Monday, August 29, 2005

A Director to Adapt Each of Shakespeare's Plays #7 -- HAMLET directed by Lars von Trier

The Plot: The ghost of Hamlet’s father wants revenge. He wants it bad. But unfortunately for him, his son is a freaking philosophy major. Where some would get angry, Hamlet just gets melancholy. Still, even Hamlet can’t ignore the ick factor associated with his uncle knocking off his father to sleep with his mother. Eventually, he does get around to killing his uncle, but by that time, pretty much everyone else in the castle has died too, so I mean, no big whoop.

Why Trier?

You’re trying to tell me there’s someone else who knows more about mad Danes? There have been several great films made based on Hamlet, but I don’t think we’ve seen the definitive production yet. Olivier’s is a lot of fun, but as a director he seems more interested in crafting his starring performance than in the big picture. (According to legend, one scene was cut from the film simply because Olivier didn’t like the hat he was wearing.) And who can possibly believe that Mel Gibson’s Hamlet would wait any longer than about 5 minutes to kill Claudius? He’d zip down the hall. Pop. And everybody’s home in under an hour. For all the things it gets right, Branagh’s version still seems to me to have a sense of reverence for the play that is distancing and ultimately leaves the film with a generic feeling. Hamlet doesn’t need to be revered or worshiped. It needs to be lived. Trier is often called arrogant. Probably because he is. But I prefer to use the word ‘audacious’. He has ‘audacity’. When you watch a production of Hamlet, it can sometimes seem as if you’ve heard every line before, seen every possible way that the most famous scenes can be played. Trier is a director who has the ability to make us see Hamlet as if we were watching it for the first time. He wouldn’t be afraid to tear into it rather than politely watching it from the sidelines. With The Kingdom, he’s proven he can spook us. With Breaking the Waves, he’s proven he can move us. With Dogville, he’s proven he can shock us. And with The Idiots, he’s proven that he’s willing to jump completely off the deep end. For the world’s most famous play, give me the smug Danish iconoclast.

Trier films I have seen:

1. Breaking the Waves ****
2. Dogville ****
3. Dancer in the Dark ****
4. The Kingdom ****
5. The Five Obstructions ****
6. Europa ***1/2
7. The Kingdom II ***1/2
8. The Idiots ***1/2
9. The Element of Crime ***1/2
10. Medea ***
11. Epidemic **


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