Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

I’ve always liked the idea of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead: an entire play devoted to two minor characters from Hamlet, the pair of them chewing over their existential irrelevance and, every so often, stumbling into the action of Shakespeare’s play — which, coming at us in disjointed pieces, appears faintly absurd in its melodramatic grandeur. Tom Stoppard’s 1967 play certainly sounds like an irresistible stunt. But, in fact, the inside-out Hamlet business isn’t much more than a structural gimmick. When you get down to it, most of the play is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and I’ll be damned if I can figure out what these two Beckettesque jokers are talking about. Stoppard, who adapted and directed the new movie version, has opened the play up into realistic settings; it now lacks the ingenious formal closure it had in the theater. Yet even on stage, Stoppard’s wordplay is so freezingly abstract that the relentless games and paradoxes, the endless deadpan cheeriness of the repartee, can wear you out. Gary Oldman and Tim Roth make a charmingly guileless Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. You never get tired of looking at their earnest, questioning faces. But the movie, while occasionally funny, is a hollow experience.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
  • Movie