Commentary On Grigori Kozintsev’s Adaptation Of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

1074 words - 5 pages

Grigori Kozintsev’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet has landed critical acclaim due to its faithfulness to the architecture of the play that helped to engross the eye despite the lack of aural stimulation, as well as its added political and personal lens. One of the most iconic scenes in Kozintsev’s production of Hamlet is the renowned graveyard scene in which the Gravedigger and Hamlet engage in battle of wits, and Laertes dramatizes his love for Ophelia. It is during this scene that Kozintsev strategically utilizes differing camera angles and abridgments of the original script to yield a much more conservative and idealized Hamlet that makes the situation in act 5 scene 1 much less ambiguous, while adding a political flair to the atmosphere via background details and props.
The theatrical elements that Shakespeare employs in act 5, scene 1 are outstanding, and serve to crease an ambiguous atmosphere surround the Ophelia’s death. This ambiguity is partially formulated by the Gravedigger’s play on words, in which he reopens death of Ophelia that the Queen portrayed as a “drowning,” as she fell into the water “mermaid-like… chanting snatches of old lauds As one incapable of her own distress” (4.7, 175-177), and turns it into an appalling transgression, marking her death as a suicide, contending that she “willfully seek[ed] her own salvation” (5.1, 274). The controversy that the Gravedigger brings up creates this problematic situation that gives Hamlet one of its unique characteristics; after all, Ophelia-the-suicide is much more complicated than an Ophelia of accidental death, especially because the corpse would be thrown into unhallowed ground with a steak through her heart. Furthermore, giving Ophelia’s death a suicidal nature conjures a much more troubled view of Ophelia in which we are left perplexed and displeased. In Kozintsev’s production of Hamlet, a large portion of this ambiguity is lost due to the fact that the Gravedigger’s examination and debate on Ophelia’s suicide is cut out of the film.
Moving further into the scene, the Gravedigger obscures the grave itself. Traditionally a graveyard is a mystified location; however, the gravedigger hinders this interpretation by cracking jokes, singing, and gives a somewhat cheerful quality to the grave. Although mention of the desecrated burial is cut form the Kozintsev’s production as well, he troubles the gravesite by positioning the burial in a desolate and rocky stretch of parched earth among jagged stones leading up to an ominous decrepit stone cross. On another note, the funeral resolves absolutely nothing as it moves through a sequence of disruptions, which seem to de-ritualize a ceremony that is meant to accommodate the living to the death. This idea is apparent when the ceremony enters with maimed rites, and Laertes menaces the priest, demanding he “Lay her i’ th’ earth,” continuing to tell him “A ministering angel shall [his] sister be when thou liest howling” (5.1, 293-294);...

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