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Hamlet Video Critique

Hamlet Video Critique

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Published by: hchu011 on Mar 15, 2011
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Hong ChungRyan Gallagher AP Literature13 March 2011Hamlet Video CritiqueIn perhaps one of the most riveting scenes from Shakespeare’s classic play,Hamlet, protagonist Hamlet and Ophelia share an encounter that explores and brings intoquestion the essence of masculinity. Beyond the textual exterior of Hamlet’s blatantbashing of Ophelia- the question of his genuine intentions is brought into light. KennethBranagh’s 1996 cinematic version of Hamlet depicts Hamlet as more than a lover jadedby the opposite sex, but perhaps a deeply troubled young man unable to overtly expresshimself with the burden of revenge on his shoulders. The complexity of the sceneexplores Hamlet’s sublime message of loath- not for Ophelia, but for himself. Jilted bythe cowardice he finds within himself, Hamlet puts on a façade of strength and resolve infront of Ophelia (and her father) to counter his internal struggle to preserve what ever isleft of his fragmented manhood- consequently denying himself love.The scene opens with Hamlet- eyes wide open and glimmering with intrigue as thesight of Ophelia catches his attention from across the room. He smiles, and slowly walksover to the vision of his lady against the backdrop of a majestic foyer. As he approachesOphelia, the sweet melodramatic sounds of music warms up the movie picture- indicatingto the audience the undeniable romantic spark that ignites between Hamlet and Ophelia atthe sight of each other. As Hamlet and Ophelia stand face to face- their eyes gleaming
with softness for each other, Opelia asks, “How does your honor for this many a day(90)?” A rather general “How do you do” question, but it was in the manner in whichOphelia asked Hamlet, so soft and whispery- so intimate. The longing in Ophelia’s voiceis amplified rather ironically by the intimacy manifested in her speech. And if it wasn’talready obvious that the two characters share a romantic bond- Hamlet answers Ophelia’s(general) question with a few fumbles in his voice. Perhaps stricken by his feelings for the lady, young Hamlet finds himself stuttering to give her a proper answer. Theexchange carried with a few awkward laughs are subtle implications of innocent ‘puppylove’. To intensify the burning flames of romance further, Hamlet stops his fumblingspeech to reach out to Ophelia and hold her in a tight embrace- followed by a passionateand romantic kiss. This opening act is symbolic- for it shows a more vulnerable side toHamlet- his apparent weakness for Ophelia. A weakness that later he tries to combat withwords of spite and hate.The scene takes a turn for the worst as Hamlet stuns Ophelia with complete flip of emotion. As Ophelia hands over the “remembrances (93)” of Hamlet’s, he quicklysmacks the item out of her hand. Stunned, Ophelia stands as Hamlet assumes a bitter andnasty persona, he snaps at her, “Are you honest (102)?” and “Are you fair (104)?”- quick to question her wholesome intentions. However, Branagh manifests a whole newinterpretation of the text, on the surface Hamlet seems to be fuming- however his voice iscracking, as if he were on the verge of tears. The hesitancy and discrepancy withinHamlet’s voice and words allude to the suggestion that perhaps Hamlet is not beingentirely truthful with his sentiments towards Ophelia. Ophelia’s complete shock at thebelligerent nature of Hamlet’s speech indicates that this cruel side of Hamlet is something
that is completely new to her. As Hamlet continues with how Ophelia’s “beauty (110)”has “transformed (111)” into “his likeness (112)”- suggesting how one’s beauty caneasily turn one into a ‘whore’ but it can be contrary to it eliciting goodness. Hamlet’srambling takes a dramatic pause as the scene is drowned out by powerful piano chordsthat consume the silence. In the duration of the dramatic pause- Hamlet’s facialexpression resumes a gentler, more docile look as his voice cracks again confessing that“I did love you once (114).” The continuing shifts in tone and action leads one to believethat Hamlet is struggling to be cruel to Ophelia. Hamlet attempts to degrade her intobeing a strumpet- but when confessions of his own affection toward her come out, hecannot control his emotions (his vulnerability), he is completely conflicted as to what hetruly desires. As the scene continues, the pang of pain plastered across Ophelia’s faceignites waves of sympathy as she witnesses the love of her life completely rejecting her.In the face of dejection, Ophelia stands silently stunned- an indication that her love for Hamlet was real, something more substantial than a speculated fling, and that aboveanything she is hurt.Continuing on his tirade of how he was never in love with Ophelia- Hamletbegins to profusely articulate why he is completely wrong for her. Hamlet states that he is“very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck than I have thoughtsto put them in (124-125).” All of those flawed qualities should more or less convinceOphelia that she must not love him. While he rambles about his faults, Hamlet grabsOphelia- almost jolting her as he screams in her face. His actions implying as if he werewarning her- to shake some sense into her that he is indeed bad for her. His screams moreor less come across as more like ‘pleas’- pleas to please get away from him and perhaps

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