Which Hamlet Is The Best?

As everyone knows, Hamlet by William Shakespeare has been one of the most famous plays written throughout our time. There have been countless stage productions and several film productions of Hamlet. In my ENG4U ( Grade 12 Academic English) class we have watched and compared four different film versions of Hamlet. The main scenes (up until this point) that we have analyzed and discussed are; Hamlet’s ” To be or not to be” speech; and Act III scene i when Ophelia and Hamlet “bump in” to each other in the lobby.

The different actors from these films which play Hamlet’s character are, Campbell Scott, David Tennant, Mel Gibson, and Kenneth Branagh. By watching all of these actor’s “To be or not to be” soliloquies, I fount Scott’s to be one of my favorites. Gibson’s entire scene has such good setting, location, and had a lot of potential, but I personally feel that the constant moving around, laying on the different graves, and laying on the ground was just too much and made the entire scene seem fake. The scene had a great set up and could have been one of the greatest versions of Hamlet‘s ” To be or not to be” scenes if Gibson was to maybe stay in only one or two spots and have more of the camera focus on him and his facial expressions rather  than his movements. With this version, I found it difficult to even debate whether Hamlet as a character has really gone insane or if he is just faking it. To me, this version only really emphasizes the degree of exhaustion that Hamlet is feeling at this point.

Click on the image of the movie poster to go the video of Mel Gibson's Hamlet "To be or not to be" scene

Click on the image of the movie poster to go the video of Mel Gibson’s Hamlet “To be or not to be” scene

 

One of the major flaws (that I personally found) in Gibson’s soliloquy was the amount of unnecessary movement that was included.  David Tennant’s version is the complete opposite because  for the entire speech, he is standing at a corner, half behind half beside, and it is a constant close up on his face which shows all of his emotion and expressions as a character. Now, I understand that I said I wish that in Gibson’s version there would be more close-ups, but I feel like the CONSTANT close up and not even a few instants of long shots didn’t quite help the scene either. This version of Hamlet does do a good job of showing the tension in Hamlet`s character of acting insane and actually going insane. The fact that he is leaning behind and in front of the corner can represent his own mental struggle between faking and turning insane.  I do feel that Tennant’s version was better than Gibson’s; however, I believe that if a few different shots and/or camera angles were to be added then it could have easily been one of the best versions of Hamlet‘s soliloquies.

Click on the movie poster to see David Tennant's version of Hamlet's "To be or not to be" scene

Click on the movie poster to see David Tennant’s version of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” scene

 

One of my personal favorite versions of Hamlet`s “To be or not to be” soliloquies would have to be Kenneth Branagh’s version. I feel that in this version, Hamlet is shown to be more conniving than actually insane. This version supports the idea that Hamlet is only faking insanity around others because if you were to actually slow down the film, you can see that as Hamlet is opening the door, the sound and movement from Polonius’s and Claudius’s two-way mirror is still going, which would make Hamlet suspect that someone is watching him. Also, it seems to be too much of a coincidence that he would just randomly choose to give his speech in front of the mirror that Polonius and Claudius are hiding behind.  In addition to all of this, when Hamlet first walks into the hall, he looks around with an expression on his face that gives off the sense that he’s realized there are people watching him and that he’s planning out how to just add to their ‘entertainment’.

click on the movie poster to see Kenneth Branagh's version of Hamlet's "Too be or not to be" scene

click on the movie poster to see Kenneth Branagh’s version of Hamlet’s “Too be or not to be” scene

 

Last but not least, one of the best film performances of Hamlet (in my opinion), is Campbell Scott’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy. This version really shows how Hamlet has truly gone insane from all of the events in the past two months in his life. From a technical point of view, this scene has a large variety of angles and lighting techniques that enhance the scene. Also, the way that Scott uses the painting of Claudius shows his true hatred towards his uncle/step-father, and how angry he is about his father’s death.

I wasn’t able to find a link to Campbell Scott’s version of Hamlet because I think only purchased versions have been sold and there are no online versions.

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2 thoughts on “Which Hamlet Is The Best?

  1. I love your pictures and links! How’s it going> One more blog post left, eh?

    I want to get onto a good video editing software (a free one of course) and create a compilation of my favourite parts of all the Hamlets. I would take a combination of Kenneth Branagh and Cambell Scott because of the soliloquy as well as the part with Ophelia that follows. I really like what the respective directors have chosen to do in both cases and find that they bring different elements of the scene to life. I think Hamlet is a subjective experience though and what ends up in these movies is what the director pictures while reading the play and that is unique to each individual person. I think that is why there are so many different versions of Hamlet and why people can pick and choose favourites among them. Everybody is so different and that’s awesome!

  2. I think that all of the different Hamlet version were pretty well played from the character Hamlet’s point of view; however, I think that the way Hamlet’s actor connects with Ophelia’s actress also adds a huge part. For example, in the David Tennant version, no one in our class could take it seriously because of the terrible chemistry the two had. Also, she was acting so strange that it made everyone focus on that rather than what was actually going on in the scene.

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