Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1990)

Gary Oldman Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

This film does a good job of proving that great stage plays are on the stage for a reason.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern PosterShould I see it?
If it is your kind of thing, yes.

Director/Writer: Tom Stoppard

Starring: Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, Richard Dreyfuss and Iain Glen

Rated PG for nudity

Be warned: I have an affection for this film that clouds my opinion.  It was released when I was discovering the original play as a young theater student and writer.  In other words, I have a personal history with the play and film and it clouds my judgment.  I will do my best to keep my opinion level.

Tom Stoppard’s film adaptation of his classic stage play is a mixed affair.  The genuine humor and clever dialog are fun and the staging is impressive.  In turn, the pacing is consistently off and leads to an offputting, distant tone.

One of the biggest drawbacks for the audience is if you are not familiar with Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The uninitiated won’t be completely lost, but they may not get many of the references.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead HangngRosencrantz and Guildenstern are minor characters in Hamlet.  They are childhood friends of the prince and are sent with Hamlet to England.  The duo are charged to deliver a sealed note they have been directed to give to the King upon their arrival.  The note demands the King executes Hamlet upon opening.  During the trip, Hamlet switches the note with one that tells the King to kill the pair instead.  For over four hundred years, these hapless souls have been getting killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Stoppard’s version of the story places these minor characters in the spotlight and shoves Hamlet to the bottom of the cast list.  In the film, the pair are symbols of existential doom who ponder on the meaning of life, the order of the universe and the use of art.  After that last sentence, it should go without saying, this is a rather talky film.

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