Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Splash of Hamlet in The Golden Bowl

The Golden Bowl. Dir. James Ivory. Perf. Kate Beckinsale, James Fox, Anjelica Huston, Nick Nolte, Jeremy Northam, Madeleine Potter, Uma Thurman, and Nicholas Day. 2000. DVD. Trimark, 2001.

Two parts of the 2000 film version of Henry James' Golden Bowl could be said to have a connection to Hamlet.

The first is the opening scene, which presents a dumb show of sorts—one that could be said to foreshadow some of the plot of the film. But it's fairly indirect, and the plot of the dumb show is more akin to Othello than anything else.

The second is more direct—and, potentially, more interesting. The English audience watches a non-western dance that seems to tell a story of treachery and death:

The initial response is intriguing and telling: "It's just like Hamlet," the young man says.

In my post on "Shakespeare in the Bush" (for which, q.v.), I wrote about the account of a non-western response to the plot of Hamlet. The Golden Bowl offers us the inverse: the western response to this non-western construct is to find a western equivalent that will enable comprehension. A large accumulation of dead bodies on the stage must mean something like Hamlet. That's the point of comparison and the place where meaningful discussion between cultures can take place.

Or it may just be that audience members are inclined to say "Thank the Lord that's over" at the end of any dramatic presentation, Shakespearean or otherwise.

Yes. Indeed.

P.S. The Screenplay is by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, a marvelous author in her own right.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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