Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead

DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Read David Stanners's film review of Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead
Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead

It's not very often I find myself recommending a DVD on the strength of extras alone, but that's definitely the case with this two-disc 25th anniversary edition of Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead.

While Stoppard struggles to make the play sing on film - despite the fact that it somehow managed to beat Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas to the Golden Lion in Venice - the five, extremely in-depth interviews here, which run at more than three hours, make it well worth getting hold of this edition.

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Admittedly, four of the interviews have been carried over from the previous 1994 release, but even the 2015 interview Stoppard gives to the film's producer Michael Brandman is reason enough to splash out. Running at virtually an hour in length, it dovetails well with his 1994 thoughts on the film and, although covering a little of the same ground, also offers a wide-ranging look at the writer's career. He turns out to be his own most astute critic, happily outlining his influences - most notably, and obviously as you watch the film, Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot, although he also notes the heavy influence of Beckett's novels. He also asks "why would a play work as a movie" - a good question given this adaptation's failings - and goes on to outline some of the weaker elements, such as the pacing, saying that he would love to make a shorter cut of the film.

Stoppard also shows a strong awareness of awards as fickle and "whimsical". Talking about the Venice win, he adds: "The last thing an award is is a sensible calibration of quality".

Brandman has an open approach to the questions that leads the interview a considerable distance away from simply this film, with Stoppard offering his thoughts on the original production of the play, while also considering his career as a whole and taking in some enjoyable observations on life in New York and his changing attitude to happiness along the way.

The second disc, in addition to featuring the older, hour-long chat with Stoppard - again with Brandman, as are all the extras here - also carries lengthy interviews with Gary Oldman, Tim Roth and Richard Dreyfuss. Brandman again takes an expansive tack, beginning with the actors' work on the film but then moving outwards to consider their wider career. In Oldman's case, this results in a very interesting section concerning his directorial debut Nil By Mouth and the fact that despite "notices that my mother couldn't write" because they were so good, he couldn't get backing for further projects he wanted to make without compromise. As with all these interviews, it's nice to consider them in the light of the additional passing decade, which has seen Oldman's star rise thanks to the likes of the Batman and Harry Potter franchises as well as Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy. It's also nice to think, given his obviously love for directing, that his next project, Eadweard Muybridge biopic Flying Horse, has now been announced.

Tim Roth also talks about directing - "the best job in the world". He is at his most interesting when considering the state of the independent movie scene back in 1994, suggesting presciently that a new cycle of filmmaking innovation was likely to come about thanks to new equipment.

Rounding out the disc is an interview with elder statesman Dreyfuss, which also runs to just shy of an hour. After considering the film itself, along with the difficulties presented by becoming, at 30, the youngest actor at the time to have ever won a Best Actor Oscar (The Goodbye Girl, 1977), he goes on to offer some advice to younger stars. "Think twice about how you want to live your life in public," he warns, perhaps even better advice today than it was in 1994.

All of the extras and the film have HoH subtitles.

Reviewed on: 15 Feb 2016
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Tom Stoppard directs his first play about minor characters from Hamlet.
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Read more Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead disc reviews:

David Stanners: DVD

Product Code: RLJ4026

Region: 0

Ratio: 16:9

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: 2015 interview with Tom Stoppard, 2004 interviews with Tom Stoppard, Gary Oldman, Tim Roth and Richard Dreyfuss

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