The Three Faces Of Hamlet Essay

1272 words - 5 pages

"It's a classic, and they make you read it in high school." When asked about Hamlet, William Shakespeare's tragedy about a young man out for revenge, this is the answer you might receive. But what's the real story? To make an almost four hour play short, the prince of Denmark comes home to find his father dead and his mother hastily remarrying his uncle. If that weren't enough, his father's ghost comes back to tell the young Hamlet that he must seek revenge against his uncle, who has killed Hamlet's father. Your high school English teacher isn't the only one fascinated by this Elizabethan tale: Hollywood has taken an interest making over 40 films based on the play. Three actors have made the role their own in the past 15 years. Mel Gibson, Kenneth Branagh, and Ethan Hawke have all attempted to fill the Danish prince's shoes; some with more success than others. Each film takes a different approach to the classic script. Hamlet and Ophelia's breakup along with the concluding swordfight are two scenes that are dealt with very differently in each picture.Three movies have three distinct approaches to the relationship between Ophelia and Hamlet. They range from nonexistent to baffling to emotionally painful. Franco Zeffirelli opted for nonexistent. Setting his Hamlet in medieval Europe, Zeffirelli used dark cinematography to give the movie its "primitive and earthy" feel. Scenery, set design, and costume all add to the characterization of Shakespeare's leading parts. "What Oliver only suggested about Hamlet's sexual feelings for his mother Zeffirelli makes considerably more explicit" (Franco 754). Any real relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia has been downplayed in favor of an Oedipus-like psychoanalysis of the main character. Zeffirelli chops up the scene between Hamlet and Ophelia dragging out the "get thee to a nunnery" line into the player scene (Franco 756). Helena Bonham Carter plays the most absent of the three Ophelias. Branagh and Almereyda both incorporate Ophelia into scenes which did not necessarily include her. Zeffirelli adheres strictly to the script, using Ophelia only when she speaks or when Shakespeare calls for her to be in a scene. When Ophelia does go mad, the audience isn't that surprised, because frankly, she looked crazy to begin with.Julia Stiles performs the role of Ophelia with more passion than Kate Winslet and Helena Bonham Carter put together. Ethan Hawke's portrayal of Hamlet is lousy, bordering on pathetic. Full of cliche, angst ridden performances by Hawke, Almereyda's Hamlet has only one thing going for it and that's Julia Stiles performance as Ophelia. Stiles makes the character her own by giving her a fascination with water. Numerous references to water are found throughout the film; meeting at a fountain, a fantasy sequence about jumping in a pool, even in the gifts she returns to Hamlet, there is a rubber duck. Stiles' Ophelia is quieter than Carter's and Winslet's but through her facial actions and body...

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