Sunday, October 17, 2010

Film Community Potluck - Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead

Over at Anomalous Materials, they've started a Potluck of movie swapping.  The idea is that people will nominate a film to watch (from Netflix Instant Streaming, to make things easy for now) and then all the people who participate are assigned a film to watch and either chat about in the comments at AM or even write a review.  I nominated the film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo because I finished it and wanted to hear more discussion of it.  In return, I was assigned Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which I knew was a film by Tom Stoppard based on his stage play of the same name.  I remembered reading the play many years ago, and knew it was based on the characters from Hamlet who befriend Hamlet and then are ordered by the King of Denmark to take Hamlet to England and have him killed (which we know doesn't work out well for R & G).  What the movie creates is sort of Hamlet from their perspective.  However, now being Stoppard characters rather than Shakespearean characters, they discuss the meaning of life, death, being on a boat, flipping coins, etc.  Made in 1990, Gary Oldman and Tim Roth are R & G respectively.  We meet them traveling on horseback, in period, and R has found a coin and he flips it several dozen times and it keeps landing on heads, sparking discussion between them about the nature of flipping a coin.  Soon enough they come upon a group of "tragedians" (the players who go perform the play within a play for Hamlet) led by Richard Dreyfus.  They're sort of magical and can play anything as long as it suits the audience.  Then they're transported to Hamlet's castle and now R & G have to figure out who they are and what they're supposed to do.  We see the play Hamlet being acted out but only when R & G are present.  Finally, they're on the boat, transporting Hamlet to England, but the pirates arrive to take Hamlet home and kill R & G. 
Tim Roth is great as the one trying to make sense of it all, while Oldman is just bumbling through.  Stoppard plays on what was actually written by Shakespeare, which made R & G out to be bumbling idiots, but Stoppard takes it a bit further but also makes them metaphysical geniuses.  It's a bizarre movie, but trying to understand it and what it means in relation to Hamlet is terrific.  The acting by all included is superb, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much clearer the play becomes by being able to see it.  Still bizarre and will require rewatchings and perhaps and rewatching of Hamlet itself.   Now it's time to watch Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are UNDead


Nick said...

Yeah, I need to see this. I also really wanna see "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead," which I saw the trailer for a long time ago.

It's kinda funny how The Lion King went along with this, as well. As we all know, The Lion King is simply Hamlet in Disney form. But they also put out the direct-to-DVD film, The Lion King 1 1/2, which is basically this film (as Timon and Pumbaa are R&G).

Jess said...

I think you'd really enjoy it. The Lion King definitely works thematically, but thankfully they stripped away the stuff I've never liked from Hamlet anyway (they made Ophelia/Nala a much stronger character who doesn't commit suicide).

Simon said...

Thank you for reminding me about the Undead one, I've been meaning to see it.

Isn't this movie just awesome? I just want to play Questions with someone every time I watch it.

Colleen said...

Hmmm, I'm not sure this one would work for me. I certainly would have to watch Hamlet or read the play again, as I tend to mix up some of my Shakespeare because we read them in school one after the other.

Jess said...

Simon - I really want to see it now - upped it on my queue.

Colleen - it's funny even if you don't get all the reference. You do have to like Shakespeare or Stoppard a lot though.