Hamlet Movie ComparisonThis print version free essay Hamlet Movie Comparison.
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Hamlet: A Comparison of Two Movies
May 29, 2006
The purpose of this report is to compare and contrast two movies made about Hamlet. I will present and discuss different aspects of the version directed by Kenneth Branagh to that of Franco Zefirelli. During this paper you will be presented with my opinions in reference to determining which version of Hamlet best reflects the original text by Shakespeare. I will end this paper with my belief and explanation of which movie is true to the original play.
Normally, when a movie is made about a story in a book the two stories are not exactly the same. The movie is adjusted by adding small details or leaving out some parts in order to make the story more interesting or shorter in time to adjust for people watching it in a cinema. This is the case with Shakespeareâ€™s Hamlet for one of these movies while not the case with the other. Zefirelliâ€™s movie starring Mel Gibson left out but also added things that Shakespeare never wrote that were not originally in the play. It is highly edited and straight forward while Branaghâ€™s version is much more exact and quite longer. It includes all of the words as in Shakespeareâ€™s original version.
When Shakespeare wrote Hamlet he did not write a scene depicting the funeral of King Hamlet. However, in Zefirelliâ€™s movie this scene is present. Not only is it an added scene but it also replaces the original opening scene of the play. In the play, the first scene is where the ghost of King Hamlet appears to the guards on duty, Marcellus and Bernando, and where the ghost is introduced into the play. The movie never even showâ€™s this scene. The ghost is first introduced into this movie in the following scene where Horatio is shown telling Hamlet about the ghost.
The play depicts Fortinbras receiving a vote from the dying Hamlet to become the new king. Shortly after, Fortinbras himself makes a speech accepting the honor and
declaring himself the new king. Zefirelli takes Fontinbras out of the play and fails to show the end where Fortinbras makes his declaration speech.
Zefirelli also left out another part from the play. In the play, Polonius asks Reynaldo to travel to France and spy on his son Laertes. However, the movie never shows this scene. In fact, the movie fails to even include Reynaldo.
Another aspect to consider between the two movies is the settings. The play takes place in a cool and raw gothic time. However, the settings in both films are quite different. Branaghâ€™s film is updated to the 19th century and in an opulent palace. The palace has mirrors with the magnificent hall at the center of the royal court. This isnâ€™t the impression I had when reading the play. However, the weather in this version appears to be cloudy and visibly cold. The weather creates suspense because it appears as a threat. You could hear the gasping wind which portrayed the men as being uncomfortable and cold which added to their fear of what was to come. This is in major contrast to Zefirelliâ€™s film which takes place in a Scottish castle with medieval costumes that are far more appropriate to the playâ€™s tone. The air of the castle is a gloomy, dark mansion which is a perfect place for the play to reflect someone grieving. This is much more like I would have imagined the original play to present.
Another aspect is the presentation of the ghost. The imagery of each setting is used to portray the ghost scenes differently. In Zefirelliâ€™s version the ghost is portrayed using only lighting to cast a strange glow or gleaming on the actors. When the ghost appears he is simply seen coming down the stairs of the castle. When compared to the play, the ghost is dressed in a dark cloak. However, in the play the ghost was in armor with a helmet and raised visor. While in Branaghâ€™s version Hamlet is constantly catching glimpses in the mirrors in the castle. The initial portrayal of the ghost was coming out of the clouds and as in the play he was seen in armor with a raised visor and eerie look on his face. Branaghâ€™s version allowed the actorâ€™s to express their fear and determination. This is translated to the audience who are able to feel the characters position which increases the fear and suspense. Branagh also uses a form of flashbacks without dialogue. He shows scenes of Elsinore years ago, with the characters as young children playing games and laughing at the jokes of Yorick. Weâ€™re also shown Hamlet and Ophelia is bed which indicates the true nature of their relationship. Then, we see Claudius murder his brother while the ghost served as a narrator.
The characters in the cast are somewhat different in each of these movies as would be expected. Mel Gibson is very good in the role of Hamlet in Zefirelliâ€™s version. When he insults the king the insults are more pronounced and easy to understand. He also playâ€™s the part of Hamletâ€™s insanity very well. This is the favorite part of the character for me. I think his face and presentation make it more realistic than when I read the play. Gibson was able to add suspense to the movie while chasing after the ghost with his sword held as a cross. Glen Close is very good and played the innocent part of Queen Gertrude very well. She was very playful in the beginning and her character degenerated as the film ended sadly. The actorâ€™s in Branaghâ€™s version are also very good. For the soliloquies, Branagh plays Hamlet and brings a contemplative and introspective quality. And during the emotional sequences his interpretation is brash and forceful drawing me into the drama of the situation.
After analyzing the two movies and comparing them to the play it is clear that different interpretations can be taken and presented. While both movies come from the same play they are quite different. Overall I enjoyed the version by Zefirelli the best. I found the movie by Zefirelli to be more interesting and easier to understand. I found the set in the castle to be more realistic. The costumes were also more realistic and added to the feeling of the movie. Although, it is Branagh who offers a more accurate interpretation and remains more true to the original play. I also enjoyed the special effects that were used in this movie.