Branagh’s vision of William Shakespeare’s famous “To be, or not to be,” soliloquy manifests Hamlet’s displeasure with himself as he debates eternal sleep; the set up of this scene contributes significantly to the emotional impact and symbolism. The lack of music and sound in the beginning forces the audience’s attention towards the soliloquy. The quietness in the scene also exhibits how Hamlet is wishing for a quiet death, suicide. Walking slowly towards the two-way mirror, while he professes his conflicted feelings, the camera follows steadily over his shoulder, only filming Hamlet’s reflection. The soliloquy stands alone as a reflection, Hamlet is reflecting on his life and the options he has, “To die, to sleep – / No more – and by a sleep to say we end” (3.1 68-69). The mirror reflection stands as a symbolic example of Hamlet’s self reflection and his search to find the answer within himself.
Hamlet criticizes himself while staring deeply at his own reflection in mirror, even though he is aware of Claudius malicious acts. Blaming himself for not taking action yet, “Thus conscience does make cowards” (3.1 91), and focusing on his faults he is making himself to be the villain and tormenting himself. The true reason for his misery is Claudius actions, and Claudius, the one behind it all- metaphorically and physically- stands behind the mirror as Hamlet criticizes himself. Branagh’s tone of voice and body language exert emotions in the scene making Hamlet’s true feelings apparent.
Half way through the soliloquy, suspenseful classical music begins to play, adding intensity to Hamlets dark description of the unnecessary burden of life and his ambiguous understanding to why a person would endure such suffering, “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, / Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,” (3.1 78-79). There are few actions Hamlet makes in the scene but the movements he does make are significant. Calmly stating, “Or to take arms against a sea of troubles / And, by opposing, end them,” (3.1 67-68) as he raises a clenched fist in the air, illustrating his anger toward Claudius and passion to seek revenge is portrayed through the small, but powerful hand gestures. It is indubitable that Branagh’s version of this scene captures both the emotions and themes of Hamlet and his tortured character.
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