Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

In defence of my top 12 - part 5

5 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Two minor characters from Hamlet wander around offstage trying to work out what exactly is going on...only if that doesn't sound too appealing, you should still watch it anyway.

One of the first things I recall of Friend 5 is her asking me is whether I’d seen this film. A few years later, she got round to lending me the tape. Her family had recorded it off the tv when she was very small, and had redited it to remove all the slightly objectionable bits (of which there are very, very, very few) including the last, ooh, 20 minutes? You thought it was confusing as it was – well imagine seeing it with chunks randomly removed. Nevertheless, I was hooked, enchanted from the first conversation.

In fact, I still remember the three particular lines that got me hooked. Not that I’m going to repeat them, as you probably don’t care, but I was pretty quickly charmed. My advice for anyone watching it, is not to go in with any expectations, and don’t be too picky. OK, so it makes very little sense in places – one coin coming down heads 90 or so times?! – but the audience's consolation is that our heroes are just as confused. To quote the best review of the movie ever:

"Don’t understand the Shakespearian dialogue that breaks out every time Ros
& Guil appear ‘onstage’ in the play going on around them? Never fear,
they really don’t understand it either, and for the most part will spend the
next 5 minutes trying to figure out what everyone was just talking about..."

Kudos to the cast as well. They single-handedly keep afloat a film based entirely on its script – there is basically not a single bit of action for the entire thing. And it’s not Dr Seuss either – but they rattle off the confusing tounge twisters with such panache that they sound like they make sense. Even when they really don’t:

G -“and receive such thanks as fits a king’s remembrance.”

R - “Oooh, I like the sound of that. What do you think she meant?”

G -“He doesn’t forget his friends.”

R -“Would you care to estimate?”

G -“Some kings tend to be amnesiac; others…the opposite, I suppose. Whatever
that is.”

R -“How much?!”

G -“Retentive. He’s a very retentive king. A royal retainer!”

R -“What are you playing at?”

Very good question - I STILL have no idea what that particular exchange means, and I’ve seen it nigh on 12 times now. It’s like real Shakespeare – you look at it on the page and think “whaaa?”; it needs an actor’s inflection to give the words meaning. The true charm of this film is watching how the pair of them interact - Rosencrantz is unconcerned that the laws of probibility are up the spout, easily distracted by little things such as discovering gravity and appreciative of small beauties (i.e. a paper boat in a bathtub...). Guildenstern is, to virtually quote the character note in the play, perfectly aware that something very wrong is going on somewhere - aware but forcibly determined not to panic about it. G refuses to lighten up, R refuses to concentrate...they're both very sweet, in their own way, and as there's only ever two brief instances when they're in seperate rooms, that all adds up to an awful lot of combined sweetness. They're like children, in a way. And I want to give them both a very big hug...

And it’s a play about acting. That’s the wonder of it. On the surface, it’s a string of very funny lines. Alternately, you can go deep into the layers of meaning and metaphor, a la GSCE English analysis.

Finally, the directing is lovely. Elsinore castle has never looked more paranoid, with all the characters peering in on one another through innumerable barred windows and down secret trapdoors. This allows for some wonderful lighting too (when I get around to it, I'll add a screenshot...despite my unreasonably large collection, somehow I managed not to get a shot of the scene I'm thinking of)

Did I mention it was brown? This is a very, very brown film. One of Guildenstern's most beautiful speeches cut, but in the play, describes autumn as "a certain brownness creeping in at the edge of the day". Well they didn't need it in the movie, did they. The mis-en-scene does it all for them.

I always get suspicious of people who claim they’re the greatest fan ever, and I’ve never done it myself. But here I could almost make an exception – I am pretty damn obsessed, really. I shelled out about £30 for a second hand Dutch copy. And picking that particular screenshot from a collection of 414 took a long time. Don't get me started on my collection of 600+ it forever…

If my random babbling hasn't produced much of an impression (yes, the above paragraphs really were as badly written as you thought they were...) I direct you here. They're all good, but the review at the top in particular I always quote liberally when trying to pursuade people to see it.

Sum up the film in a moment: In R+GaD, a play based on the play Hamlet, the characters sit down to watch the play “The Murder of Gonzago”, in which the King and Queen sit down to watch a play performed by puppets re-enacting the murder of Gonzago, which in itself is a reenactment of Hamlet’s dad’s own death. A play, within a play, within a play, within a play. Although arguably, the other scene on stage (the Tragedians perform Hamlet as a comedy) – climaxing with the Player’s comment “eight!” – is just as important.
Best scene: Well it's not my favourite, but the best scene must surely be questions. Even people who hate this film (and believe me, I can name a fair few) perk up for this bit because it's just so damn amusing.
Best line: Are you kidding me?! I'm meant to pick a best line from all of that?! For now: "You would think that this would fall faster than this, wouldn't you?...and you'd be absolutely right."
Favourite character: As if you could choose between them…Guildenstern. See; BCSk
Nerdy observation: the first time they meet, the Player is wearing something similar to G’s costume. In the castle he’s dressed as Hamlet. But most disturbingly, at the end he is wearing precicely R’s outfit. Don’t ask me why…and in the actual play of Hamlet, R has significantly more lines than G - which is strange, as you'd kinda expect the opposite.
Special mention: the costumes!!! I love them so much I’ve made Ken-sized replicas.
Best watched: when you're starting to get pretty worried about a friend.

I'm feeling rubbish right now. I just got my film studies coursework back and I've got to watch the same five minutes of Alien over and over again bit.

The good news is that I've now seen Duck Soup (v. strongly recommended by a friend). The bad news is that in the last three days, at least four separate people have gasped "you've never seen the Wizard of Oz", and I've had to explain that I got too scared of the witch to see the end. So I'll have to see it...

And Herzog lost Screen Play again this week, despite cheating (I sign-languaged one of the answers over to my sister...) No time for more detail to go sleep...I'm going to be old (well, 17...) tomorrow. Fingers crossed I'm gonna get my cadillac. Or spaghetti westerns boxed set.


Copyright 2009 Cinecism. All rights reserved.
Free WordPress Themes Presented by EZwpthemes.
Bloggerized by Miss Dothy