see some
 >*integrity* with the script.

I think there is a misunderstanding in what the integrity of a
playscript means and how that differs from an ordinary literary text.
There will be variations in interpretation of a script depending on
everything from physical and vocal qualities of the actors, their health
on the day of performance, the response of the audience, the qualities
of the different venues, etc.

To some degree, a theatrical text is more like an algebraic equation
than a novel. Certain relationships between elements are stable but
others will vary. Part of the pleasure of seeing many productions is
noting what elements can change and what others do not.

The question of Hamlet's sanity, which has been a popular question among
literary critics in past times, but one of the most fascinating things
about Hamlet is that the play still functions whichever choice is made.
This is not the case with most plays. (For example, a sane Lear robs his
reunion with Cordelia and his death scenes of their power. In Hamlet
itself, a sane Ophelia makes a hash of narrative and meaning.) But in
Hamlet, the question of whether the title character is sane or mad is
left open in the text, which one reason many Shakespeare lovers enjoy
seeing varying interpretations and hesitate to declare any as definitive.

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