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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There's something rotten in the state of Denmark..., 16 May 2012
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This review is from: Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead:Korean All Region Import [ntsc] (DVD)
Two Elizabethan gentlemen find themselves summoned to Elsinore by Claudius to attend their friend Hamlet, who is transformed and neither his exterior nor the inward man resembles that it was. However, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern perceive that perhaps all is not what it seems. The laws of physics, probability and time have been suspended...

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.

The edition that I was sent is clearly for the Korean market (the surrealism just keeps on coming!), but it is recorded in English (thank god!) and includes English subtitles. There are no extras that would be of any use to someone who can't read Korean.

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?
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