Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

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Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are DeadStill of Richard Dreyfuss in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are DeadStill of Richard Dreyfuss in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are DeadStill of Iain Glen in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are DeadStill of Gary Oldman, Richard Dreyfuss and Tim Roth in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are DeadRosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

Two minor characters from the play, "Hamlet" stumble around unaware of their scripted lives and unable to deviate from them.

Release Year: 1990

Rating: 7.5/10 (11,471 voted)

Director: Tom Stoppard

Stars: Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, Richard Dreyfuss

Showing events from the point of view of two minor characters from Hamlet, men who have no control over their destiny, this film examines fate and asks if we can ever really know what's going on? Are answers as important as the questions? Will Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (or Guildenstern and Rosencrantz) manage to discover the source of Hamlet's malaise as requested by the new king? Will the mysterious players who are strolling around the castle reveal the secrets they evidently know? And whose serve is it?

Gary Oldman - Rosencrantz
Tim Roth - Guildenstern
Richard Dreyfuss - The Player
Livio Badurina - Tragedian
Tomislav Maretic - Tragedian
Mare Mlacnik - Tragedian
Serge Soric - Tragedian (as Srdjan Soric)
Mladen Vasary - Tragedian
Zeljko Vukmirica - Tragedian
Branko Zavrsan - Tragedian
Joanna Roth - Ophelia
Iain Glen - Hamlet
Donald Sumpter - Claudius
Joanna Miles - Gertrude
Ljubo Zecevic - Osric

Release Date: 8 February 1991

Filming Locations: Brezice, Slovenia

Gross: $739,104 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Richard Dreyfuss' part was to be played by Sean Connery, who abandoned the film for a bigger paycheck in The Hunt for Red October.

Incorrectly regarded as goofs: When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern first encounter The Player, it is day, and then suddenly changes to night. At times, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are in a night-time setting, but when the shot changes to show the The Player and his Tragedians, the sky is blue/grey. However, this is probably intentional. Absurdist drama often features a vague or ill-defined setting, including time of day. Tom Stoppard also wrote the stage play on which his screenplay is based, which features several such apparent jumps in time continuity as a means of promoting or maintaining a sense of confusion in the audience.

[first lines]
[Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are riding horses down a path - they pause]
Rosencrantz: [to Guildenstern] Umm, uh...
[Guildenstern rides away, and Rosencrantz follows. Rosencrantz spots a gold coin on the ground]
Rosencrantz: [to horse] Whoa - whoa, whoa.
[Gets off horse and starts flipping the coin]
Rosencrantz: Hmmm. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads.
[Guildenstern grabs the coin, checks both sides, then tosses it back to Rosencrantz]
Rosencrantz: Heads.
[Guildenstern pulls a coin out of his own pocket and flips it]

User Review

The Play Without the Play


As an architect, I am often asked what is the world's best building. The answer: a small chapel outside Barcelona started by Gaudi but never finished. We have the model (a bunch of strings) and the basement. But when one visits, it is a profoundly lifechanging place. Gaudi exceeded the building's budget, and then that of the whole community (which was to have been built) before getting out of the ground. But the ambition was so grand, one can see it with only the barest explicit minimum. But, you have to have the reference of what the master intended.

Hamlet is the same. It was never really finished, being so large a conception. Shakespeare tinkered and added over decades. So what Stoppard does here is expand Hamlet by shrinking it. The plot is only glimpsed, but that part was always incidental anyway. The play is about reasoning, and when things are real and when not, and about what element of reality is causal. So instead of giving us the language, Stoppard seizes on one device, the play within the play.

In the raw Hamlet, this is pretty rich, but Stoppard weaves new dimensions of inversion and self-reference. There are at least four levels of play here, and we keep switching about, together with most of the characters. This is not just amusing, but elaborates on `Hamlet,' when is fate real? would it change if we could see the larger clockworks of the universe? does language (specifically query) aid in this endeavor? considering that, are ideas tied to time and fate? This last point is comically illustrated as one of the pair (they don't know who is who) keeps `stumbling' on great ideas, which then vanish.

The play (Stoppard's first) seems to have been his one excellent work, followed by the mundane. Some are unhappy because the film is not so frantic as the 1967 play, but I think that is because there is a different dynamic with a film audience than a stage audience. Fewer tricks can be played. But this is a wonderful solution to the problem of language in film: it is just not cinematic, so best to exploit the dissonance.

There's risk here. The film as film is not great, so set that aside. And the notions are dangerously sophomoric. But that's what makes the whole thing so darned funny. Some critics (notably the normally intelligent Stanley Kauffmann) think Roth and Oldham are poor. But this is a strange sort of acting demand, one for which no measures exist: part surreal, part comic (in different traditions, half Monty Python, half Abbot and Costello) and part tragic confusion. They reward my trust and that's what matters I think. Dreyfus is supposed to be over the top, and he complies.

In the great Hamlet sweepstakes, many recommend seeing Mel Gibson and then Gwyneth Paltrow. I suppose that's a colorful route. But the real sense of what this is all about comes through with more real reward via Branagh and then this clever film.


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