To Be Shakespeare, Or Not To Be Shakespeare,
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To Be Shakespeare, Or Not To Be Shakespeare,
That Is The Question
Kenneth Branaugh may have had the script of William Shakespeareıs Hamlet spoken down to every last thee and thou, but one must remember that this is Hamlet through Branaughıs eyes, not Shakespeareıs. Therefore, dismissing obvious additions made for adapting the play to film, such as having a real castle instead of a stage, it is possible to observe the unique characters, interpretations, actions, and setting that make this version the directorıs own.
In the time of Shakespeare, one of the actors main challenges was to use the words to paint the scene for the audience, since, for the most part, they were looking at a bare stage. However, this use of imagination and portrayal is no longer needed when the script is brought to film. Every pearl and snowflake have been placed strategically before the audience, so that there is no need to listen to the language to create your own vision of Hamletıs world. Branaughıs world is full of lavish affairs, freezing winters, and halls of mirrors. The use of the camera has some definite advantages and disadvantages. First, since the characters are no longer limited by a defined space, they are able to deliver their long speeches while being in a constant state of motion. This occurs in the scene with the guards, and most noticeably in the scene with Laertes and Ophelia, before he leaves for France. This same scene demonstrates how the camera enables the characters to switch from one setting to the next, as when Laertes, Ophelia, and Polonius are taken from outside to the church. This, in turn, helps Branaugh set the scene for Ophelia and Polonius, in which, Ophelia confesses everything to her father, perhaps only because she is in a confession booth. Filming also allows for clarification of what is being said through silent plays. During charactersı dialogue, the scene switches to actions of the past, present, and even to things that could happen. This seems to be used to give the audience a better understanding of what is happening, and it also helps to further develop the characters so that the story is built up to the audience, rather then being tossed into the middle of the storyline. Young Fortinbras is often shown in these silent plays and is the only way his character is able to be developed to such an extent. This technique is also used to show how King Hamlet is killed, as it is being explained by the ghost. Small details, that a play could not possibly portray, add to the overall film. For instance, the book Hamlet picks up, after being told about the ghost, is entitled Demons, suggesting that Hamlet is going to be prepared to meet this apparition. Branaugh uses the ability of a spanning camera to include other details that enhance the richness of the scene. The building of cannons is shown at the beginning to capture the feeling of a brewing war. Also, Hamlet is shown with a group of fencers going through their exercises while Laertes and Ophelia talk, perhaps a foreshadowing of the end scene. As many advantages as there may be to film, there are also numerous drawbacks that can take away from any masterpiece.
The same technology and resources that can make a film great, can also make a film terrible when used extravagantly. Sometimes it is better to rely on good acting and simplicity rather than smoke, fire, and earthquakes to make a scene worth remembering. This seemed to be true in the ghost scene. It was interesting that Branaugh decided to take the scene deep into the woods. This added a certain foreboding, eerie feeling to the scene, but one that the fire and smoke dominated. The earthquake and fire was really just too much for the scene. It became almost comic at some points because of all the commotion. This also gave the impression that the ghost was from hell, even though it descended from the sky when it was first seen. Another scene that seemed a little ridiculous was with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern riding up to Hamlet on a toy train. The only question that comes to mind is, why? An underscore of music during certain scenes enhances
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Characters in Hamlet, English-language films, British films, Prince Hamlet, Ophelia, Hamlet, Polonius, Laertes, Gertrude, Ghost, Fortinbras, Critical approaches to Hamlet
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