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Antecedents

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
Produced by Michael Brandman and Emanuel Azenberg
Written and directed by Tom Stoppard
Released by Cinecom

Scenes From a Mall
Produced and directed by Paul Mazursky
Written by Roger L. Simon and Mr. Mazursky
Released by Buena Vista Pictures

It is usually a reliable rule that when moviemakers decide to "open up" a stage play to adapt it to the screen with its voracious appetite for scenery, they lose more in focus and intensity than they gain in pretty vistas. I worried, therefore, about the opening shots of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, a dazzlingly depressing panorama of cliffs with a narrow road on which two figures appear. Where are we? What's going on?

The cliffs are, almost certainly, somewhere in Yugoslavia, where much of this film was shot. And the two figures are Ros and Guil, on their way to Elsinore, where they have been summoned by the king who wants their help in understanding the reason for Prince Hamlet's melancholy and peculiar behavior. The Yugoslav scenery and, indeed, the Brezice Castle that stands in for the seat of the Danish Royal House are stark, lavish but primitive, the kind of thing that Kurosawa finds all the time as backdrops for his semi-mythic Samurai epics. The film is certainly gorgeous (Peter...

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