Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead


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The two eponymous characters who show up a few times in Hamlet, interacting with the characters in that play, but since the movie is about them, the other play is only shown in bits and pieces…their experience of the happenings in Elsinore is very different from the Shakespeare play.

Mr. Otter took me to see this movie when it first came out (1990, for those of you who are paying attention. Yes, we are old.) and we both loved it. And as we were walking out of the theater, he said, that was really scary.

Why? I said, thinking, scary? that wasn’t scary. Interesting, thoughtful, odd, disquieting, witty, charming…all of those words definitely apply to that great movie we just saw. But scary? not so much.

Because, said Mr. Otter…they’re US.

Oh my god, I said…you’re right.

And we made many jokes about this over the years.

So here it was, Christmas day 2011. We had had a lovely day with Maid-of-Awesome and The Fiance. And Mr. Otter and I had bought this in Ashland, OR at the Shakespeare festival earlier that year, and M-o-A had never seen it…so that was the movie we ended up watching.

And it was still wonderful. Quirky. Amusing. It helps if you know enough about Hamlet to know what’s going on behind the scenes, but not absolutely necessary.

Tim Roth and Gary Oldman are perfect for their roles, whichever of them is which. Richard Dreyfuss is not too bad as the Player King; certainly the best thing he had done (or has done since) in a long time.

Mr. Otter thinks (and I think he’s probably right) that this play is really about the experience of being in a country where you don’t really speak the language; Tom Stoppard is a Czech by birth, so that would make sense. You can tell that R and G kinda get what’s happening around them, and kinda don’t…they are floating on a current that seems safe, but isn’t, really, and they can’t tell what’s happening around them.

It’s a wonderful movie.

And after twenty years…they are still us. The way they talk, the way they interact, the playing with words…all remind us of us. In a charming and not stupid way, of course. Nice to know we still got it…

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