By Patrick J. Cook
Hamlet has encouraged 4 impressive movie diversifications that proceed to please a large and sundry viewers and to supply provocative new interpretations of Shakespeare’s most well-liked play. Cinematic Hamlet comprises the 1st scene-by-scene research of the tools utilized by Laurence Olivier, Franco Zeffirelli, Kenneth Branagh, and Michael Almereyda to translate Hamlet into hugely specified and remarkably potent films.
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Extra info for Cinematic Hamlet: The Films of Olivier, Zeffirelli, Branagh, and Almereyda
Ophelia’s movement from her archway into the throne room recalls the two shots of the archway from Hamlet’s point of view that frame the Ophelia-Laertes-Polonius material of act 1, scene 3. Recalling these emotionally charged shots evokes both Hamlet’s desire for Ophelia and his subsequent anguish at her apparent betrayal. These emotions help to explain Hamlet’s wild oscillations in the upcoming nunnery scene. 21 Once Polonius and Claudius have hidden themselves within a curtained alcove, Hamlet returns through the same double doorway through which he exited.
The men all look toward the site of this rottenness. The camera turns to join their gaze, and Olivier’s filmmaking recovers from its first serious flaw. The renowned transition via moving camera and one usually unnoticed dissolve midway to the court scene performs for Elsinore’s interior what earlier shots did for its exterior. We become familiar with details and are intrigued but cannot map the space or interpret confidently. Most critics and reviewers who comment upon the transition note that the camera pauses above the throne room and then approaches Hamlet’s chair, Ophelia’s archway, and finally the royal bed.
16 When the ghost warns, “nor let thy soul contrive / Against thy mother aught” (85–86), Hamlet again raises his ringed hand to his face, now to cover his eyes. Although one might be hard-pressed to pull all of these details into a coherent interpretation, they appear designed to tease us into questions relevant to Olivier’s oedipal subtext. Do Claudius and Hamlet share the desire to usurp old Hamlet’s marital position? Is Hamlet reaching out for his lost father or his father’s ring? Is Hamlet’s covering his eyes a denial of what contriving against his mother might mean—that is, is the gesture a defense against the ghost’s paternal prohibition of “damned incest” (83), a prohibition that in Freudian terms involves the threat of castration and its most common upwardly displaced form, blinding?