Hamlet, one of world’s most famous plays has been performed countless times all over the world during the 400 years, since it was written. It is clearly among Shakespeare’s most iconic plays and due to its popularity it is no wonder that it has been adapted to the big screen over sixty times already (www.absoluteshakespeare.com, accessed 2014). Taking a look at the original script, it is easy to see what keeps drawing filmmakers into the same text over and over again. The play follows Hamlet, prince of Denmark, as he proceeds to revenge his father’s death to Claudius, the new king. The story of Hamlet, filled with complex characters, strong emotions and passionate acts of love, revenge and even insanity, surely has lots of interesting themes for filmmakers to dig in. The attraction of this particular play is possibly the many different interpretations of it. The play as well as the characters have multiple different sides that can be emphasized, changing the atmosphere and perhaps also the meaning of the story. This can be seen, by observing a very different and unique film adaptation from Finland.
Hamlet Liikemaailmassa (Hamlet Goes Business) is a 1987 film from Aki Kaurismäki. With nearly 20 feature films and various international film awards, including Cannes, Kaurismäki is currently one of the most internationally recognized film directors from Finland. His work has an original, easily recognizable style that consists of plain, minimalistic expression, formal literary language, sharp, slightly twisted humor and ordinary working class characters (www.jyu.fi, accessed 2014). At first Kaurismäki’s work seems quite far away from Shakespeare, coming from a completely different culture, however on closer look we can see that the attraction of Hamlet is still transferred into Hamlet Liikemaailmassa subtly and skillfully, and the film manages to capture the essence of this classical play, however different the style and circumstances may be.
Differences in Plot and Style
In this black and white film-noir type film, Kaurismäki transits Hamlet from Danish monarchy to Finnish upper class, managing well to update the play to the 1980’s “today” (Gottbehüt, 2013). In Hamlet Liikemaailmassa Hamlet is the heir of a big wood processing family company, who’s CEO Klaus (Claudius) , wants to sell most of the mills and move into rubber duck business instead for more profit. Following the original plot Hamlet encounters the ghost of his poisoned father, and sets out to revenge the murder. Even though some details are different, the plot doesn’t differ remarkably from the original until the very end, where Hamlet confesses that he is actually guilty of killing his father. After finding out that Klaus was slowly poisoning his father, Hamlet got tired of waiting and changed the poison into a stronger one. Plot-wise this is the most significant difference from the original play and it eventually shapes Hamlet’s character and the whole film a...