Scene Comparison – Zeffirelli’s Hamlet (1990) and Almereyda’s Hamlet (2000)

I will be analyzing the following two scenes from Zeffirelli’s 1990 version (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZQ5ryS-YvM) and Almereyda’s 2000 version (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I81HGVdGzQc) of Hamlet. In Act 1 Scene 5 of Hamlet, Hamlet’s father comes back as a ghost asking him to take revenge on Hamlet’s uncle who killed his father and took the crown. The 1990 version uses a traditional approach to Shakespeare as it is based in Elizabethan times and the 2000 version is a modern replica of Hamlet. The two scenes from either films both convey different moods that are established through emotion and conviction of the actors and the set used in each scene. When analyzing these separately, we may reveal different tools that each director used to create the proper atmosphere.

When analyzing the acting of the characters in each film, there is a tremendous contrast. In Hamlet’s 2000 version, the actor of the ghost has an intimidating and serious persona, which is demonstrated through the character aggressively grabbing at Hamlet with a constant serious face and speaking very quickly. The ghost seems more evil and angry about his situation. The character of Hamlet in the 2000 version has a frightened and confused expression throughout the scene, conveying how stunned Hamlet is that his father’s ghost is before him. I find that Ethan Hawke’s portrayal of Hamlet is very poor and lacking emotion, as presented in the review, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1097245-hamlet/. When analyzing the acting in Hamlet’s 1990 version, the ghost speaks using many dramatic pauses, to create suspense and anticipation for the audience. This may be demonstrated when he exclaims “List, list, O, list!” with a shocking cry, compared to Almereyda’s version where it is simply said quickly. In the 1990 version, the ghost expresses feelings of sadness and betrayal through a few tears shed and a trembling voice. I found the ghost in the 1990 version to be a comforting and loving presence compared to the ghost in the 2000 version. I believe that this enhanced the plot because it is more believable for the father to be of a comforting figure than that of intimidation. The acting of Hamlet in the 1990 version was very well portrayed through the use of a frightened expression and expressing bewilderment of his father’s presence.

At the end of the scene in the 1990 version, the ghost reaches out to Hamlet stating “remember me” but then disappears suddenly before they touch, compared to an embrace in the 2000 version. I found the embrace confusing as it did not match the ghost’s previous showing of intimidation towards Hamlet, as well it does not make sense for a ghost to be able to touch a human. In the 1990 version, the ghost says these lines with a trembling voice and shedding tears, creating a somber mood and showing the strength of the father-son bond. In the 2000 version, the lines are accompanied by a strong embrace, which also conveys a strong father to son bond. However, there is less emotion in the ghost’s voice, which may demonstrate the ghost holding more power and control over Hamlet.

The 1990 version is set surrounding stonewalls at night, which creates a dark and creepy mood, as well as demonstrating a sense of isolation from the outside world. The noises of rustling wind and sinister music helps to establish the mood. In the 2000 version, the scene is set in a modern messy apartment which demonstrates that the meet is private, as well as the mood is more chaotic and frantic due to the mess surrounding them. The melancholy music in the background of a violin creates a depressing mood.

Both film scenes use the same text and both cut out a few lines from the original Shakespeare text. However, the 2000 version of Hamlet uses more of the original text and is able to squeeze in more lines due to the rapid talking pace. The 2000 version of Hamlet also uses an interesting camera affect of circling the camera around the actors as they are speaking. This helps to give the audience a perspective of the characters’ body language, as well as placing the audience viscerally immersed into the scene. The 1990 version uses up close shots of the characters’ faces, which gives the audience a sound idea of the emotions portrayed through facial expressions. This shifts the meaning of the scene by putting more emphasis on the characters’ emotions in the 1990s version, versus putting emphasis on the surroundings and actions of the characters in the 2000s version.

When comparing the following two scenes in the movie of Hamlet in 2000 and 1990, we may view that both the scenes have a contrasting mood. The 1990s version creates a comforting and heartbreaking mood through the use of teary actors and dark lighting. However, the 2000 version is a more chilling and grim take to Shakespeare’s scene through a shifting acting style. Although both scenes convey Shakespeare’s work in coinciding ways, I find the scene in Zeffirelli’s 1990 version to be more compelling and pathos driven.

 

References:

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1097245-hamlet/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZQ5ryS-YvM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I81HGVdGzQc

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