Hamlet: Pork Loin with Figs: Beet and Orange Salad

Year Released: 1990
Directed by: Franco Zeffirelli
Starring: Mel Gibson, Glenn Close
(PG, 134 min.)

"Foul deeds will rise, 
Though all the world o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes." William Shakespeare

So much has been written about Shakespeare’s Hamlet that I choose a road less traveled by. And in my gut, I’m sure that Willie Shakespeare, working actor and entrepreneur, would approve. I mean, he wasn’t writing for gray-haired English teachers, BBC snobs, or Ivy League elites, but for that teaming mass of “groundlings,” those grimy little peasants without teeth or education, who paid a penny to stand and “hear” his play

They wanted what moviegoers today do – plenty of blood and guts, bawdy humor, and tales riddled with ghosts, adultery, corpses, treacherous and loyal friends, guilt-wrenched villains, and reluctant heroes. Hamlet the ghost tale, Hamlet the mystery, Hamlet the crime story, has it all.

I am passing over the venerable Sir Lawrence Olivier and the silver-tongued Richard Burton for everyman’s Hamlet, someone who could realistically awaken dangerous longings in innocent Ophelia. Mel Gibson draws on roles more varied than either of these more esteemed actors. With credible work in such physical roles as Braveheart he establishes menace as a fencer. Like Hamlet, Gibson is the reluctant warrior drawn into battle in The Patriot, and the angst-ridden madman on the brink of suicide in Lethal Weapon. (Rent it again just to see the opening scene if you don’t believe me.)

Forget that over hyped ghost story, The Ring. The ghost of Hamlet’s father is pretty scary, too. Is he what he seems – a troubled spirit seeking justice, or really a demon in disguise there to lure Hamlet to madness, murder, or death?

Hamlet doesn’t know whether or not to believe the ghost’s ugly tale and accept that Uncle Claude, who now wears the crown, gained it by bedding the queen and poisoning her husband. His heart festers over the thought that his mother is a harlot married to a murderer?

“O cursed spite
That ever I was born to set it right.”

Nevertheless, our reluctant detective sets out to prove or disprove his case, and along the way is abandoned by all but one true friend. Ophelia, innocent, obedient Ophelia, chooses to obey her long-winded diplomat Dad and cuts off relations with the lonely prince. His childhood friends come for a “surprise visit,” which Hamlet knows to be a spying mission. To fool everyone, our detective pretends to be mad, or is he pretending? Uncle Claude suspects “method in his madness.”

With no DNA labs or CSI Denmark to assist him, Hamlet lights upon a creative way to catch the killer. Why not stage a performance of the murder as told to him by his dead father’s ghost? A little like Holmes in disguise, or a rumpled Colombo asking just one more question, Hamlet’s play does “catch the conscience of the king.” Guilt-stricken uncle Claude kind of gives himself away, but he is not so guilt-stricken as to confess like a good ol’ Perry Mason murderer.

What follows are more murders, real madness, tragic suicide, and a final duel complete with no less than four bodies littering the stage, not to mention the several others that are still rotting in the state of Denmark. But spare me the bedroom scene between Hamlet and his mother. Earlier productions were content to imply the Freudian slant with elongated bedposts, but the full lip-lock between Mel Gibson and Glenn Close is a bit much!

Hamlet has solved his case, the pseudo king is dead, the real one avenged, but at what cost? With almost all those he loved or trusted dead, Hamlet does not really mind that he will not live on to solve more crimes, to have his own series and rerun rights. He will not be featured on PBS Mystery! Life ebbs from his limbs as poison seeps through his veins and sole true friend Horatio says goodnight to his sweet prince.

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

Remember the valiant prince as you salute him with a traditional Danish style smorgasbord like “the funeral baked meats (that) did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.”

Bob Brooke's website gives us a wonderful overview of the Danish cold table.

A major feature of Scandinavian eating is the “cold table”–Danish koldt bord.

The dishes reflect the rich harvests yielded by sea, river and lake, the game and fruits of the forests and mountains, as well as the more usual products of farm and market garden.

The cold table at main meals is a majestic sight, groaning under the weight of dishes. Though there are variations from country to country, and from region to region, diners are likely to come across most of the following items at some time or other: lobster, smoked or dill-cured salmon, smoked trout, prawns, shrimps, pickled or cured herring marinated or in a variety of sauces, fried Baltic herring, smoked eel, thinly sliced roast beef, veal, pork, smoked reindeer meat, reindeer tongue, ham, liver pastes, tomatoes, onion rings, egg, pickled cucumber, gherkins, beet root, and many preserves such as cranberry or red whortleberry. Cheeses include imitations of popular foreign kinds such as Stilton, Gruyere, Camembert, but there are also local varieties- Danish blue, sweet soft goat's cheese and even, if you are bold, the exceedingly strong gamalost, a delicious Norwegian “old cheese.” 

I found these fabulous recipes for two stables of the Danish smorgasbord by Sam Gugino on his excellent website, www.SamCooks.com

Pork Loin with Figs: Beet and Orange Salad

Pork Loin with Figs

  • 6 medium or 3 large fresh figs cut in half, lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup Cognac or rum
  • 3-pound boneless pork loin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Soak figs in Cognac or rum for about an hour. Butterfly pork loin lengthwise. Season with salt and pepper. Put figs end to end down center of opened pork loin. Close up and tie securely. Season outside of pork with salt and pepper and rub in any leftover marinade.

Bake in a 350-degree oven about 1 hour 10 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reaches 155 degrees. Remove and cool. Cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices, each showing a cut fig in the center. Serves 6.

Beet and Orange Salad

  • 1 16-ounce can sliced beets
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced sweet onions
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 tablespoons each orange juice and cider vinegar
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

Drain beets and set aside. Peel and slice orange into thin rounds. Alternate beet and orange slices on a platter. Spread onion slices on top. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 4.

Recipe Source: Bob Brooke; Sam Gugino