LIT 380: Shakespeare in Film

Almereyda, method of no madness.

In Almeryeda’s (2000) Hamlet, Ethan Hawke plays a Hamlet that is more depressed than is mad or vengeful. Throughout the film his voice is kept low, he rarely shouts or raises his voice which rules out anger at Claudius, even after the movie scene. This rules out the vengeful side of Hamlet that one might read when he is plotting his revenge. More importantly though, Hamlet is not portrayed as being crazy in the film. There is no question that the apparition is real and he isn’t seeing things for starters. Also, his general tone is one of melancholy. Almereyda places extraordinary emphasis on the to be or not to be speech. The depiction that Almereyda show’s with this is a deeply troubled person who is extremely depressed. However, Almeryeda gives no allusion or image of Hamlet as a madman. In the traditional madman scenes we get an emotional but not crazy Hamlet. In the scene where Hamlet tells off Ophelia in his “Get thee to a nunnery” speech is one of anger and is shown as such. This differs from a film like Branaugh’s Hamlet which shows Hamlet worked up into a mad frenzy and dragging Ophelia around the hall. The other scene of note is Hamlet’s interaction with Polonius where he is supposed to be crazy. Instead, again Hamlet takes on a very sullen tone which gives more way to sadness rather than madness. This is an interesting take on the matter as it is generally accepted that Hamlet is supposed to at least appear crazy. Instead, Almeryeda omits this to show us the tortured soul of a filmmaker.

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