This article was updated to include images.
“Three Days (of Hamlet)” will leave viewers scratching their heads, not asking “How?” but rather, “Why?”
“I’m drawing a map; I have bits and pieces, but the puzzle’s not there yet.”
This metaphor, taken directly from the film, may be the perfect representation of the documentary: it is non sequitur and makes little sense outside the creator’s head.
“Three Days (of Hamlet)” follows actor Alex Hyde-White and his stage troupe as they attempt to stage the Shakespearean classic in just three days, all the while attempting to portray Hyde-White’s difficult relationship with his father though the framework of Hamlet’s relationship with his dead father. The result, however, is disjointed, strained, and feels more like a long bonus feature than a stand-alone documentary.
The 83 minutes of the film feel more like three days, and the three days seem to stretch to eternity. It’s tempting to attribute this to the movie’s slow pace, but pace would be the wrong word, as there is no flow to the movie, chronological or otherwise.
Even if one were to possibly piece together the random montage of scenes, the metaphorical puzzle would still have many pieces missing: coherence, intensity, drama and most of all, purpose. One question lingers throughout the film and haunts every aspect of it: Why?
Why can Hyde-White only find a theater that rents for three days when there’s money to hire an actor without a role, who’s literally referred to as “Somewhere Guy,” and spends 10 minutes of camera time looking for something to do? “Why do ‘Hamlet’ in three days; what (is Hyde-White) trying to prove?” is actually even asked in the film itself, but never answered.
As the film stretches on, the three days seem less like a time crunch, and more like far too much time to spend for a project with no clear motive. There’s nothing at stake: None of the cast seems to be risking anything except three days, and hints of the underwhelming final result are shown early in the movie, so it’s revealed the work won’t culminate to anything worth waiting for.
Perhaps it’s unfair to cast the final performance so harshly, as theater aficionados may rightfully argue, but it doesn’t matter. The potentially extraordinary performance appears unimpressive on camera. “Three Days” faces the same harsh truth “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away” faced a few months ago: The power of stage performance is often lost in translation on the big screen, just like a picture of the Eiffel Tower is far less spectacular than the tower itself.
Hyde-White may or may not be convincing as Hamlet, but he’s far less convincing as himself. Even during the interview portions of the documentary, which are supposed to bring out genuineness, Hyde-White seems to be acting and forcing a message with each word and gesture.
There are a few gems interspersed within the chaos, such as Richard Chamberlain’s rich voice adding colorful insights, Peter Woodard’s animated delivery as the Player King, and Tom Badal’s lively improvisations as Claudius.
The role of the cast, however, goes astray, much like everything else in the movie, owing more to the editing and direction than to the cast itself. Each member offers his or her own two cents about the production, which is scattered at random throughout the movie, and often overpowered by a soundtrack that gets carried away.
Even the quirks, mistakes and goofs of each actor, which should ideally relieve tension and bring humanity into a serious documentary, seem silly and purposefully inserted when there’s no tension to begin with. The intensity is artificial; we have to be told when something is exciting, powerful or nerve-wracking.
With so many components missing or unclear, Alex Hyde-White’s personal project remains just that: a personal project. Why it should or would appeal to anyone else is unclear.
For those unfamiliar with Shakespeare and theater, this movie has almost nothing to offer. For those eagerly waiting for Hyde-White’s creative interpretation of Hamlet, wait a little bit longer, perhaps until Hyde-White and his troupe perform it live.
Email Patankar at [email protected].