Summary: Hamlet as a Film Interpretation

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Film interpretations are often different from one another depending on the directors. Directors’ interpretations have many variables that differ from film-to-film. Hamlet by William Shakespeare is a classic and well-known play that is an example of one such work that has many interpretations. Kenneth Branagh directs and acts in his own version of Hamlet Act 3, scene 2. Set in the Victorian Era, Branagh’s 1996 version is more expressive and accurate to the text. On the contrary, Gregory Doran’s 2009 version takes on a modern perspective while including many features from the original written text. The Branagh version of Act 3, scene 2 is more effective than the Doran version because of actor interpretation and use of blocking.

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Kenneth Branagh’s depiction of Hamlet is more effective because of actor interpretation. To start, Hamlet appears more direct when speaking to Claudius about the play. For example, after the Mousetrap scene, Hamlet questions Claudius if he is “frighted with false fire”. Hamlet adds lines into the play so that it would indirectly affect Claudius into feeling guilty. Hamlet wants to see if Claudius’ expression changes while watching the play as it shows exactly how he kills King Hamlet and marries his wife. Hamlet almost directly confronts Claudius about the murder of his father, in which Claudius responds with a guilty expression. Ophelia claims that “the king arises”, which shows that Claudius reacts to the play with guilt or surprise. Next, when characters speak in the film, it is loud enough for others to listen to. An example of this is when Hamlet claims “how cheerfully [Hamlet’s] mother look, and [his] father / dies within’s two hours”. Hamlet is speaking to Ophelia, he says it loud enough for Claudius and Gertrude to hear. He says this line that not only does Claudius hear, but also the audience present. In this scene, Gertrude looks guilty about what has happened; she marries Claudius within a matter of months of King Hamlet’s death. Branagh’s version shows that the audience has a clue about what is happening between Hamlet and Claudius and expresses Gertrude guilt to the situation. Branagh’s version of Hamlet greatly provides the necessary information and enhances the situation.

Gregory Doran’s actor interpretation makes the scene insignificant and releases minimal emotion from other characters. Firstly, the character express minimal emotion which results in awkward situations between characters. An example of this is when Claudius stands up to leave with guilt from the play, he proceeds to grab a lantern without expressing “Give me some lights” and walks to Hamlet with an awkward pause; he then shakes his head as if Hamlet disappoint him. This example of actor interpretation is ineffective due to the lack of emotion which creates an ambiguous idea whether Claudius is guilty of the murder. It is also ineffective because Claudius reacts so calmly about the situation and makes it look like he did not murder King Hamlet. This causes confusion on whether the scene is important since it does not show any guilt from Claudius. Secondly, the characters make minimal effort to force a reaction out of other characters. For instance, after Lucianus pours the poison in the Player King’s ear, Hamlet calmly explains to Claudius that “the murderer gets the love of Gonzogo’s wife” with minimal intent to force guilt from Claudius. This example of actor interpretation is ineffective because of the lack of emotion from Hamlet makes it seem like he does not care that Claudius is the murderer of his father. The expression of the line from Hamlet releases no emotion from Claudius which gives the idea that the scene is insignificant due to the lack of guilt. To conclude, the actor interpretation in Gregory Doran’s 2009 depiction produces an insignificant scene as it releases minimal emotion from the characters.

Between Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 version and Gregory Doran’s version of William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, it is evident that the actor interpretation in Branagh’s version is more effective than Doran’s version. The actor interpretation is more effective because it creates more impactful scenes which expresses emotion of the characters. On the contrary, Doran’s use of actor interpretation is ineffective because it reduces the character emotion which diverts the intended message of the scene. Along with that, blocking in Kenneth Branagh’s version is more effective than in Gregory Doran’s version.

Kenneth Branagh’s use of blocking creates an impactful scene and shows clear emotion from the characters. To begin, the character’s movement onto the stage provides a stronger meaning to the message they want to portray. For instance, as Hamlet arrives onto the stage to announce that Lucianus represents the “Nephew to the king”, he is looking straight up and into Claudius’ eyes. This example, of blocking is effective because it expresses a stronger message towards Claudius; Lucianus represents Claudius because they both murder the King. Along with this, the blocking force Claudius to feel uneasy about the play because of the one-on-one eye contact with Hamlet. This example, of blocking causes Claudius to flee and shows that he is guilty for the murder of King Hamlet. Furthermore, blocking can create an indirect message to other characters. Hamlet indirectly reveals King Hamlet’s death on stage and exactly how Claudius “poisons him i’th’garden for’s estate” by adding it into the play to get a reaction out of Claudius. Meanwhile, Horatio is hiding behind the stage curtains with binoculars, spying on Claudius’ reaction. Both Hamlet and Horatio are able to conclude that Claudius is guilty of the murder. Horatio’s position is effective because it expresses the secrecy of Hamlet’s plan to spy on Claudius’ reaction without his knowing. The binoculars Horatio uses to spy on Claudius expresses that he is far away from Claudius that he does not suspect Horatio to be spying on him. Overall, Kenneth Branagh’s use of blocking provides an effective and impactful scene with the addition of expression of emotion from the characters.

Gregory Doran’s use of blocking provides a less meaningful scene and causes confusion of emotions shown by characters. Firstly, the lack of character movement reduces the emotion from characters and diverts the meaning of the scene. For example, as Hamlet is expressing to Claudius that Lucianus represents Claudius as being “nephew to the king”, there is limited emotion from Hamlet; he is lying down on Ophelia’s legs like he does not care about seeing if Claudius is indeed guilty for the death of King Hamlet. The lack of movement is ineffective because it diverts from the meaning of the scene which is to see if Claudius act guilty of the murder. With this, Hamlet’s emotion limits his interest in avenging his father due to not provoking the guilt out of Claudius. Secondly, character movement causes confusion for the meaning of the play. For instance, as the play goes on, Hamlet is recording the play with a camera and captures Claudius’ reaction. He asks Claudius if he was “frighted with false fire”. He does this while awkwardly laying on Ophelia’s lap and recording his reaction. This is ineffective because it makes it awkward and confusing to understand. Hamlet’s character seems to not care about the death of his father as he is having fun doing what he wants. It gets more awkward because of what Claudius does after. Claudius calmly gets up and walks over the Hamlet, pausing for a few seconds, and then shaking his head. This only makes it more confusing because it is not clear if Hamlet show his knowledge of Claudius murdering his father. Claudius only seems to have disappointment in Hamlet, not acting guilty or suspiciously. Overall, Doran’s use of blocking is ineffective because it reduces character emotion and diverts from the importance of the scene .

Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 version of Act 3, scene 2 in Hamlet is more effective that Gregory Doran’s version due to the actor interpretations and blocking present in the film. Branagh’s effective use of actor interpretation leads to additional emotion from the characters along with a clear message forcing a reaction out of other characters. Also, Branagh’s use of blocking leads to a significant scene through the clear emotion that the characters portray to one another. On the contrary, Doran’s lack of actor interpretation provides a scene which is insignificant due to ambiguous conclusions from the lack of character emotion. Additionally, the blocking in Doran’s version reduces the emotion from the characters, diverting the importance of the scene. Many films interpret William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, in different ways such as Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 version which is similar to the text and the use of actor interpretation and blocking provides an effective representation of the Mousetrap scene. In contrast, Gregory Doran’s 2009 version’s use of blocking and actor interpretation creates an ineffective representation which leads to misunderstandings of the overall scene. The importance of actor interpretations and blocking can create a more meaningful and impactful film. 

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