Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are Dead (1990)

Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are Dead (1990, Stoppard)

For a film director,
Tom Stoppard makes a good playwright and for a movie, Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are Dead makes a good play. If you have seen the stage version you will probably either love or hate this as a reworking of the theatrical original. Though Stoppard utilizes some cinematic tricks in the first reel, once we get to the palace of Elsinore, this is a pretty static piece. One of the problems is that Stoppard has a wonderful way with witty philosophical word-play that works well on the bare stage but don't translate to the cinematic medium. Another of the problems is with the piece itself which doesn't really do much to illuminate Hamlet as much as feed off it. He takes the central thesis of the Prince of Denmark's dilemma and puts it in the hands of two minor characters who though they have a crucial and deadly role to play are really only pawns. They don't have enough majesty or heft to be dealing with lofty philosophical matters. In the end, it comes across as too much wit and not enough weight.

And, what was Stoppard thinking of when he cast
Richard Dreyfuss? - you don't have to be Kenneth Branagh or Larry Olivier to play Shakespeare on film but you do have to have some sense of the period.

Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are Dead stars Gary Oldman and Tim Roth and is available on DVD from Image Entertainment.

1 comment:

Yojimbo_5 said...

Thank you, sir! Welcome back!

A little trivia--Dreyfuss' character in "The Goodbye Girl" was rehearsing playing the title role in a "gay 'Hamlet.'"