Movie Interpretations Of The "Hamlet" Tragedy

Directors Gregory Doran and Franco Zeffirelli both present the screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy Hamlet on the basis of their separate perceptions of the play. Doran’s approach to the play however, is more favored as opposed to Zeffirelli’s, and will be further explored regarding why this is the case. The foremost immediate distinction between the two adaptations is the setting. Doran’s production, designed by Robert Jones delves into a modern concept, while still preserving the hierarchical qualities of a medieval court. This idea provides the twenty-first-century audience an empathic bridge into Prince Hamlet’s world, enabling them to identify with the struggles faced by the characters that transcends the bounds of history.

In this interpretation, the State of Room is filled with empty space, containing white marble pillars, a few chandeliers and black marble floors. This creates pathos within the viewers because of the emptiness and isolation Hamlet feels concerning his father’s death, his mother’s incestuous relationship with Claudius, and the betrayal of his friends. On the other hand, Zeffirelli’s rendition of the play, set designed by Francesca Lo, stays faithful to the drama on a literal level. In this film, the State of Room is contained by stone walls aligned with wooden balconies, giving insight into what medieval Denmark would possibly look. Unlike Jones’ State of Room having one level, Lo’s includes many stairs. Hamlet uses these stairs as a tool to project his voice on varying levels, raising his voice along with his anger going up the stairs. An equally noticeable dissimilarity is the unique acting techniques demonstrated by David Tennant and Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Prince Hamlet.

It is fascinating to witness Tennant’s dark, gothic influenced character dissolve into grief shortly after he is left alone, in the renowned “To be or to not to be,” soliloquy. Tennant is able to perfectly encapsulate the essence of the character in this scene, remaining in the same position from the start, his voice never raising, whilst maintaining a tone of fatigue. His weary performance captures the inner turmoil the character is facing after the deception of his family and friends. Through his minimalistic acting, Tennant effectively shows the burden of Hamlet’s sorrows to the point where he contemplates death. Whereas, Mel Gibson’s Hamlet lacks the weight of the character’s grief, as his rendition includes a lot of movement, the intensifying of his voice to where it seems that he is angry at the situation rather than himself, dismissing the idea of death; the purpose of this speech.

These two contrasting performances of the same character and set design is distinguished by personable details which bring forth a level of attraction to Doran’s adaption compared to Zeffirelli’s.

13 January 2020
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