Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is an incredibly original film, which is a bit ironic considering the characters and situations are borrowed in their entirety from Hamlet with a nod to comedic cinematic pairs such as Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy and with more than a pinch of Anna Russell’s Hamletto thrown in for good measure. Tom Stoppard, who not only wrote the play and the screenplay but also directed the film, takes these two minor characters from the Shakespearean tragedy and places them front and center for their own non-story. Caught up in events beyond their understanding, much less their control, they bumble though the castle, more or less left to their own devices except for those few moments where their presence around the central figures is called for. And what do they do in the meantime while they are awaiting their inevitable deaths? They philosophize, they theorize, they observe 17th and 18th century scientific phenomena, and, most of all they spar, verbally. With the possible exception of My Diner with Andre, I can think of no other film that so completely depends on the audience’s becoming entranced by the dialogue. And while all of that may not sound like a lot of fun, it’s done with such incredible cleverness, wit, and style that it delivers a great deal of entertainment. An incredibly clever film, I recommend it wholeheartedly.
P.S.- I’m pretty sure the audio in the link to the Hamletto is the full piece, or, it can be had from Amazon for a couple bucks. It’s priceless, well worth the download.