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TOPIC: Mel Gibson as Hamlet

Mel Gibson as Hamlet 6 years 6 months ago #1700

This week I viewed Franco Zeffirelli's 1990 version of Hamlet with Mel Gibson, Glenn Close, Alan Bates. In one of the "making of" documentaries on the DVD, Mel Gibson reveals that the director only used about 30 percent of Shakespeare's play for the film version. What's the general consensus of the film, and of Mel's performance?
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Mel Gibson as Hamlet 6 years 6 months ago #1701

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Best on film - remember the word FILM!
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Mel Gibson as Hamlet 6 years 6 months ago #1703

I think the general consensus is that it's a very good film. Gibson gives a very good performance, and the overall presentation of the play, abbreviated though it is, is impressive in its moody and melancholy atmosphere. It has all the darkness and doubt-ridden gloom of a good Hamlet production, and most of the actors are faultless. It's a very successful film version of the play.

Branagh's '98 film not withstanding, all film versions of Hamlet are abbreviated. Otherwise it gets too long. I always thought the longer Shakespeare plays ought to be done as TV series rather than films; I think Hamlet would be a particularly good fit for the TV series format.

Zeffirelli's Hamlet, though, is an especially good example of a successful abbreviation. As you watch it, you don't particularly miss the parts of the original text that aren't in it. I don't think many Shakespeare fans tend to be annoyed that cuts have been made in film versions of Hamlet. Since the text of Hamlet is so long. It may be different with other plays. I am something of a text purist myself, and actually prefer full-text versions. Personally, I like Branagh's long Hamlet film best, but the Zeffirelli film is a close second. But in many other film versions of Shakespeare plays, it does tend to irritate me when significant cuts have been made.

I don't know that there are any actual consensus among Shakespeare appreciators about which Hamlet film is the best. Many might pick the 1948 Olivier film. One reason I like the Branagh film best is that I think it makes far more interpretational decisions and statements than any other version. It comments very intelligently on an enormous amount of textual points, meshing it into the overall presentation, rather than let the action and immediate plot be the main flow and thrust of the storytelling, as the spartan Zeffirelli production arguably does.

Shakespeare's Hamlet is not set in the historical period that the original story is taken from, and which Zeffirelli tries (quite successfully) to evoke. Shakespeare's setting is much more contemporary to him, describing aspects of court life that were very familiar to the Elizabethan audience's own era. Therefore, the luxurious modern (19th century) court of Branagh's Hamlet film gives us a better impression of what Shakespeare's setting was, in terms of physical environment - many servants and counsellors, horse-betting competitions for recreation, a huge, well-equipped, many-roomed castle, etc. These things don't really fit into Zeffirelli's film, and therefore some parts of that aspect of the play have been excised. Especially in terms of mood, Zeffirelli's film is a great interpretation of the play, but my personal feeling is that Branagh's must be said to be the definitive film version we have so far. Even though it, too, has its faults (one being a lack of darkness and gloom).
Last Edit: 6 years 6 months ago by Tue Sorensen.
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Mel Gibson as Hamlet 6 years 6 months ago #1704

Sorensonian has provided such a well written and insightful review that I feel compelled to add my two cents. I like it when a film provides interesting insights to the characters. The Branagh film provided a very different depiction of Polonius (splendidly played by Richard Briers) showing a character of more intelligence, gravity and sophistication than is normally provided his person. A number of other characters in the play benefited by their visual presence, as well as their acting skill, while some definitely did not - hopelessly lost was the emotional and moving appeal of the ghost of Hamlet's father - but vitally gained was the first actor's bombastic but delightful retelling of Aeneas' tale. Observing their characterizations can positively change your understanding of the character, especially when it expands and enhances the role and changes your vision of the character's motivation. That certainly was the case with Olivier's Gertrude and Zeffirelli's Ophelia.

Another, sometimes beneficial addition to the Branagh film, were the extra-visual cues such as the lady of the night in Polonius' chamber and the flirtation between Claudius and Gertrude - both adding considerable color, plot, and character clarity to the play. On the other hand, the visual vignettes also served to discolor portions of the story, such as, imho: Hamlet and Ophelia in bed and Fortinbras' violent attack of Elsinore. What the Branagh film happily did provide was a visual presentation of every speech of the play (Q&F) - and regardless of the quality of the moments, they were all there. Great thanks are in order for that complete version.

Regards, Charles
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Mel Gibson as Hamlet 6 years 6 months ago #1705

Yes indeed. And it's true the Ghost didn't have that great of an impact in the Branagh film. Brian Blessed was very good, but I agree that the sensation of fear that the Ghost instilled in Hamlet did not cross the screen and touch the audience.

As for Hamlet and Ophelia in bed; it does seem rather gratuitous, in comparison with other and more traditional Hamlet productions, but actually I think a *very* good case can be made in favor of their being "consummately" involved with each other. Hamlet and Ophelia start out, in the play, being completely in love. Being as good as one being. Natural companions; perfect complementaries of harmonically joined reason and emotion. Ophelia's misfortune stems from their being pulled apart. Her unhappiness starts when Hamlet takes his leave of her in her closet, perusing her face. It's the grand break-up between them, and it's this that propels Ophelia into madness; a madness that increases the farther away she gets from Hamlet. He leaves the country; she dies. So it makes sense that their unity would have been total and profound up until the point of break-up.

Fortinbras, according to a close reading of the text, is Hamlet's friend and ally against Claudius. In Branagh's film it is not clear whether Fortinbras is attacking Claudius or simply the country as a whole, regardless of who's ruler. It mostly seems like the latter, but with a bit of good will you can choose to see it as the former. After all, Fortinbras' mention of Hamlet does demonstrate considerable respect for him, and he seems to take over the throne only because Hamlet is unable to do so.
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Mel Gibson as Hamlet 6 years 6 months ago #1706

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At this point I'm going to throw in my earlier post: He Plays a good part:

http://www.playshakespeare.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=48

Alan
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Mel Gibson as Hamlet 6 years 6 months ago #1710

sorensonian wrote:
Yes indeed. And it's true the Ghost didn't have that great of an impact in the Branagh film. Brian Blessed was very good, but I agree that the sensation of fear that the Ghost instilled in Hamlet did not cross the screen and touch the audience.
Brian Blessed is a wonderful actor, but his delivery seemed too fast, almost monotonal, and perhaps electronically altered; all in all it seemed to overly diminish the emotional impact of his words. The best part of his speech as I remember it, was the cutaway to the garden scene where we see Claudius actually poison King Hamlet.
sorensonian wrote:
As for Hamlet and Ophelia in bed; it does seem rather gratuitous, in comparison with other and more traditional Hamlet productions, but actually I think a *very* good case can be made in favor of their being "consummately" involved with each other.
Of course you may be correct but for me to believe they were sexually complicit would require the further belief that Ophelia had been duplicitous with her father when she declared Hamlet's love to have been "honourable". Certainly the entire thrust of Polonius' argument is to prevent exactly what you suggest may have been the premise of their relationship.
sorensonian wrote:
Fortinbras, according to a close reading of the text, is Hamlet's friend and ally against Claudius. In Branagh's film it is not clear whether Fortinbras is attacking Claudius or simply the country as a whole, regardless of who's ruler. It mostly seems like the latter ...
My dissatisfaction with the film's depiction of Fortinbras' assault on Elsinore stems more from its seeming illogic and distance from the text than anything else (if there is anything else ;o). First of all, there is nothing in the text to indicate an assault on the castle (other than Hamlet's query: "What warlike noise is this?"). Additionally, we know that the castle's ramparts are manned given Claudius' "cannoneer" declaration, and finally Fortinbras' entry and speech give no indication that he has led a forceful and successful invasion against Denmark, rather it is with sorrow that he embraces his fortune.

Regards, Charles
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Mel Gibson as Hamlet 6 years 6 months ago #1711

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Re: Branagh vs Zeffarelli - which would you prefer to sit through in one sitting whilst sat in a cinema :?:

I'd use the former with 'A' Level students "in parts" as illustration of the text (and a way of highlighting the way a text can only be brought to life by adding what is not written) - but as a film, give me the Zeffarelli every time.

The greatest Shakespeare film is 'Othello' - the Welles version - stunning filming - but very far from a full text and certainly lacking for the academics. :shock:
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Mel Gibson as Hamlet 6 years 6 months ago #1714

The greatest Shakespeare film is 'Othello' - the Welles version - stunning filming - but very far from a full text and certainly lacking for the academics.
What of Welles's Chimes at Midnight?
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Mel Gibson as Hamlet 6 years 6 months ago #1717

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What of Welles's Chimes at Midnight?

:D

Certainly my favourite Shakespeare on film - but it is not 'one of the plays' - and it might have Welles as the ultimate Falstaff - but doesn't quite have the technical brilliance of Othello.
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