Essay on Hamlet: Hamlet and Kenneth Branagh

Submitted By AristaLush
Words: 855
Pages: 4

Michael Almereyda or Kenneth Branagh – That is the Question The eloquent words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet have been read and spoken for centuries. Thanks to the invention of film, we are now able to watch this piece of art being performed over and over. But directors and producers can now evoke so many different meanings and interpretations through their actors that sometimes it’s hard to tell how exactly the play was meant to be done in the first place. Nevertheless, in 1996, director and actor Kenneth Branagh released a traditional version of Hamlet, and in 2000, director Michael Almereyda released his modern-day interpretation of the play. Though both of them have the same characters and basic Hamlet plot-line, they differ seriously in setting, content, evocation of Hamlet’s madness, and delivery in the famous “To Be or Not to Be” speech. While both Branagh and Almereyda create a setting that appeal to a more modern-day audience and capture the viewer, they are set in completely separate times and locations. Branagh, while keeping in tradition with the play, creates a scene in a large, extravagant castle set in 18th century Denmark. He also takes the darkness aspect and completely turns it around; the castle itself has white walls, black and white tile, and red thrones. On the other hand, Almereyda sets his version of Hamlet in New Year City in the year 2000. Instead of living in a traditional castle, Hamlet resides in Hotel Elsinore while his father was the CEO of Denmark Corporation (before he was murdered, of course). When it comes to the content of play, many directors will take creative freedom and change things around. Kenneth Branagh didn’t take too much liberty in changing this play. Other than moving a few lines around, such as his lines that should be his first words to the ghost being delivered instead while he is chasing the ghost through the words, Branagh stays true to the way Hamlet was written. He includes every line of the play in his film version, keeping the integrity of Shakespeare’s words and delivering the lines just as they are written. Almereyda, however, takes complete artistic freedom, cutting out certain scenes, such as the gravedigger scene, and moving many things around, such as the “get thee to a nunnery” line. He also over-modernizes certain scenes. For example, instead of Polonius being stabbed through a curtain, he is shot through a closet door. Thankfully, though, both directors stayed true to the fencing scene, the drowning of Ophelia, and the poisoning of Gertrude – all key elements of the story. Another key element to the story is the mental state of Hamlet. Although both directors show his madness very well, and are sure that he evokes it outwardly with his actions and diction, they do so in different ways. Branagh, who was not only the director, but also played Hamlet as well, evoked a bi-polar madness in Hamlet. He made the character switch between a zany, off-the-wall lunatic to an angry, vengeful madman. By doing this, Branagh explores many different aspects of Hamlet’s insanity. On the contrary, Almereyda, whose Hamlet character is played by well-known actor Ethan Hawke, portrays his madness as more of a depression. In this version, Hamlet sort of mopes around, never really