Film Diary-Ore Arowobusoye

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Many things cross our minds when we think of Hamlet, the lovely prince of Denmark. He’s dramatic, introspective, and emo (before it was even cool). However, one thing that I usually don’t associate Hamlet with is humor. He’s way too serious for that. He’s the type of person whose jokes make us nervous because we aren’t sure when things will take a turn for the uncomfortable.

Strangely enough however, when watching Branagh’s 1996 version of Hamlet there was a rare moment were I found Hamlet genuinely funny. This moment is in Act 4 scene 3 line 48 when Hamlet says “But come; for England! Farewell, dear Mother.”

When I read this line in the text, I thought Hamlet was being serious. In my reading, Hamlet was so convinced that Gertrude and Claudius’ betrayal’s went hand in hand he decided that they were one and the same. In the film however, this interaction was much more entertaining. It became obvious to me that Hamlet was just trying to get on Claudius’ nerves, by addressing him as a female, and this amused me.

Although Hamlet is still fairy young, so much of what he does and says is alienating. (I mean who tells their girlfriend to become a nun?) This simple act of sass, and the cheeky cheek-kiss that followed Hamlet’s farewell to his “mother” made me realize that despite everything Hamlet is still a kid who derives pleasure from ticking his parent off. And sometimes don’t we all?

hamlet

Its ok Hamlet. Sometimes i just want to yell in my room too…

notes2notesnotes1

 

Note Reflection- Ore Arowobusoye

In 9th grade English class I met annotation, and we were enemies. I was the type of reader that thought the faster you read a book the cooler you were (are the book-worms really cool in highschool?) so I detested anything that I felt would slow my reading down. Obviously, I wasn’t much of a close reader either. Another problem that I had was writing in books- “it ruined them”(Ore 2011), which was a bit hypocritical considering the fact that I treated most of my books like garbage. Imagine all the dog ears, broken spines, and oily fingers that you want.

pretty much me every time I touch a book

pretty much me every time I touch a book

Fast forward five years and the relationship between annotation and I has become a little more complicated. I quickly discovered that annotation is almost always mandatory when it came to analyzing text, so begrudgingly I was forced to do it more often.

Every time I annotate a text or a play I usually go about it in the same way. First I section off parts of the text into paragraphs or clauses, and then I write my own translation beside it. Although things like modern translations from Elizabethan English to modern day English exist online  I always find it useful to translate the play into my own words so that I understand more. I am also a big fan of sticky notes, and I like to add them to the pages I am annotating as little asides or reminders. For example, during the close read of Henry the 5th  Act 3 scene 1, one of my sticky notes was a reminder of the context of the play, and the fact that Henry and his men were physically scaling walls (which explains references to “the breach”.

you wish your sticky notes were as cool as mine

you wish your sticky notes were as cool as mine

Another annotation practice that I follow is to keep a close eye out for devices such as alliteration, repetition, and metaphor. Usually when I spot these, I highlight or circle them.To represent devices that might be connected (like the long extended metaphor of a solider/beast in Henry Act 3 scene 1 I use the same colour.

When it comes to film, my note taking practices are a bit different. For me, taking notes during a film has always been much harder than annotating a text. This is because films demand so much of your attention at specific times. If you look away from the screen at the wrong time, even to write something down in your notebook, you could miss something important. This might sound a little ridiculous, but in order to fix that problem, when I’m taking notes during a movie, I barely even look at my notes. In fact, I usually just ensure that ,my pen makes contact with paper and that’s it. As a result the words I write down are never actually in the lines of my notebook.

sometimes watching and writing at the same time feels like this

sometimes watching and writing at the same time feels like this

To add to the differences between annotating a text and annotating film, I should probably mention that the things I write for the two are completely different. For example, I don’t need to translate the scene into my own words when watching a film  because film makes meanings clear enough. Even if you cant understand the language, film provides context and gives the viewer a strong grasp of what is going on during the scene. Because of this, instead of the actual text and dialog I focus on the visuals. I ask myself questions like: what are the expressions of the actors? What costumes are they wearing, and what does it do for the scene?

A good example of taking note of costumes would be during the Capulet party in the 1996 version of romeo and Juliet. I find it interesting that the characters are not dressed in the traditional masquerade get-ups. Instead, they are dressed in costumes like in a Halloween party. Quickly, I decided that each characters costuming details revealed something about their personality. (This is an example of the type of stuff I write down) And I came to the conclusion that Juliet’s angel costume represented innocence and chastity, Romeo’s knight costume represented combat and honor, and Lady Capulet’s Cleopatra costume was a reference to her obsession with grandeur and blindness to real world problems.

the angelic Juliet

the angelic Juliet

Aside from costuming other elements of film that I tend to focus on are music and lighting. For example, in both the 1998 and 1968 versions of Queen Mab’s speech I paid close attention to where in the speech the music and lighting changed and the effect it had on the viewer. By doing this, I noticed the points were Mercutio’s whimsical fairy thoughts took a turn for the dark.

When I annotated this text I was still able to notice the shift in mood, but I noticed it in different ways. Instead of music, I paid attention to language, such as the way Mercutio seems to linger over the grizzly image of a soldiers PTSD-type dream. Or the fact that Mab’s description turns from a dainty midwife to a hag.

 

Overall, annotation in general is a good practice and no matter what you are annotation, be it film or text, you will still get something out of it. A lot of the time I find, you come up with the same results (in both the text and movie Queen Mab’s speech touches on hints of madness and transitions from nice to sour in a rather jolting fashion). Perhaps this is a good way of measuring whether you’ve been successful in your annotation then? If after viewing a movie or a play you come up with the same conclusion as your annotated text, at least you know that your interpretation of the text matches how it is intended to be viewed by an audience.

Scene Comparison: Queen Mab’s Speech

Adaptations watched: Romeo and Juliet( 1968, Zefirelli)

Romeo& Juliet(2013, Carlei)

Romeo+ Juliet (1996, Luhrmann)

Mercutio has always been my favorite character in Romeo and Juliet, and Queen Mab’s speech is one of my favorite scenes in all of Shakespeare. To me it has always brought to light Mercutio’s complex character, which is jovial, witty, and strangely dark.  All of these different characteristics shine in Queen Mab’s speech so I love it in all interpretations. Even song. It seems almost unfair for me to compare a scene I am already predisposed to like but even if all interpretations are equal… some are more equal than others.

In regards to Mercutio’s famous speech, Zefirelli’s 1968 interpretation is the most loyal of the three. In this interpretation, all of the characters are in traditional Shakespearean costumes and as usual Mercutio is the life of the party. The only costuming detail that might seem out of place to an astute viewer is the fact that Mercutio’s mask for the Capulet’s masquerade party is that of a skull, which serves as a grim foreshadowing of the fate of Romeo’s beloved friend. Very clever Zefirelli!

Mercutio's skull mask

Mercutio’s skull mask

I enjoyed this interpretation because of its fidelity to the text (about three-fourths of the original text is included!) and the attention spent on the finer details of Mercutio’s character. As is expected of his boisterous personality, Mercutio delivers the first part of his speech with mirth. In doing so, he is cheered on by his party going Montague friends, who pretty much serve as a laugh track. The only one who does not seem amused with Mercutio’s speech is Romeo who is still in the dumps about his ex.

Unlike the other interpretations of Queen Mab’s speech, in this version Mercutio pantomimes much more. For example, the line “ then he dreams of another benefice (l 81)” is delivered with mock solemnity and actions of feigning prayer. (Of course the Montague lads, excluding Romeo that is, love this) and as a viewer, a line from the text that I did not find especially humorous actually became sort of funny! This scene is also wrought with auditory queues, a useful element of film. Trumpets bells and drums help to transport the audience to Mercutio’s imaginary battle. “sometime she driveth o’er a soldiers neck and then dreams he of cutting foreign throats of breaches, ambuscados, Spanish blades (…) drums in his ear,” (ll 82- 87)

da boys

Mercutio and the Montagues

At the height of Mercutio’s frenzy however, there is a noticeable change in tone. It is obvious that what started off as a charming joke may actually contain hints of madness and frustration. as Mercutio’s actions become more and more outrageous the Montegue’s exchange looks of concern. The jovial music and laughter stops, and the lighting on Mercutio, which until now has been quite bright, becomes dark and silhouette-like .

In Luhrmann’s interpretation Mercutio is clad in sparkly drag and is quite the departure from traditional Victorian interpretations. This Mercutio is wild, flamboyant, and probably on something.

wise words from Mercutio

wise words from Mercutio

That something turns out to be Queen Mab, which in a clever twist is now represented as a cute looking party drug probably along the lines of ecstasy or LSD. Personally I find this is a great modernization because so much of the fantastical imagery that Mercutio uses in the original text really does sound like a drug trip. Even earlier descriptions of the fairy’s midwife ex) “in shape no bigger than an agate stone on the forefinger of an alderman”(ll 55-56), work perfectly with this new interpretation as they describe a perfect pill size and the fact that it rests on Mercutio’s finger.

queenmab

Although Luhrmann’s interpretation does not use as much of the original text as Zefirilli, it does several creative things with elements of film, the most notable is the music. At first the background music is soft and flutey, however, as Queen Mab’s speech turns from sweet to sour creepy, horror movie music starts to play in the background and to make things worse Mercutio begins to act increasingly disturbed hopping around to the rhythm of his own words (“and in this state she gallops night by night” line 70. At the height of tension fireworks burst and it seems that Mercutio’s mind is put to rest. Although lacking the theatrical nature of Zefirilli’s film, this scenes vibrant imagery creates its own disorienting mood.

Carlei’s interpretation of the Queen Mab’s speech is notably more lukewarm than the others. This scene trades off slow rumination for a faster more conversational tone. Interestingly enough, in this interpretation Mercutio is Romeo’s cousin instead of his best friend. This might be a minor detail, but it definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. In the other two interpretations of the speech when Mercutio gets out of hand visual and auditory queues are given to Romeo (the bff) to step in. In Carlei’s adaptation that does not happen.

Really it does not need to happen because Mercutio does not get out of hand. This speech lacks the vigor and the madness that is associated with Mercutio’s Queen Mab, because the parts of the text where Mab is portrayed as malevolent are cut out. The result is that Mercutio’s character seems less complex, and a little bit boring. This interpretation is not as intense as Zefirilli’s or as experimental as Luhrmann’s but one thing it does have at least is consistency. The warm candle light that shines on Mercutio, Romeo, and Benvolio (I can’t get over his baby face) add to the happy fairy tale tone of the scene, as does the gentle music. But I can’t help but feel cheated… since the delivery of this scene seems clipped and over-simplified.

you tried...

You tried! Gold star for consistency