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Often when a movie is adapted from a play, there are several aspects which are adjusted or completely lost. This often depends on the directors point of view as well as the casting director. In Kenneth Branagh s movie Hamlet only a small number of aspects were lost from the movement of the play to the movie. The movie was word for word of the play with the exception of a few moved silique. Therefore, the plot or order did not change. The scene where Hamlet meets his father, 1.5, was very well done; conjuring great emotions of fear and suspense. In addition, the final scene was adequately performed evoking anxiety and thrill for the viewer. The ghost of Hamlet was very disappointing at first but later developed into and excellent portrayal. The characters who played Marcellus, the first Grave digger and Oris, Jack Lemmon, Billy Crystal, and Robin Williams respectively, were fairly poor selections by the casting director. They lacked a certain Shakespearian character as famous comedians. It could not be forgotten making the choices dispiriting.
You tremble and look pale (1.1.53). The first viewing of the ghost causes the guards great fear. They are unsure if what they have seen is something more than just fantasy (1.1.54). It appears to be the body of the late King Hamlet but perhaps it could be their boggled minds. When the ghost enter a second time, they confirm that it was in fact the ghost of Hamlet. This terrifies and mystifies Bernard, Heratio, and Marcellus. The reader feels all of the emotions along with these characters, as it is expressed through the dialogue.
In Act 1 Scene 4 and 5, when Hamlet meets and speaks with the ghost of his father, the fear increases. You begin reading faster and feel like you are running after the spirit with Hamlet. The actual conversation between the two is very fast and flows very nicely. Once agin making the scene more intense. Throughout the scene the dramatic effects are heighten by the ghost s long lamented speeches to his son. The entire scene is one of climactic drama.
In the movie, the ghost first appears to be a statue. He brings about no feelings of horror in the viewer. This sets the viewer up for grave disappointment as in the play it is so intense. The second view of the ghost does not arrows any more fear. In fact, it is even more upsetting than the first. As the ghost of Hamlet holds out his arms, he looks like a robot., the image of a ghost should be flowing. Although he is in amour the scene could have been much better shot had the ghost been more realistic and not robotic.
This letdown continues when the ghost speaks to Hamlet:
My hour is almost come
When I to sulph rous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.
His voice, along with his motions, are robotic. It does not bring apprehension but rather discontent. In the first act we are faced with this large problem, what is the remainder of the movie going to be like? Thankfully, Branagh lives up to the expectations as the ghost scene develops. Firstly, the ghost begins talking in a slower, deeper voice bereave the robot image. As well, he loses the amour and appears wearing a brown cloak. This alone, makes him more frightening and thus making the scene more convincing and living up to the play.
The filmography of the scene is amazing making the scene above that of the imagined play. Branagh focuses on one eye of each of the characters; cross-cutting between Hamlet and his father. Close-ups alone bring you so deeply into the character, focusing on just the eyes makes it all the more intense. The eyes of Hamlet are a pale blue never seen before colour. The eye colour, once again, emphasizes this. Eyes are one of the first things noticed on a person; dramatic or complex eyes lead you to believe the person themselves are dramatic. Branagh is strongly aware of this technique and chose the ameliorate colour of eyes for the part. They display and
depth which is undescribable. You immediately become enthralled int he character. From that moment on you are enmeshed.
While he has your attention in the first complex scene, Branagh pulls you in even deeper. Not only does he focus on the eyes of the ghost, he also focuses deeply into his mouth. This is a shout which is rarely done but works unbelievably. You see even deeper into the ghost and feel the terror and emotion Hamlet must be experiencing. This probably would not work for any other scene or movie. But when it does work, it works amazingly.
Although you are on the edge of your seat already, when you think the scene is astounding, Branagh turns up the dial on more notch. Hamlet is listening to the horrid words of his deceased father:
Ay, that incestuous, that adulterous beast,
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts-
O wicked wit and gifts that have the power
So to seduce!- won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming-virtuous Queen.
O Hamlet; what a falling-off was there,
From me, whose love was of that dignity
That it went hand-in-hand even with the vow
I made to her in marriage, and to decline
Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor
To those of mine.
These words are incomprehensible to Hamlet, these accusations are disgusting, his earth is crumbling. To display the agonizing emotions felt by Hamlet, the ground actually does begin to split. This creates an intensity which can hardly be handled by Hamlet or the audience.
That surft- as quicksilver it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the body,
And with a sudden vigour it do the posset
And curd, like lager droppings into milk,
The thin and wholesome blood.
The story of King Hamlets murder is developed through a flashback. This, too, was very effective. Juxtaposing it with the shot of the earthquake allows you to sympathize with Hamlet like it was your own dad who was murdered. From this scene on the movie is incredible. It sets you up for an phenomenally interactive film. You empathize with Hamlet throughout the entire movie, as in the play.
The final fight scene in the play is very faced paced. The Queen, Laertes, Hamlet and the King are all killed in only five short pages. The dialogue moves very quickly developing the depth felt by all present. This movement is required in the play to allow the reader to feel the emotions of the characters. As the reader can only imagine the scene, these emotions must be developed by use of the nonstop dialogue.
In the movie, the visuals are provided for you, allowing the dialogue to be slowed down. There is a lot more commotion that expected which works well for the scene. As well, the deaths become more elaborate and more defined than in the play. Close ups are made on the Queen as she drinks the poisoned wine. Hamlet s conversation with her seems to be slower than that in the play. This is not the case. Branagh has done such a good job of building us up, ht suspense is so great that the movie seems to hold on. This is a great build up for all which is to come. Laertes and Hamlet soon wound each other in the battle. Seconds later, the queen dies. Hamlet becomes aware of the cause and begins chasing after Laertes. The entire room disburses in chaos bringing more tension to the situation. In his death, Laertes confesses that it was the king who poisoned the Queen, Hamlet s mother. This send Hamlet into a wild rage. This is emphasized by making the kings death much more elaborate and suffering that the play entails. In the play, Hamlet stabs Claudius then forces him to drink the poisoned wine. In the movie, Hamlet first stabs the king, then a large chandelier falls on him pushing him into a large glass cabinet and wounding him even more. Finally, Hamlet holds the Chalice containing the poisoned wine up to the king s mouth, forcing him to drink. This scene compliment the ghost scene well, allowing the movie an equal balance or intensity which is seen in the play.
Film makers must work very closely with the casting director to ensure the proper image is portrayed in the characters. Most of the characters in the play were chose well deservingly, with the exception of Jack Lemmon, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal. None have a large part in the play but nonetheless an important one. These actors are seen as comedians and it was very difficult to escape that idea. Actors have baggage which must be considered in the casting. Especially in a Shakespearian production.
Jack Lemmon plays the character of Marcellus. Marcellus is one of the guards on duty when Hamlet is seen:
Marcellus and Bernardo, on their watch
In the dead waste and middle of the night
Been thus encountered. A figure like your father, Armed at all points exactly, cap-a-pie,
Appears before them, and with solemn march
Goes slow and stately by them.
He plays an consequential role in staying with Hamlet during the encounter with his father. He is seen very little in the remainder of the play.
Branagh made a big mistake in casting him for the role. The opening scenes of the play were poorly done on their own. Adding Jack Lemmon did not help. You could not shake the image of him in Grumpy Old Men. He seemed to have a smirk on his face the entire time he was present. Being involved in scenes which should have been intense made you very disappointed.
Secondly, Robin Williams played the role of Orsic. Orsic is a courtier who informs Hamlet of the intended duel with Laertes. Like any courtier, Orsic is digressive and has careless manner making him appear somewhat serious, yet makes numerous witty, somewhat humorous remarks to Hamlet. Robin Williams is an excellent actor who has performed in numerous roles. Most of which have been comedic. He has done excellent exhibitions playing serious role, as in What Dreams May Come but he will always have the image of a comedian. As with Lemmon, you are expecting him to make a joke or laugh in the middle of the scene. Unlike Lemmon, he does not take from the intensity of the scene. You just ask the question Why him? (Williams).
Finally, Billy Crystal plays the role of the first clown, gravedigger. He is used to offer comic relief before the subsequent tense action. He provides some broad comedy with theological and constitutional issues in a clever fashion.
Billy Crystal often plays roles which require knowledge of current issues place in a comedic setting. So this role should fit him nicely. However, he did not seem to fit the role. Perhaps it is because it is a Shakespearian production an big Hollywood stars do not seem to fit the role. The roles should be played by more intellectual types and he, along with Lemmon and Williams, are stuck in the uneducated star stereotype.
Perhaps Branagh used these actors for their names to help pull in the ratings. If this is the case, the ratings would have been high without them. Perhaps, he used them to get the image of them as uneducated stars out of peoples minds. Or perhaps they used him for the dame reason. Either way, their parts do not fit the roles they played. Regardless the movie was excellent and it was immensely enjoyed.
The movie kept you at the edge of your seat from the ghost scene on. Although it was four hours, it seemed to go by much faster. It is always interesting to see a director s interpretation or portrayal of the play. Kenneth Branagh did an excellent job. 2 thumbs up!
As an amazing play is moved to a movie, it is very sad to see characters or scenes lost. In Branagh s Hamlet very little is lost in his adaptation. This is very pleasing as the play is sensational The only problem faced is that of the comedic actors. This did not effect the outcome of the movie and many are looking forward to more of Branagh s work.
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