One of Shakespeare’s well known and widely read play of all time is Hamlet. This particular play has been adapted into movies by many directors but Keneth Branagh’s 1996 version was a great achievement. This is because the movie is directed in a manner that the originality has been maintained. Yhe film is worth a watch as it is the first version that is uncut but is quite lengthy.
The film which was directed by Kenneth Branagh is set in a typical nineteenth-century European setting but still maintained a modern and ancient look from diverting the main contents of the play.
Though it seems like the period of the setting of the film is not much of concern but the events are. The design of products used in this film was very eye-catching keeping the viewer glued to the screen for the whole four hours.
The costume designer is very accurate and takes advantage of the distinct historical period to come up with some of the most interesting costumes.
The designer is Alex Byrne, it is clear that he is talented and wants us to take a mental journey into the traditional European royal dressing and way of life. In cinematography, the costume is very essential in relaying the intended information to the audience.
The main character that makes the film more interesting is the king’s son, Hamlet. The character is also played by the director of the film Keneth Branagh. Keneth Branagh plays his part very well, especially the soliloquies that he narrates.
These scenes bring awe, sadness, and happiness to the viewers. This is pure talent and mastery of the original version of this Shakespeare’s play.
The relationship of Hamlet with other actors is really interesting and brings out his strong, decisive, straightforward and serious nature. Hamlet’s masculinity is clearly observable throughout the entire film. In this adaptation of Hamlet, the relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude, her mother is not of much interest to the director. He mainly concentrates on the relationship with Claudius and Ophelia, and there is no physical contact nor side glances to these ladies. During the closet scene, the relationship of Hamlet and his mother is observable and his character also shows, the faithfulness he had towards his father and his urge to avenge his murder can also be seen.
Hamlet shows true emotions towards his girlfriend, Ophelia. He shows affection and belief in Ophelia’s virtues up to the point she chooses to withhold information regarding her father’s whereabouts. This betrayal provokes anger and disappointment in Hamlet, at this point, the flashback of their intercourse is added to rid of the ambiguity in their relationship and bond , this also indicates a more intimate relationship between these two characters and thus leading to Ophelia’s madness later in the film.
During the conversation that Hamlet had with his uncle, the new king, his body language and facial aggressiveness shows that he is suspicious of something. Generally, Hamlet is portrayed as a sharp-minded man in a bid to follow keenly on the activities going on in the Castle. Hamlet is mentally and morally tormented by the actions of people in the Castle, including his friends. He seeks whom to trust but finds none as everyone seems to betray him, this is given much concentration by the director of the film giving Hamlet so much psyche.
Hamlet is also portrayed as a resourceful and an efficient politician who hardly loses his temper in public as clearly see towards the ‘ mousetrap scene’. Hamlet is prone to calmness even when handling unforeseen tasks as in during the death of Polonius. The only time he loses his temper is when he slapped by Claudius to show the tension that existed between them. The encounter with the ghost confirms Hamlet’s suspicion of Claudius involvement in his father’s death. This encounter further drives the urge for revenge in Hamlet.
The movie is long but memorable, Branagh uses visualization methods to divide the space into two to remind the audience of the confusion thatHaamlet faces. The most outstanding feature is the castle which is has a gloomy and dark exterior but the inside is glamorous and full of splendor, this can be observed in every shot. The mirrored walls, bright lights, and the vivid colors clearly describes the aura of a royal family. The dark and gloomy outside where Hamlet meets the gravedigger and the ghost in the woods and a place where most of the political opposition arises from. Branagh also uses elaborate intricacies, subplots, and details to create space to create tragedy. He goes ahead to rid of most of the ambiguity in this play by using clear blocking, characterization, and setting. This film’s musical score is helping in leading the audience through the dramatic visions. The use of a play within a play to direct the film and the audience understanding is also elaborate.
Keneth Branagh as Hamlet well acted. The actor is so intimate with the message he is trying to put across to the audience. His delivery is intense and the tone that he uses is vengeful. He is able to lower his voice whenever he is trying to convey a sorrowful information and as his emotions rise and become more intense he raises his voice. For example, in Act four scene four, Hamlet begins the soliloquy with a lower voice before he becomes intense and the voice rises, this is very important in portraying his troubled soul and his character in general.
The play starts in a slow when Hamlet learns that his uncle had murdered his father so as to marry his mother the Queen in order to be King, this is the beginning of the conflict. Hamlet is therefore faced with the moral dilemma to revenge even after his father’s ghost confirms to him the true murderers. To expose the King’s guilt, the director adds a play within a play, the killing of Gonzago. The first climax occurs when Hamlet attempts to kill Claudius who is the chapel. Another climax is when Claudius invites Hamlet to fence with Laertes, in this scene both Laertes and Hamlet dies, and also Claudius. The main thing that Hamlet wanted to portray in this film is mainly vengeance for the death of his father. The production has really achieved this through the many scenes and the dramatization of these acts.
Hamlet(Kenneth Branagh) wears mostly a dark suit in this film, this is a sure indication of his inner thoughts and emotional confrontations The director uses mostly dark and solitary places to showcase where most of Hamlet’s soliloquies took place. In the castle, Hamlet frequents the hidden passageways to observe people and think out loud. The encounter with the gravedigger and the ghost occurs in the woods this shows where the political troubles come from and where Hamlet goes to interact with different people who are not against his motives.
This adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the perfect example of a text to a play adaptation. Keneth Branagh does not change any theme of the original work but tried to intensify some characters and events but still staying within the text. Hamlet’s main concern is to find who killed his father.