In 1986 Gary Oldman made a name for himself as Sid Vicious in Sid & Nancy. However, he wasn’t exactly a household name. He was known by fans of the Sex Pistols and the acting community. If you reach back in Tim Roth’s filmography, it was 1990 where people took notice of him as Vincent Van Gogh in Vincent & Theo. No, I did not purposely pick two other films that use “&” int he title, but I wanted to illustrate that Oldman and Roth were not the well known, exquisite character actors that we have come to appreciate over the years. Some favorites include Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Hateful Eight, JFK, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I know you know which of these films belongs to which, because these are two actors that we have all come to love. So when I learned that RLJ Entertainment was going to release Rosencrantz & Guilderstern Are Dead, for its 25th anniversary, featuring both of these actors before they hit stardom, I knew it was time to finally see this modern classic.
All right, what is the big deal about Rosencrantz & Guilderstern Are Dead? To begin with, I worked at a lot of video stores in 90’s. Remember those little shops that could supply a wondrous assortment of films and each had its own unique flavor? If you don’t know what I am talking about, imagine walking the aisles of a video store instead of mindless surfing through Netflix’s assortment of titles. Yes, I’ll take driving to the video store any day. Sorry, I am digressing. Rosencrantz & Guilderstern Are Dead was one of the films that eluded me from store to store. It was either always rented or broken. At the time, I knew who Gary Oldman was, Dracula, and had discovered Tim Roth in both Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. To see them together would be a treat. Later, I would take a Shakespeare course in college and the premise for Rosencrantz & Guilderstern Are Dead, wrapped around the events of Hamlet, would entice me to find the film even more. If you don’t know, Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are two minuscule characters in the tragic play, so to see a film where these characters are the principles was intriguing.
Wait… what does this have to do with Science Fiction? This is a sci-fi site after all and we should be talking about ray guns, space mutants, and intergalactic guardians of peace. Rosencrantz & Guilderstern Are Dead, in fact, takes place out of time. Our characters find themselves in a bit of a quagmire as neither can fully remember the events that transpired before they were summoned to Denmark. These two characters cannot even recall which one of them is Rosencrantz and which is Guilderstern. The film itself jumps from moment to moment will little consideration as to how our protagonists got from one event to another. This is not bad editing or writing, but their presence, desires, and wills are completely not their own. Answers come in vague monologues and performances by “The Player” who is portrayed by Richard Dreyfus. The story itself may be confusing, for most who do not know The Bard’s tragic story about Hamlet the Prince of Denmark, but that is not why you are watching.
The film is a great foreshadowing of things to come for both Oldman and Roth. They spare, verbally, with one another about everything and anything as they try to make sense of their own story. A simple coin toss plagues their minds, they verbally spat over a game of tennis, and just when they think they have control, they lose it. Tom Stoppard, who had previously written Brazil and would later write Shakespeare in Love, crafts more scenes than an actual story and you will delight in listening to these characters/actors ramble on.
Blu-ray and DVD Release for January 11th, 2016
Action/ Adventure/ Mystery
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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
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Argevollen Collection 2
Noein: Complete Series
Hotel Transylvania 2
The American Friend (1977)
Contracted: Phase II
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
Maison Close: Season 2
Mr. Robot: Season 1
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride