Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
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TWO MINOR CHARACTERS FROM THE PLAY, 'HAMLET' STUMBLE AROUND UNAWARE OF THEIR SCRIPTED LIVES AND UNABLE TO DEVIATE FROM THEM.
Tom Stoppard's modern stage classic finds a pair of film actors worthy of its verbal japery and existential bewilderment: Gary Oldman and Tim Roth are deliciously locked in as the title characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. And yet it remains difficult to tell which one is Rosencrantz and which Guildenstern--even they seem unsure--a clever part of Stoppard's ingenious design. Focusing on a pair of unremarkable characters from Hamlet, Stoppard sees the great play from their confused perspective. Now and again the action of Hamlet sweeps them up, but most of the time R&G are left wondering where they are, what they have been sent for, and why they can't remember anything that happened before the beginning of the play. Richard Dreyfuss (fittingly grandiloquent) is the Player King, who seems to know more about the ominous workings of fiction and tragedy than the heroes do. Stoppard's first outing as a film director is handsomely shot but uncertainly paced--although any time Oldman and Roth go into one of their tennis-match debates on probability, identity, or death, the movie crackles. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern may be the "indifferent children of the earth," but for this brief moment they deserve center stage. --Robert Horton
- Over 3 hours of new interviews with Tom Stoppard, Gary Oldman, Richard Dreyfuss, and Tim Roth
- Still gallery
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Through out the film we get snippets of Hamlet and visions of what is to come. The real fun is in the fact that the dialog and the actors could have easily been seamlessly slipped into the original play.
Their play on words not only matches Shakespeare but a good dose of Lewis Carroll; "Toes on the other hand","Don't you mean the other foot?"
Disperses through the story Rosencrantz (Gary Oldman) makes all the great discoveries from gravity to flight to steam engines and so forth. Every time he goes to show them to Guildenstern (Tim Roth) they are overlooked, or dismissed.
The only person that was a tad over the top, acting like he was acting wad Richard Dreyfuss as the leader of the acting troop. However this is one movie that you can get away with it.
Gary Oldman and Tim Roth are perfect as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters in Hamlet who question the nature of reality, leading Stoppard to imagine them as two souls who can't remember exactly who they are and who can't see the obvious in front of their eyes. As Tim Roth observes, "there are alternatives but not choice". Even with the excellent performances of Gary Oldman and Tim Roth, Richard Dreyfus steals the show as the player. Donald Sumpter, Joanna Miles, Ian Richardson give strong performances in their roles. I initially hated Iain Glen's performance as Hamlet. I still see it as a weak point in the film but have come to appreciate it.
Among the strengths of the play and film is that the commentary of the Player applies to Shakespeare in general as well as the play that all the characters are trapped in. The humor and word play Stoppard writes mirrors the humorous elements of Shakespeare's writing that are often lost in the archaic language of the time. Gary Oldman also delivers a variation on Hamlets famous "to be or, not to be" speech that is profound and haunting. This speech is one of the best I have ever heard or read.
I consider the Hangover one of the funniest comedies ever. This comedy is the opposite. The Hangover overwhelms with sheer crude audacity, but very good writing. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead weaves a subtle joke with remarkable wisdom that doesn't jump out and knock the viewer over. It is an elegant film that becomes increasingly humorous and satisfying over years. Like wine it is an acquired taste with complex flavors. An appreciation for Shakespeare and theatre is helpful. This is not a film for everyone. It is a precious gift for some. I am grateful that the admiration of my favorite professor was enough for me to consider it beyond my first viewing.
Well - I tried very hard with this. It seems to me that this one of those plays that one is expected to see before you die and as I'm unlikely to see it at the theatre in the near future (not because of an impending early demise, I hope), Stoppard's film adaptation of his own play ought to be the next best thing. Never having seen it on stage (nor indeed have I seen any Shakespeare) perhaps puts me at a disadvantage...
If I'm honest it WAS a struggle, but I think that you can enjoy this on several levels.
First of course is the story itself, which is dense and fast moving (or at least the dialogue certainly is, and sub-titles helped immeasurably here). As far as I can tell, Stoppard is exploring a rather convoluted and existential concept, akin to Magritte's "Ceci n'est pas un pipe". Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (or is it Guildenstern and Rosencrantz?) know themselves to be "real" people (rather than simply actors playing those parts) but they also come to realise that they are operating within - and owe their existence to - a fiction. From their perspective then, is what is happening around them real or not? Their experiences >feel< genuine enough to them (witness Rosencrantz's near discovery of Newton's Laws, gravitation, the steam engine, powered flight and, strangely, the Big Mac) and so they are compelled to go along with events. The arrival of a band of travelling tragedians adds a new layer of (un)reality to the story: a play within a play within a play and the conundrum is compounded yet further as Lead Player takes on the task of unpicking the riddle for R & G - an exponent of fiction, peddling reality! That much is clear to me (I think, but who can really say?). Beyond that, and struggling manfully to keep up with the rapidly delivered and archaic Shakespearean dialogue, I foundered, left wondering precisely what was Stoppard trying to prove? Perhaps (no, certainly) I'm not clever enough to divine that and I do suspect that a better appreciation of the real play "Hamlet" might have helped me. Next stop is the script for R&C which I have on Kindle.
On an entirely different level, however, the performance is easy enough to enjoy. Roth and Oldman are, as always, excellent value and they are hugely entertaining. The glorious nuances of their expression and delivery contrast very nicely with their Laurel and Hardy-esque interpretation of the two characters. One (Oldman) innocently dim and the other (Roth) in charge but in no way in control; the sparks they strike of one another are a joy to watch. Dreyfuss hams it up (with a somewhat variable accent, bless him) as the Player and Ian Glen overacts suitably as the raving Prince of Denmark.
In the end, I didn't know quite what to make of this. I am pretty sure I missed something fundamentally important but I enjoyed in nonetheless.
Rosencrantz: (tossing a coin) Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads! Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads! Heads.
Guildenstern: Consider. One, probability is a factor which operates *within* natural forces. Two, probability is *not* operating as a factor. Three, we are now held within un-, sub- or super-natural forces. Discuss.
Rosencrantz: (baffled) What?
Most recent customer reviews
This is a very pretentious film.Read more