Kenneth Branagh’s “William Shakespeare’s Hamlet” is the only film adaptation to completely film every scene and dialogue of the play, thus the four hour run. The edited version is over two hours. Branagh takes on the role of the Danish prince, stands behind the camera (as he is the director) and is responsible for the screenplay. ”Hamlet” is one of Shakespeare’s best tragedy. It was written between 1599 and 1601. This is the story of Hamlet who is the Prince of Denmark. He wants to avenge the death of his father who was murdered by his own uncle, Claudius.
Claudius also marries Hamlet’s mother Gertrude. There is still ongoing debate whether Hamlet is really mad or he merely pretends to be mad in order to fool everyone around him. A true blue Shakespearean like Branagh knows that there are three different versions of the play. There is the First Quarto, the Second Quarto and the First Folio. For his movie, Branagh used the Second Quarto and added some lines from the First Folio in order to show the audience the complete version of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.
” In the big screen, “Hamlet” has been adapted over and over again. Laurence Olivier and Franco Zefferelli had their own versions. The role has been played by actors like Olivier, Mel Gibson and Ethan Hawke (who is the youngest ever to do so. ) However, critics who respect Shakespeare’s works believe that it is only Branagh who got it right. In fact, he was able to present the story of the Danish prince in an engaging manner.
At a time when people are easily bored and has more important stuff to do than spend four hours in the movie house and listen to British actors speak old English and spend minutes talking to themselves, Branagh directs the 1996 version of “Hamlet” as an action-packed and emotionally riveting cinematic masterpiece that has a wonderful ensemble of the best British (and a couple of American) actors. This is because Branagh is the only director-actor-writer who understands how important every scene is in the play. If William Shakespeare were alive, he would have been proud.
The play begins at Elsinore. This is the abode of the Danish royal family. Marcellus and Barnardo, two guards, persuade Horatio, Hamlet’s best friend, that they have seen an apparition which they believe to be the ghost of the former king. Horatio only believes them after seeing the ghost himself. Horatio brings Hamlet with him and together, they wait for the ghost to appear. The ghost confides to his son that he was poisoned by Claudius. He wishes that his death be avenged. Hamlet’s actions toward others clearly show his growing madness.
Experts on the play believe that at the first part of the play, Hamlet was merely pretending to be mad so he could play the people around him, just as he was being played. He accuses his school friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that he was being ‘played upon like a pipe. ’Claudius, Gertude and the king’s adviser Polonius are all worried about Hamlet. Hamlet was also mean towards his lover Ophelia, who is also Polonius’ daughter. Ophelia confides in Polonius, therefore making him believe that Hamlet’s madness was due to heartbreak. Hamlet then arranges a play for the king and queen, his uncle and his mother.
He calls it “The Mousetrap” because he intends to confirm the guilt of his uncle. It is a re-enactment of what the ghost told him. The actors Hamlet hired stage the former king’s murder. Claudius’ reaction upon watching the play convinces Hamlet that murder in fact took place. Hamlet’s accusation of Claudius for the murder of the former king disturbs Gertrude. He calls for her son only to be attacked by him. Polonius, who was hiding behind a curtain, screams out for help. Hamlet, thinking he was Claudius, stabbed him to death. The ghost appears for the second time but only Hamlet sees him. He asks Hamlet to treat Gertrude with respect.
Because Gertrude cannot see the ghost, she was convinced that Hamlet is mad. This time, it was Ophelia who was driven to madness – for the death of her father. Laertes, Polonius’ son and Ophelia’s brother, plans to avenge Polonius’ death. Claudius’ plot to have Hamlet executed failed. Instead, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were killed. Ophelia commits suicide. Hamlet and Horatio arrives in the cemetery. It was only then Hamlet found out the death of his beloved. He weeps genuinely and madly. Laertes and Hamlet engages in a brawl but was broken when Hamlet accepts Laertes’ challenge to a duel.