Matthew Moghadam: Notes Reflection

        The annotation process of film can be quite a drab and tiresome predicament for some. While this process is advantageous to place an emphasis on analysis rather than mere observation of a work, it can still be dull and monotonous. Nevertheless, often it is also a necessity to uncover underlying meanings, unique interpretations, or even one’s own perspectives on a particular matter. In my own consideration, the success of such note-taking varies entirely on the media that is examined, for while my practice of annotation for play-texts emerges quickly and almost entirely, film analysis is a much more lengthy and complicated exercise.

        In most cases, I prefer the annotation of play texts as each can be reread, further analyzed, and considered multiple times in a short period. In terms of textual analyses of plays, I feel as if my own perception of ideas within the text are more thorough as their significance is clarified almost immediately and elaborated soon after. In the examination of a play text, I find it easiest and most efficient to read the text aloud, thus grasping a fuller understanding of the meaning behind each word used – particularly in the case of complicated language, such as that of Shakespeare. This not only provides the overt tone of the piece through the development of emotion, but entices my full focus on the material at hand instead of inciting distractions. Play-text Note-takingA play-text analysis also allows me to visually examine the content, rather than the relying on the necessity to view an interpretation while also listening to a passage. Such an appreciation of this is evident upon a simple examination of my texts, as they typically resemble overused and well-loved cookbooks, with explanations, highlights, interpretations, and connections. This practice provides me opportunities to recognize consistent themes, word usage, recurring expressions, and other textual elements. As a visual learner, each method of analysis is imperative to my understanding and development of meaning within a play-text, for it focuses not on an optical spectacle but rather a corporeal verse.

        In terms of film analyses, my annotation process changes completely. I truly find it rather difficult to analyze critically as the film progresses, as I am drawn to the cinematic performance instead. I constantly find myself lost in the plot, and reminders to focus on the primary purpose of the examination are abound. However, with a degree of reprimand and a potential second-screening, my notebooks are better-filled with ideas, comments, and a number of questions. Even so, I often find it troublesome to elucidate on particular practices or ideas within the film due to its fleeting nature, rather than material state. As such, the approach that works best for me is to annotate simple ideas while watching and supplement them later. I aim to capture very rough conjectures that continuously surface, such as a particular mood or typical shot type, and further augment such theories following the screening. I am sure this is common practice for many, and certainly understand why this would be the case. Rather than detracting from the piece in the constant pursuit of a fully-developed concept before the end credits roll, it allows one to both participate in and analyze the screening simultaneously. However, in my case, I feel as if much of the annotation seems quite basic and trivial in terms of meaning, particularly if ideas are lost or forgotten in a film’s deliberation. While aspects such as colour, framing, typicalities of shots, or score are certainly of great import to a piece, much of these evaluations feel hollow in comparison to their profound counterparts. I consistently aim to develop postulations abounding in complexities and in-depth considerations, and though it takes a great deal of mulling and contemplation, ideas that appear to me as shallow or basic do gradually dissipate to uncover stronger understandings and conclusions. 

        While each may have their strong suits when examined critically, I believe their success cannot be determined entirely by quantity, but rather the quality of interpretation that is established. Both the annotation of play-texts and film allow for a deep exploration of literary concepts, although each process is completely unique in itself. My preference may lie with the medium of text-plays due to their intrinsically accommodating nature, but the analysis of film certainly has its merits as well. Regardless of the method that is undertaken in terms of inquiry, providing a comprehensive analysis is the primary purpose of each, and both may provide additional postulations to captivate and delight audiences.

Natasha King: Scene Comparison | Zeffirelli vs Shakespeare | Hamlet

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One of the most obvious differences between Zeffirelli’s Hamlet and the original play is that the opening scene at the guard tower is entirely omitted in the film. I can understand why he did this, since it wasn’t entirely necessary to have multiple scenes with the ghost being encountered. Instead the film skipped the first ghost sighting , to Hamlet being told of the events and then going to the watchtowers himself. By doing this Zeffirell was able to cut down the length of the film while still including the scene that is the catalyst in which Hamlet decides to prove the murder of his father and seek out revenge on his Uncle.

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Instead it begins with an original scene of Claudius, Gertrude and Hamlet are mourning the old King’s death at a funeral. In this scene Claudius’ speech only briefly tells Hamlet to consider him his father. In the same scene in which Gertrude is bent over her late husband’s body, she looks up to Claudius, which seems quite striking. I believe Zeffirelli’s intention was to emphasize how she is already moving onto her new husband-to-be. It is not until a different scene in which Claudius addresses his court to announce the bittersweet news that he has married his former sister-in-law.

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The next scene contains Hamlets famous line “a little more than kin and less than kind,” however in the film Hamlet says this directly to Claudius as opposed to saying it quietly to himself. This is something that continues to occur in the film, in which Hamlet is much more bold when it comes to sharing is quips and sarcastic remarks.

One of the aspects of the play that Zeffirelli maintained was Hamlet’s monologue in which he shares his absolute shock that his father has only recently died and his mother is already remarried. The line “frailty, thy name is women” is carried over into this scene. Something I noticed about Zeffirelli’s version is that he maintains the well-known lines.

Opposite to this, something that I was not a fan of was the fact that Fortinbras was hardly mentioned at all. One of the things Shakespeare liked to do was talk about current events in his play, or at least create politic events in order to have a subplot. However by omitting this in the film it almost made the film seem boring to me, not to mention it makes the ending of the film seem rather anticlimactic. One of the most important parts of the entire play was the ending, in which everyone has died and now the kingdom faces an impending attack.

To go back to the humour I mentioned, I really enjoyed the film scene in which Polonius and Hamlet are talking in the library. While in the play, Hamlets response to Polonius’ question about what he is reading is simply “words, words, words,” the film adds more depth. This line can be interpreted in different ways depending on who is reading it, but I truly appreciated the way that Gibson presents it. Each time, he says “words” with a different tone. The first time he seems to ask himself what he’s looking at, and then he confirms that it is, in fact, words and the third time, he loudly informs Polonius of this. By doing this it is apparent of Hamlet’s distaste of Polonius and his lack of caution by answering in this way. He makes it obvious that he’s talking down to Polonius. Another part about this scene that I liked was Zeffirelli’s choice to have Hamlet sitting up above Polonius, to reaffirm the differences between the two men.

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While Gibson played an excellent Hamlet, I was not entirely impressed with the scene in which he kills Polonius. Although the acting itself is good, he doesn’t really seem to be bothered by it at all, by doing this Hamlet appears to no longer be sane, which in the play is something the audience is constantly trying to figure out: is he actually crazy, or is he just pretending so everyone will drop their guard around him?

Zeffirelli did an excellent job of adapting the play into a film by modernizing the language, and cutting the long soliloquys and speeches to shorten the film. He added in bits of humour to ensure entertainment and to keep a more positive attitude throughout. Overall he made sure that even people who aren’t huge fans of Shakespeare could enjoy it and experience it in some way.

With that being said, for Shakespeare fans, he may have left them disappointed with the number of changes made to the story line. What some people may have considered unimportant or monotonous, Shakespeare fans would have looked forward to only to finish the film lacking the experience they would have hoped for.

Samuel Martyn: Film Review

Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V (1989) is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play of the same name. I feel as though the film, through methods unavailable in a theatrical performance, was able to produce more subtleties and evoke emotion that a live stage performance would not be able to. These factors, I believe make the film not only an effective interpretation of the text, but also a more palatable version at that.

I found the way in which the Chorus (played by Derek Jacobi) is presented in this adaptation is very intriguing, particularly in the prologue. The Chorus – no doubt through the text itself – is supposed to break the fourth wall, but the prologue is removed completely from the world that the narrative takes place within. This first scene is placed on a movie set, with cameras and other equipment in full view of the audience, so as to give the impression that the Chorus is, while later appearing in the actual scenes of the narrative, a type of modern-day tour guide through the jungle that is medieval Europe. henry-v-prologue

The Chorus is also seen wearing modern clothes, while all the other players are seen to be wearing clothes appropriate to the medieval period of the narrative. This helps once again show the Chorus as a separate entity, our tour guide through the film. It seems as though Branagh has the Chorus conducting a type of documentary, which to me appears quite unique in a beneficial way, as it gives a sense of realness to the history.

Act 1 Scene 1 as it is performed in the film, allows the audience to experience the dialogue between the two Bishops in a way that a stage performance in a theatre could not. The shadowy lighting and the camera angles allow for close up and extreme close up shots to give a feeling of intimacy in the conversation between the two men. It allows for us to see the expressions of scheming and secrecy on the faces of the Bishops. henry-v-act-1-scene-1

This scene however not only allows the audience to feel these effects through camera angles, but through the dialogue itself as well. The two Bishops through this scene speak very quietly, sometimes even whispering. This effectively creates a feeling that this conversation is surreptitious in nature. In a theatre environment, these techniques would not be able to be employed, and I believe that their use in this film are effective and beneficial in the portrayal of Shakespeare’s text.

Another factor that helps drive along the narrative within the film is Branagh’s use of flashbacks to Henry V’s past. One in particular is the flashback to a conversation between Sir John Falstaff (Robbie Coltrane) and Henry (Branagh) before he became king. “No, my good lord, banish Peto, banish Bardolph, banish Poins, but for sweet Jack Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff, valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant being, as he is old Jack Falstaff, banish not him thy Harry’s company, banish not him thy Harry’s company. Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.” This dialogue appears nowhere in the original text of this play, but is drawn from Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4). These flashbacks, while from a different play, allow the audience to see into the past life of Henry, an effect that the original text does not necessarily provide. Branagh uses this as a tool to portray a conflicted Henry, who is turning his back on his former life. It also shows how his ascension to the position of king and the abandoning of his old friends affected them as well.

 

Branagh’s 1989 adaptation appears to be an effective, fluid, evocative interpretation of Shakespeare’s work. The film allows for an intimate view of the characters, as Branagh’s use of closeups and extreme closeups allow us to see more emotion and characteristics of the players, which is not an option in a theatrical performance. His use of the Chorus as a modern tour guide, leading us into and through the medieval period bridges a gap between our two eras, allowing us to see the film as a type of documentary. Finally, Branagh’s use of material from Henry IV Part 1 to show flashbacks to Henry’s past life allow the audience to see his emotional ties to those from his past and the conflict that arises not only within himself, but his old friends, which gives a more humanized, emotional interpretation of the text.