28 October 2010

Hamlet revisted

Recently, I watched the film of the new Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet featuring David Tennant as the moody Danish prince and Patrick Stewart as his evil uncle Claudius.

Three hours on a Saturday night, I spent watching a new version of Hamlet. And it's not the first time I've committed hours to this play.





I've watched the Mel Gibson version...









the Ethan Hawke version,










parts of the old Laurence Olivier version and
 the Kenneth Branagh version.







I've seen a live stage version of it that the theatere department did when I was in college. Like most high school kids, I studied the play in senior year English, even memorizing several chunks of it for an assignment.

So why go back to it again?

Like any good story, each version brings something a little different.

The new RSC version (a film adaptation of their staged version) made me think about Gertrude, Hamlet's mom, because the scene when Hamlet confronts her was so well done. I'd never given much consideration before to her plight as a mother with a supposedly grief-mad son on the heels of a death and wedding.

The amazing thing as well about the new version was how it felt like a play instead of a movie. Branagh's version is a movie and is equally as wonderful but for different reasons. It has scenery (filmed inside the famous Blenheim Palace, how could it not?) and it has lush costumes and has that feel that all of Branagh's Shakespeare movies do.

In the RSC version, the space used is the same almost the whole time, just new scenery added and much of that adapted directly from the stage version. The camera gets right up on the actors, catching the internal-ness of this great play. The "to be or not to be" is worth the watch alone in the new one. The symbolism and imagery is woven well throughout but it's not heavy-handed.

In a way, I think it's just a way of re-reading this story. Like any good book, it's worth going back to... and like good drama, it's cathartic and emotional.

If you've ever got 3 hours to spare, I'll be happy to watch it again with you.

2 comments:

Belinda Kroll said...

I absolutely adore David Tennant, and David Tennant as grief-mad Hamlet is just brilliant. If you are ever in Columbus, you let me know. We will have tea and delight over Tennant together.

Bethany K. Warner said...

That sounds like a glorious plan.