Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – Review *****


Everyone knows Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but have you ever wondered how would it feel like to be inside the story? And we’re not talking about being Ophelia, or Gertrude…we’re speaking real nobodies. This is the premise for Tom Stoppard’s irreverent and funny play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a bit of a cult piece in the fringe theatre circle. It was adapted for the screen in 1990, with Stoppard himself in the directorial chair.

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Gary Oldman & Tim Roth (who play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, not necessarily in this order) are incredible while stumbling on the intrigues of the Danish court, always half hearing famous monologues, trying to work out what the hell is going on and thinking about the meaning of Life and Death. Roth is the intellectual, catching clues from the wind, trying to figure out the puzzle before it’s too late, while Oldman, in one of his most underestimated performances, is the slow thinking one who also happens to be a genius (creating the hamburger, the propeller plane, the steam machine principle and making some other important scientific discoveries…only to get distracted by the plot). Meanwhile, the Player (Richard Dreyfuss), the true Puppet-master of the story, philosophies about Love, Blood and Rhetoric. From the moment the coin is spun (Heads), we’re in for a theatrical performance to remember.


The offbeat humour of Stoppard’s play aged graciously, and can be enjoyed by bardolaters and laymen alike – one could even say it’s a very British humour, if Britain was more than just a conspiracy of cartographers. Stanley Meyers’ sparse music mixes Elizabethan jingles with blues, while the cinematography of Peter Biziou (who also has credits like The Truman Show, Life of Brian and In the Name of the Father) manages to perfectly mix a theatrical scenario with the space and possibilities of a real location. All aided by the incredibly sophisticated and energetic editing by Nicolas Gaster.


Times being what they are, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead have now a deserved two-disc 25 year commemorative DVD release, with three hours of extra material, including interviews with Roth, Oldman, and a new interview with Tom Stoppard. There are no more excuses not to see it. Existential philosophy never been so fun. Also, have you ever imagined yourself dead, inside a box?

The DVD will be released on 8th February 2016 by RLJ Entertainment Ltd. For more information please check

Sara is originally from Coimbra, Portugal, where she studied Film Studies before moving to London to enrol in film school. Having made her first short film about her neighbour's chickens when she was 9 (a dystopian sci-fi, still her favourite genre), she is now a London-based film director and editor, and also a writer for the Portuguese Take Magazine. She is a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Krysztof Kiéslowski, and David Lean.