Sunday, January 29, 2006
"Writing a play about Hamlet, in or around 1600, may not have been Shakespeare's own idea. At least one play, now lost, about the Danish prince who avenges his father's murder had already been performed on the English stage, successfully enough to be casually alluded to by contemporary writers, as if everyone had seen it or at least knew about it. Someone in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, with an eye on revenues, may simply have suggested to Shakespeare that the time might be ripe for a new, improved version of the Hamlet story." -- Stephen Greenblatt
"Hamlet is the first work of literature to look squarely at the stupidity, falsity and sham of everyday life, without laughing and without easy answers. In a world where things are not as they seem, Hamlet's genuineness, thoughtfulness, and sincerity make him special." -- Ed Friedlander's extemely useful and fabulously long guide to enjoying Hamlet. This is going to take me weeks to read.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Hamlet played by Pirkka-Pekka Petelius
Directed by Aki Kaurismaki
This film, whose English release title was Hamlet Goes Business is darkly comic noir thriller set in contemporary Finland, transposing the story to the corridors and offices of industry which takes just as many liberties with the plot and dialogue as The Lion King and even has the audacity to offer a twist ending. Imagine Ealing's The Man In The White Suit without the slapstick.
Considering the brevity of the plot, it is incredibly slow. This is one of those occasions when action which should be sifted through in a few moments take whole minutes of screentime -- to no great effect. I'm reminded of some of the Coen Brother's earlier films, or perhaps Jim Jarmusch -- but whereas on those occasions you were interested to see what would be happening next, in this adaptation of Hamlet the element of surprise is generally lost.
I'm not that sure I actually enjoyed watching this, except for the liberties taken with that ending, some of which are laugh out loud funny. Pirkka-Pekka Petelius gives a very blank performance as Hamlet Jr. and actually most of the cast feel like graduates of the Robert Bresson school of non-acting.
Characters live and die and no one seems to be caring too much. When Polonius is offed the reaction is much the same as if someone forgot to order another pint of milk for breakfast. About the only figure I really cared for was Ofelia (their spelling) who gets kicked about as a pawn between Claudius and Hamlet. Her death scene is undeniably moving.
I watched the VHS of this film on the 7th January 2006.