I’d heard of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, of course. I’d probably even meant to see it at one point, probably around the time of Branagh’s Hamlet, which is when I first got big into Shakespeare. But it was only available on VHS and I was already addicted to widescreen. Oddly, this viewing–at the wife’s request–was widescreen. I thought all the DVD releases were pan and scan. So waiting worked out.
More, it worked out because I probably wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the film as much ten years ago as I am able today. The characters trapped in the confines of a narrative, realizing they’re free of agency–well, I’m familiar with it from Breakfast of Champions. But Rosencrantz & Guildenstern goes a little further in discussing the drama as a whole.
It took me a while, I’ll admit, to realize what Stoppard was doing (at the beginning, I just figured they were dead and reliving the experience of Hamlet in some afterlife). Once I did, I appreciated it.
But, honestly, not as much as I appreciated the updating of “Who’s on first?”
Tim Roth and Gary Oldman are both fantastic. It’s stunning to see Oldman in such a well-written role. It’s been a long time since he’s been concerned with acting (kids, swimming pools, et cetera, I imagine).
Stoppard’s direction is excellent. It’s understated and profound.
Richard Dreyfuss is great in a somewhat unexplainable role. Iain Glen and Ian Richardson are good in the Hamlet sections.
Directed by Tom Stoppard; screenplay by Stoppard, based on his play and a play by William Shakespeare; director of photography, Peter Biziou; edited by Nicolas Gaster; music by Stanley Myers; production designer, Vaughan Edwards; produced by Michael Brandman and Emanuel Azenberg; released by Cinecom Entertainment Group.
Starring Gary Oldman (Rosencrantz), Tim Roth (Guildenstern), Richard Dreyfuss (The Player), Joanna Roth (Ophelia), Iain Glen (Hamlet), Donald Sumpter (Claudius), Joanna Miles (Gertrude), Ljubo Zecevic (Osric), Ian Richardson (Polonius), Sven Medvesek (Laertes), Vili Matula (Horatio) and John Burgess (Ambassador from England).