Free Essay About Hamlet In Different Media
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Screen adaptations always have an uphill task in transforming text into film. This is particularly so when the text is regarded as a masterpiece and even harder when the author or playwright is viewed as one of the best of all time. Hamlet was William Shakespeare’s 23rd play and is widely considered his best. While there are many screen adaptations of the play, the 1996 version, starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh is acknowledged as the most accurate representation of Hamlet on screen.
One of the greatest difficulties a screen adaptation of plays faces is the running time that would result from an unabridged version. However, Branagh’s 1996 version of Hamlet does not shy from this. The film is a like for like reproduction of the plot created by Shakespeare in his original text. It does not deviate from the original storyline or include any foreign characters. This is the film’s greatest similarity to the play and its standout aspect compared to other screen adaptations of the play. For this, however, the movie ends op with a running time of a whopping three and a half hours.
Nevertheless, despite this major similarity with the play, the film does have a number of considerable differences with the play. The most glaring of these is perhaps the setting of the film in relation to time. While the original setting for Shakespeare’s play was of course the late middle ages (between the 14th and 15th century), Branagh’s version is set around the middle of the 19th century. This of course has several ramifications, including changing of the costumes used in the film. However, these are not too extensive and the film still retains the authentic Shakespearean feel and is actually improved by this alteration; making it more relatable to the audience.
Another difference between the original play and Branagh’s adaptation is the inclusion of several scenes in the play that are either simply mentioned in passing or insinuated to have occurred. This includes several flashbacks that Shakespeare only described in text and an intimate scene between Prince Hamlet and Ophelia that Shakespeare neither dramatized in his play nor overtly expressed as having happened. Perhaps Branagh takes these liberties as he feels the need to spice up the film to keep the audience’s attentions throughout the long running time and since he has enough screen time to explore and illustrate them.
Interestingly, Branagh appears to shun a number of elements in the original play that point to class differences. While it is clear from Shakespeare’s text that there would have been vast differences between the way of life royalty and that of their subjects, Branagh does not seem to highlight this quite as clearly in his film. For example, Ophelia, despite being a poor, simple maid is portrayed as being dressed in nice garments that allow her to fit in well with Prince Hamlet. This would definitely not have been the case. Perhaps, therefore, this is an attempt by Branagh to allow the audience to focus more on the greater storyline rather than the mundane details of social differences. I perceived this to be a rather effective way of illustrating Hamlet since rather than looking at the controversy in Ophelia and Hamlet’s relationship, I was able to follow the overall plot as it unfolded.
In conclusion, the interpretation of a text and its translation into film depends on the director of the film. I believe Branagh’s interpretation of the play to be quite accurate and his film to be above par. Despite a number of differences between his movie and the play, it remains highly commendable for its accurate portrayal of Hamlet and surely ranks as the most accurate on-screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.
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