Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Arnold Schwarzenegger does Hamlet

While surfing YouTube recently I found a beautiful "tribute to Shakespeare in film" that I wanted to share:

The music, if a bit oddly chosen, is Patrick Doyle's setting of Non Nobis from Kenneth Branagh's film, Henry V. What I like about this tribute: its nostalgia, its passion, its equal-opportunity drawing upon scenes from Shakespearean adaptations in cinema from many decades of the past century. The only thing missing is perhaps Orson Welles' quirky grin in his portrayal of Falstaff in Chimes at Midnight. But ah, so many moments! The setting of the wild hat on the king's head in Ran, the Japanese Lear...that in particular made me sit up straight. What a remarkable century it has been, for both Shakespeare and cinema! And this YouTube clip is a moving testament to the enduring cultural power of the myth of the Bard.

And then, browsing the "related links," I happened to find this, something I had seen before with some glee. It is a scene from an otherwise unremarkable film, The Last Action Hero, in which a middle school child watching Olivier's Hamlet in class grows impatient with Hamlet's hesitation in the carrying out of his revenge, and begins to imagine what Hamlet would be like if only his own favorite actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, were given the title role. What follows is a fantastically over-the-top parody. I enjoy Douglas Lanier's analysis of the scene in his book, Shakespeare and Modern Popular Culture. Lanier points out that it is not entirely clear what is being parodied. Is this a parody of Hamlet? Or is it a parody of Shakespearean adaptations in film, of the studios' idea of an "action-packed" Hamlet? Or is the joke on us, the viewing audience, and the expectations that we bring to drama and cinema? In any case, as the voiceover starts to intone, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark...and Hamlet is taking out the trash!" it is great and horrible fun. Enjoy!


Asrae said...

The first movie clip, had some wonderful scenes, however, I did not recognize most of them. Is there a list of the scenes included in that video? I knew Ran, Leo's performance in Romeo and Juliet, and Rupert Everett in Mid Summer's Night Dream. Beyond that I was lost. Though, Orson Wells is amazing and I but whatever movie he was in was great. Does anyone know?

Dante's Heart said...


There was one film in there I didn't recognize, either, but here is a list of most of them:

3 versions of Hamlet:
* Laurence Olivier (black and white)
* Mel Gibson as Hamlet, Helena Bonham Carter as Ophelia
* Ethan Hawke as Hamlet

2 versions of Henry V:
* Laurence Olivier as Henry V (black and white)
* Kenneth Branagh as Henry V

Romeo and Juliet (DiCaprio & Clare Danes)

As You Like It (black and white)

Othello (Laurence Fishburne as Othello, Kenneth Branagh as Iago)

Merchant of Venice (Al Pacino as Shylock)

Richard III (Ian McKellen) - they included a clip from the final scene, with McKellen's Richard falling into flames, grinnig at the camera and waving


Midsummer Night's Dream

Titus (Anthony Hopkins)

2 versions of Macbeth, both black and white:
* Orson Welles
* Throne of Blood (Japanese)

Much Ado About Nothing (Kenneth Branagh as Benedick, Emma Thompson as Beatrice)

Forbidden Planet (an old science fiction revision of "The Tempest")

So they really managed to include quite a sampling in that brief tribute!