Monday, August 4, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 08/03/14: *The Moviegoer*, *Hamlet* is a Brilliant Mess, Splendid Pictures

1.  I'm sticking with the novel The Moviegoer and I'm finding it boring.  I wonder if I would have enjoyed this novel more when I was in my twenties or thirties, closer to the age of the protagonist.  The story is told completely from his point of view and I find his point of view tedious. I'll finish it, largely out of stubbornness.

2.  I hopped on the train again today and once again traveled to AFI Silver Springs to watch another movie:  I watched Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet.  It's a bewildering play.  Often I wondered, during the movie, how I ever presumed to include it in my syllabus when I taught Shakespeare.  It's so dense.  I kept thinking how each scene was so packed with questions and deep explorations that each scene was almost a play within itself.  I have tried for over thirty years to figure out what this play is about and I've given up.  It can't be summed up.  It can't be fit into neat definitions of tragedy.  It is about nearly everything:  growing up/maturing, corruption, murder, greed, lust, love, disillusionment, betrayal, spying, paranoia, war, revenge, family, scholastic philosophy and morality and theology vis a vis the world of real politics, friendship, courage, cowardice -- feel free to add to this list.  In a classroom, how can such a play be "covered"?  I found myself occasionally trembling at the idea of being a director of this play and really shaking at the idea of playing any of the primary roles -- not just Hamlet, but the complicated Claudius, the conflicted and compromised Gertrude, or the confused, saddened, maddened Ophelia.  Hamlet falls so far outside the neat structure of a "well-made" play.  It is best experienced moment to moment, free of expecting coherence.  It's wild.  It reels.  It portrays a world so completely usurped by corruption, both in the inward lives and the outward actions of the characters,  that even an idea as fundamental to understanding order in the world as cause and effect is itself usurped and so characters try to survive in the Danish miasma of uncertainty and constant mutability.  To be honest, I've read, seen, or taught this play scores of times and I was having trouble keeping up with it, despite my familiarity with it.  I was glad for this.  I would hate to think that I would ever settle into being comfortable with Hamlet.  It's such a brilliant mess.

3.  I had never seen the 1996, Kenneth Branagh version of Hamlet until today and it was an overwhelming experience to see it in a 400 seat, really wide screen theater and to have it shown in 70 mm.  Seeing it projected in this format made it a splendid visual experience and repeatedly I was as thrilled by the pictures I was seeing on the screen as I was the stirring language being spoken.

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