Monday, June 29, 2009

Infinite Regress Hamlet

Hamlet. Dir. Catherine Hardwicke. Perf. Emile Hirsch. Overture, 2011.
A new film version of Hamlet, one staring Emile Hirsch, is about to be in production. It isn't due for release until 2011, so we'll need to hold back any enthusiasm we have for a while so that we don't use it all up too far in advance.

The film will (if all goes according to the current plan) be set in an east-coast college (here's to Shakespeare adaptations that are not set in high school!) whose President has been murdered.

Although Bardfilm's policy on film versions of Hamlet is "the more the better—and, if they're good, that's better yet," I know that the question of whether we need another film version of the play has been bandied about. And there are many answers.

One that I've been thinking about recently comes from the play itself. Near his death, Hamlet says this to Horatio:
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story. (V.ii.346-49)
When the first Hamlet told the first Horatio that, he started the progress of infinite regress. Horatio has to turn around and start us off at the beginning of the play again. Near the end of that play, the Hamlet Horatio is telling us about tells the Horatio Horatio is telling us about to tell his story; that Horatio starts us over at the beginning—and so on. We're caught in an infinite number of Horatios telling us about an infinite number of Hamlets.

I suppose it's better than an infinite number of monkeys banging on an infinite number of typewriters. Or at least, it's quieter.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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