2 Almareyda e Ian Kott Daniel Roy Connelly ABSTRACT The Language of a Failing Technotopia: All-Consuming Death in Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet Michael Almereyda’s recent Hamlet (Miramax:2000), set in a contemporary New York City, is infused with modern technological hardware and the working symbols of twenty-first century communication. The director creates a technotopian ‘Denmark’ that has come to oppose the more traditional modus vivendi of a Prince who eschews all such forms ‘that can denote him truly’. Indeed, one of the director’s chief concerns is seemingly to imprison his protagonist within a society awash with increasingly fetishised (and shrunken) modes of connectivity, thereby to draw parallels between technical advance and individual isolation. In this paper I will contend that the concomitant etiolation of a traditional liberal humanist spiritis responsible for the undermining of an inherent language of discourse and the subsequent enactment of ‘tragedy.’ Drawing upon critics of early modern iconography (so as to place ultra-modern methods of commune within a contextual framework), as well as the director’s own intentions towards the play, I will discuss Hamlet as insider / outsider, how he himself is capable of short-circuiting communication, and the iconoclasm of a ghost who has taken up temporary residence in a Diet Pepsi machine.
3 The Tibetan monk and Hamlet in Purgatory One of Hamlet’s reference points on film – and again one which he replays on his vast TV – is a smiling Buddhist monk who stresses that in order ‘to be’ we need family, community, society; that it is impossible ‘to be’ outside society. The monk is robed, shaven, and wise. He is a visually accessible symbol of eastern religion, projected through the media, on the terms of the media, to a soul-starved public. The appeal is for a de-fragmentation of social intercourse, of a return to an holistic web of relationships. Without reintegration and renewal the only choice is death. This very specific opposite is defined by Hamlet in a Blockbuster video store, alone, late at night. He looks uncomfortable, dishevelled, and he ruminates over choice. He enters the aisle marked ‘Action’ and is surrounded by the modern archetypal revenge movie which privileges total annihilation over ponderous passivity. Hawke himself refers to this moment: everybody’s out there being so active, doing all these things – yet I feel so stuck and I don’t know why. Not to mention that I don’t think there’s anybody who hasn’t walked through a video store and thought that perhaps they should kill themselves.I think if we compute all the negatives here, Hawke is suggesting that this is an entirely depressing experience. His comment highlights the emptiness that lies within the heart of the superabundant, the sense of imprisonment in the midst of such entertainment ‘space’, and the ultimately constraining nature of all technologies  Interview with Rob Blackwelder at Spliced Online, at
4 But it is with the first appearance of the Ghost that an Early Modern evocation of the spiritual afterlife is hauled into this contemporary, Godless Denmark. Drifting away from the pursuing ‘soldiers’ in the basement of Hamlet’s apartment building, Sam Shepherd’s Ghost disappears into a Diet Pepsi vending machine, sucked into the trachea of Logoland. Shakespeare’s Old Hamlet, we know, is roasting half way between Heaven and Hell. In his most recent work, fittingly entitled Hamlet in Purgatory, Stephen Greenblatt offers the following description of the symbolisation of Purgatory: Beginning in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, alongside traditional images of Heaven and Hell, Purgatory itself begins to be represented in painting, principally as a subterranean cave, a boiling vat, or a dungeon, and artists start to grapple with the depiction of souls who are being tortured and yet have some hope of redemption. These images, he writes, fulfil a complex, multiple function. They are instructions to the viewer’s imagination, guiding it to give an appropriate shape to a concept of purgation that might otherwise seem too abstract and theoretical to generate the proper degree of fear.  Hamlet in Purgatory, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), p.50.
5 Well there is clearly nothing intangible about a Diet Pepsi vending machine, and little to strike fear into the irresolute worshipper. Perhaps of all the Logos that pervade our daily lives, those of Coke and Pepsi, by sheer preponderance, are the most visible (and therefore the least noticed). But fat free Purgatory? It is an extraordinary idea, the more so for its sheer atheistic dissonance. But as Stephen Orgel points out, such iconic incongruity was not uncommon to signifiers in the early book; in fact the farther away the image came from complimenting the text, the more jarring was the reaction. Orgel notes a number of disparities between images “clearly designed to constitute an address to the purchaser and reader. . .” but which seem “entirely dysfunctional, illogical, inappropriate, or simply wrong.” So what is Almereyda up to, apart from creating a memorable image?  “Textual Icons: Reading Early Modern Illustrations”, in The Renaissance Computer, eds. Neil Rhodes and Jonathon Sawday, (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 60.
6 This Hamlet is set within a Godless world This Hamlet is set within a Godless world. There is, for example, no chapel in which Claudius might seek post-Mousetrap refuge. His confession takes place in the back of a stretch limo while his skulking nephew takes the wheel, hidden by the dividing screen. The symbol of secular luxury displaces the locus of sacred penance. The Logo rules, the market dictates, and just to ram home the message of ‘sin’, the in-car TV shows images of Bill Clinton Our Ghost in the vending machine is no more than a parody of a dead religiosity, of a spirituality that now worships the exchange value of brand instead of an intangible deity. Where Shakespeare’s Ghost is held fast in catholic Purgatory, Almereyda’s must bide his time inside the belly of capitalism, prone to the marketplace even after death, vulnerable to the possibility of being consumed for his exchange value instead of for his use value as a King. And Almereyda may not be too wide of the mark in using Diet Pepsi as an exfoliator of sins: just think what happens when we drop a soiled penny into a glass of America’s finest – within two minutes it is stripped clean, it is shiny, purged and all set for Penny Heaven. The ghost of Old Claudius originally appears on security cameras, which installations reveal an inherent fear of invasion. The idea of containment, of the prison that we know Denmark to be, is not that of severe spatial restriction, as conjured by Olivier in his 1948 film; rather, it is one of techno-surveillance. Non-conformists will be monitored and pursued
7 La Danimarca di Kott è una prigione perché il critico scrive in una Polonia sotto il regime sovietico, quando durante il XX Congresso del Partito Comunista dell’Urss, 1956,si erano conosciute le cosiddette purghe staliniste. Amleto rappresentato a Cracovia tre settimane dopo il congresso è tutto politico. “There’s something rotten in Denmark” “Questo è il primo accordo della nuova attualità (contemporaneità) dell’Amleto.I becchini scavano fosse che alludono appunto alle eliminazioni staliniane. “Sorvegliare” è la parola chiave=sistema di spionaggio di tutti i totalitarismi e dunque la paura rode tutto: amore, amicizia, matrimonio. -’Ofelia è al tempo stesso una parte del Grande Meccanismo e una sua vittima. Perché la politica pesa su ogni sentimento…non si parla che di politica, fino alla pazzia’.In questo mondo non c’è posto per l’amore.
8 Dramma sul delitto politico Kott, 60 “Alla classica domanda, se Amleto faccia finta di essere pazzo o sia pazzo davvero, la rappresentazione di Cracovia risponde:Amleto finge di essere pazzo, si nasconde a freddo sotto la mascgera della follia per compiere il colpo di Stato; Amleto è pazzo, poiché la politica quando sopianta tutti gli altri sentimenti, è essa stessa una grande follia. -E’ in rivolta come tuuti i giovani, ma ha qualcosa della grazia di James Dean. Sa bene che un colpo di stato è una cosa difficile. Soppesa i pro e i contro. E’ un cospiratore nato. Per lui ‘to be’ significa vendicare il padre e uccidere il re; “not to be”, rinunciare alla lotta.
9 Non è moderno solo perché la sua problematica viene attualizzata Non è moderno solo perché la sua problematica viene attualizzata. E’ moderno nela sua psicologia…si svolge sotto pressione come la nostra vita, ha in sé la violenza dei conflitti moderni… -Amleto come una spugna , il dramma più strano per le sue lacune, i suoi vuoti, la sua indefinitezza (misterioso sorriso di Monna Lisa)
10 Brecht e Hamlet (Kott, pp. 64-5) Quale libro legge Amleto Brecht e Hamlet (Kott, pp.64-5) Quale libro legge Amleto? Montaigne, giornali, Sartre, Techno