In the business of life, you don’t mess with a corporate psycho called Hamlet. Aiming to score, he’s been nipped once more by “girlfriend” Ophelia. So, he savages a mountain of ham and happens to stumble upon the body of his father. That smells fishy, he thinks, but continues masticating before realizing the full horror. But this Hamlet won’t scream “to be or not to be”. There have been attempts to pacify him with just a separate table in the corporate drawing room and an array of felt-tip pens and his favourite colouring books. But hell, he will have his revenge. Clearly, there’s something rotten in the state of Finland.
William Shakespeare has just been elbowed into the absurd. And you’re watching Finnish film-maker Aki Kaurismaki’s satire Hamlet Goes Business (1987).
This, and many other quirky and esoteric takes on the Bard’s works are part of the line-up of Shakespeare Told and Retold, a festival of films now on at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Bangalore, in association with the Bangalore Film Society. The films will run at NGMA every weekend till mid-September.
Some films take on a sombre timbre. A 1960 Czech film, Romeo, Juliet and Darkness, throws the lovers into a time machine and has them confronting the Holocaust. Jiri Weiss’ movie has the Nazi occupation of Prague as the setting for his story, with a male student hiding a Jewish girl in his flat. For the girl, the boy is the only connection with the outside world. What will happen when the residents of the apartment find out she’s hiding there?
Orson Welles’ Othello won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1952—it catapulted Welles into the league of acclaimed Shakespearean thespians such as Lawrence Olivier, Richard Burton and Christopher Plummer. There is also Tom Stoppard’s dig at the Bard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, about two dudes who go berserk. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are minor courtiers in Hamlet, and in Stoppard’s vision, unable to comprehend the goings-on in the play. So, Stoppard wonders, what really is the perception of men at the periphery of history?
This film festival has 400-year-old words that will matter to the world 400 years later. Should you give it a miss? As King Lear said in quite a different context, “Never, never, never, never, never!”
At NGMA, Bangalore, on Saturdays at 3pm and on Sundays at 11.30am. Till 18 September. Entry is free.