Natasha Krahn: Film Review

Hamlet is one of my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays therefore, I chose to review Zeffirelli’s version of Hamlet. What I did find, is that the music was underwhelming, but the amount of music used felt more as if they were using rules of the theatre, where music is to be used in small amounts. I found that, as a theatre junkie, that I didn’t mind the lack of music, because I got to enjoy the acting, the dialogue and the story without fully being lead by the music.


Within act one, scene two, Claudius’s speech mostly talked about mourning the death of the King Hamlet but briefly talked about that the kingdom is united with marriage and that a war is approaching. The music in this sequence is when the horns played, which not only signified that his speech is over, but that there was also a scene change, which also happens in theatre.


Gertrude and Claudius walked into a dark room looking for Hamlet. Gertrude opened the window to let the sun in but Hamlet cringed as it hit his face. As Claudius talked, he started off in the light but walked into the shadows as he talked. The moments that the camera is on Gertrude, she glowed from behind and almost seemed angelic, I felt like the director made her even more innocent and naïve by using the lighting; the way Gertrude was portrayed also gave the feeling of her being naïve.


As Hamlet gave his first soliloquy, he moved his face between light and shadow when he stared out the widow at his mother and uncle. The entire script used, omitted using Greek mythology, including in this soliloquy. It ended on Hamlet saying, “frailty, thy name is woman” and he slammed the window shut. Which cut off Hamlet comparing Niobe his mother; Niobe could not cease crying after the loss of her children and transformed into stone, but water still flowed. I felt that the Greek mythologies are cut off because if the audience did not understand the myth, that the scene would lose the effect, where omitting it still gave the same effect of Hamlet not having a fondness for his mother marrying his uncle.


In act three, scene one, I wanted to pay particular attention to Hamlet and Ophelia’s interactions as well as Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. Hamlet walked in saying the last line in his soliloquy, “in thy orisons be all my sins remembered.” Hamlet and Ophelia argued on whether or not Hamlet once loved her. Ophelia stood by her claim that he did once love her, she was very calm, and almost seemingly in control of the situation because Hamlet eventually admitted to loving her once. He stated that he loved her once while bellowing at her and breathing heavily between lines. Hamlet proceeded to circle her, as if he were an animal stalking his prey. Ophelia stood in place while clutching her book and looking down as if to ignore his outbursts. Hamlet advanced by grabbing her jaw and yelling at her. He progressed to shoving her into the wall and running out of the room, like a child throwing a fit, still reciting his lines. He went from having not much control, to having all the control to running away from it.


Hamlet’s famous soliloquy begins after the camera scans the coffins in the room. The soliloquy took place in a room full of coffins which seemed fitting because Hamlet talked about suicide and pondered life’s trivial things. Hamlet went close to one of the coffins and leaned against it and looked longingly at it, as if he were desirous. Hamlet then walked over to another coffin and kneeled to the floor and leaned against it as if for support. He got up and stepped into the light but then stepped back into the darkness. Music does not guide this scene, it is fully guided by the acting and the dialogue. The feeling given in this scene is miserable and fuming due to Hamlet’s fluctuations in his voice and the dialogue used.

Overall, the movie is well done from a theatrical point of view, because the movie stays true to Shakespeare and theatre but certain things like lighting and acting is sometimes quite subtle but very intentional. It’s enjoyable to watch due to the nods to Shakespeare that Zeffirelli gave through out the movie.

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