To Be Shakespeare, Or Not To Be Shakespeare, That Is The Question


Kenneth Branaugh may have had the script of William Shakespeare\'s Hamlet
spoken down to every last thee and thou, but one must remember that this is
Hamlet through Branaugh\'s eyes, not Shakespeare\'s. Therefore, dismissing
obvious additions made for adapting the play to film, such as having a real
castle instead of a stage, it is possible to observe the unique characters,
interpretations, actions, and setting that make this version the director\'s own.
In the time of Shakespeare, one of the actors main challenges was to use
the words to paint the scene for the audience, since, for the most part, they
were looking at a bare stage. However, this use of imagination and portrayal is
no longer needed when the script is brought to film. Every pearl and snowflake
have been placed strategically before the audience, so that there is no need to
listen to the language to create your own vision of Hamlet\'s world. Branaugh\'s
world is full of lavish affairs, freezing winters, and halls of mirrors. The
use of the camera has some definite advantages and disadvantages. First, since
the characters are no longer limited by a defined space, they are able to
deliver their long speeches while being in a constant state of motion. This
occurs in the scene with the guards, and most noticeably in the scene with
Laertes and Ophelia, before he leaves for France. This same scene demonstrates
how the camera enables the characters to switch from one setting to the next, as
when Laertes, Ophelia, and Polonius are taken from outside to the church. This,
in turn, helps Branaugh set the scene for Ophelia and Polonius, in which,
Ophelia confesses everything to her father, perhaps only because she is in a
confession booth. Filming also allows for clarification of what is being said
through silent plays. During characters\' dialogue, the scene switches to
actions of the past, present, and even to things that could happen. This seems
to be used to give the audience a better understanding of what is happening, and
it also helps to further develop the characters so that the story is built up to
the audience, rather then being tossed into the middle of the storyline. Young
Fortinbras is often shown in these silent plays and is the only way his
character is able to be developed to such an extent. This technique is also
used to show how King Hamlet is killed, as it is being explained by the ghost.
Small details, that a play could not possibly portray, add to the overall film.
For instance, the book Hamlet picks up, after being told about the ghost, is
entitled Demons, suggesting that Hamlet is going to be prepared to meet this
apparition. Branaugh uses the ability of a spanning camera to include other
details that enhance the richness of the scene. The building of cannons is
shown at the beginning to capture the feeling of a brewing war. Also, Hamlet is
shown with a group of fencers going through their exercises while Laertes and
Ophelia talk, perhaps a foreshadowing of the end scene. As many advantages as
there may be to film, there are also numerous drawbacks that can take away from
any masterpiece.
The same technology and resources that can make a film great, can also
make a film terrible when used extravagantly. Sometimes it is better to rely on
good acting and simplicity rather than smoke, fire, and earthquakes to make a
scene worth remembering. This seemed to be true in the ghost scene. It was
interesting that Branaugh decided to take the scene deep into the woods. This
added a certain foreboding, eerie feeling to the scene, but one that the fire
and smoke dominated. The earthquake and fire was really just too much for the
scene. It became almost comic at some points because of all the commotion.
This also gave the impression that the ghost was from hell, even though it
descended from the sky when it was first seen. Another scene that seemed a
little ridiculous was with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern riding up to Hamlet on a
toy train. The only question that comes to mind is, why? An underscore of
music during certain scenes enhances the emotion and intensity being played out.
However, the music during Hamlet\'s soliloquy about war and Fortinbras gives an
overwhelming feeling of reckoning, determination, and triumph. The music had
too much pizzazz, and especially became overly dramatic when combined with the
contrasting black clothes against the white snow, and the army forming ranks
behind the