Surprisingly, I really enjoyed watching Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 film Hamlet. I thought it would be difficult to watch (mainly because it’s four hours long), but I easily became obsessed with the film and thought the acting was superb. It was also great to see Kate Winslet and Robin Williams in the film, and I thought Kate Winslet did an excellent job playing Ophelia. At times she was acting absolutely insane, but that’s when you know you’ve played your role well! Below, you will find notes I took while watching the film. They’re a bit scattered and all over the place, but I wanted to track my progress.
I thought it was amazing how the film followed the dialogue completely — I don’t remember a single line being skipped! This is how the film differs from other Hamlet movies, as most of the other ones will omit lines. I enjoyed this version way more than the Almereyda version I watched for my first blog post. Almereyda’s film skipped many lines and took a more modern approach to the play, while this film followed the dialogue and seemed more authentic.
For my film diary, I decided to focus on Act 4, Scene 2. Above, you will see my annotations and notes for this act. The lines in particular that I would like to focus on are 25-26 in Miola’s edition of Hamlet. In these lines, Hamlet says:
“The body is with the King, but the King is not with the body. The King is a thing.” (p. 87).
I found these lines to be both confusing and intriguing, as I was trying to find out what the heck Hamlet means. I determined that he was probably referring to his father as a being, but at the same time was also referring to the ghost or spirit of his father. The King is therefore “a thing” (p. 87) that doesn’t fit into a specific category. This irony/antithesis stuck out to me while I was reading the book, and its portrayal in the film was equally intriguing. While watching Act 4, Scene 2, I was pleased to find that Branagh took a different approach and presented Hamlet in a whimsical and hilarious manner. The way he is walking away from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is nothing short of hilarious, and the acting is superb. In the other films, the scene was much darker, but Branagh takes an interesting approach and makes it more lighthearted. I also enjoyed how everyone was walking behind Hamlet and the camera was following the movement of the characters. Lines 25-26 in particular are also presented in a very unique manner. Hamlet grabs Rosencrantz in a playful (and slightly aggressive) way when speaking the aforementioned lines, and does a nifty little spin after saying “The King is a thing” (p. 87). Branagh’s playful portrayal of the characters is very fun to watch, and the vibrant colors and costumes add to the overall visual effect of the play. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually enjoyed the four hours I spent watching the film. Well done, Branagh!