Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Adorable (and Also Dead But Who's Keeping Track?)

Wow, this has got to be the first time in AGES that no one answered the banner quote on the post it came on. I feel all clever and such, I finally found a movie you people don't know off the top of your head. I will bask in this for a moment...


Ok, basking over. So, the Golden Globes happened, the Oscars aren't far behind and there's a whole new year of films on the way. Eh, screw being topical, let's talk about Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead!

I have fond memories of trying to ask for this at Blockbuster. And by fond memories I mean ones of frustration and annoyance as they looked at me like I was speaking Turkish

Winding our clocks back to the glorious year of 1990, when I was but a wee baby and Tom Stoppard's Tony award-winning play got turned into a movie starring Tim Roth and Gary Oldman as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern...or possibly Guildenstern and Rosencrantz. It gets confusing.

But they are also both rather young and attractive, so I really don't care who is who

Ok, let me back up before diving into this one. When boydude visited he made me watch The Social Network (ok, not like, made, like with Clockwork Orange-y devices on my eyelids but you get the idea). So after that, I discovered he, calling himself a self-respecting film nerd, had never seen Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead, an egregious mistake I soon corrected. But before we get going, there's two things I need to make clear:

1. I am sooo biased towards this movie. I love it ridiculously much. We're talking near The Rock level biased.

2. This movie is not for everyone. And I don't mean that in a snooty elitist way, I mean it in a way "it's just Shakespeare, talking, philosophy and puns for two hours" way.

And also Gary Oldman making amazing scientific discoveries that fail miserably when he tries to show them off to Tim Roth

So basically, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead shows the events of the Shakespeare play Hamlet from the point of view of two minor characters: Hamlet's well-meaning but not terribly bright school buddies, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They bumble around castle Denmark, occasionally engaging with the other characters, and tackling deep questions like, "what the heck is bugging Hamlet?" "Why does this coin keep landing on heads?" and "Which one of us is Rosencrantz?"

This last one really puts them out

Joining them on their rambles is the lead player of the group of actors that Hamlet hires to do the play within a play that's supposed to get Claudius to confess to his father's murder (It should be obvious by now that this movie is much less fun if you're unfamiliar with Hamlet). The Lead Player is a sneaky, at times omniscient-seeming bastard who toys with R and G and the nature of their existence. He was SUPPOSED to be played by Sean Connery, which would have achieved a perfect actor trifecta, but he ditched it for Hunt For Red October and we got Richard Dreyfuss instead. I mean, don't get me wrong, he does a fine job...

I'm just saying, what could have been

And really that's it. R and G wandering around, trying to figure out the meaning of life. Well, Tim Roth is at any rate. Gary Oldman's character seems much less concerned and his quirkyness helps balance out Roth's brooding. How R and G bounce off each other is a key part of the film, one that could either make or break it. Luckily, Roth and Oldman have great chemistry and are a blast to watch. Really, this movie is all about dialogue and since I could never pick just one line for the end, here's a bunch of my favorites to try and win you over:

The Player: "We're actors! We're the opposite of people!"

(After waking up and finding themselves on a boat)

Rosencrantz: "Do you think Death could possibly be a boat?"

Guildenstern: "No, no, no... Death is not. Death isn't. Take my meaning? Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being. You can't not be on a boat"

Rosencrantz: "I've frequently not been on boats"

Guildenstern: "No, no... What you've been is not on boats"

(Guildenstern tries to figure out their names by seeing which one Rosencrantz responds to)

Guildenstern: "Rosencrantz?"

Rosencrantz: "What?"

Guildenstern: "Guildenstern?"

Rosencrantz: "What?"

Guildenstern: "Don't you discriminate at ALL?"

(After putting on a play that is basically Hamlet)

The Player: "Are you familiar with this play?"

Guildenstern: "No"

The Player: "A slaughterhouse, eight corpses all told"

Guildenstern: (counts) "Six"

The Player: "Eight"

(Two actors who look like R and G pretend to hang themselves)

Guildenstern: "Who are they?"

The Player: "They're dead"

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Goddamn It This Title Is So Long is a metaphysical comedy that might actually be a play itself, where not much happens but lots of people die, verbal tennis is invented, life and death are ruminated on and puns abound. It's a movie that moves very slowly yet is still hard to follow. It requires a lot of patience on behalf of the viewer but the rewards are worth it in the end and our two heroes are just so damn cute and likable you can't help but become invested in their story. So if you're a Literature nerd (or not) and you have some free time on your hands, I highly recommend Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Oh For Christ's Sake I Give Up. It Shakespeare's its way to four and three-quarter catapults out of five. Because I can.

This is Sugary Cynic, still basking in banner quote glory. Neener neener. 'Night!

The Player: "We're more of the love, blood, and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can't give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory. They're all blood, you see"


  1. God doesn't rob banks, all right?

  2. Okay, I must have missed the other post, because this is one of my favorite movies of all time. I've only ever read the play, never seen it performed.

    My dad took me to see it for my 21st birthday, which was, like, um,... yesterday. Yes.

    Anyway, It was playing on a college campus. Before the film, we're sitting in the auditorium, and some of the students grabbed fliers, some kind of advert for other films. Pretty soon, there were paper airplanes flying all over the place. Fifty? Sixty? A lot, anyway.

    During the paper airplane scene in the movie, the crowd went nuts. There's Hamlet, doing his "To be or not to be," Gary Oldman's paper airplane whizzing by Hamlet's head, and hundreds of paper airplanes flying through the auditorium. It was like Rocky Horror meets Shakespeare. It was perfect.

    My favorite quote: Denmark's a prison, and he'd rather live in a nutshell." I love, love, love this movie.

    Love, love, love.

  3. I am glad to be back, drinking a cup of coffee, and to read your blog once again.

  4. This is my movie.

    No, you don't get it. This is my MOVIE. I worship this movie. For ages, I've been trying to find someone to play Questions with me, and nobody will. How disheartening.

  5. Ryan: Nice :p but since you didn't put the title (purposefully or otherwise) it's still up for grabs!

    Annaliterally: So jealous! The bit with the paper planes syncing up with the movie's paper plane sounds especially awesome. Must've been EPIC!

    Marilyn: And you know I'm always happy to see you pop back in :)

    Simon: I try to force my brother to play questions with me. It never ends well. If we were facebook friends we could play it on facebook chat. Just saying :p

  6. Great to see this movie getting some love. I put this in my recent Richard Dreyfuss top 10.

  7. Dan: It's almost painfully underrated


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