I have viewed three different versions of the play Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare. The first film I watched was directed by Franco Zefferelli, and starred Mel Gibson as Hamlet. The next film I saw was directed by, and also starred Kenneth Branagh. The final film I viewed was directed by Michael Almereyda, and starred Ethan Hawke as Hamlet. Firstly, I am going to focus on how the ghost scene of the Gibson version was produced. This scene is set around the same time the play was written.
It takes place on the roof of the castle, and it fits in well with the language.
Hamlet is wearing a black cloak, which shows that he is in mourning over his father’s death. He is also wearing a sword. He is running up steps, following the ghost of his father. The sound is emphasised on footsteps and breathing, which creates a feeling of tension. There is eerie, high-pitched music that can be heard throughout the scene.
This music almost seems like the wind. The lighting is very subtle, like the moonlight shining on the ramparts of the castle. A very good lighting effect is when Hamlet is listening to his father’s spirit.
On one side of his face it is very light, yet the other side is dark, and you can’t see his features very well. There are not many special effects in this scene, and the ghost doesn’t seem very supernatural. There are a lot of close up shots, which follow the conversation during the scene.
The actors deliver the lines in a specific way. They use different facial expressions and gestures. The ghost looks very distressed, upset and helpless when he is about to speak. Hamlet looks frightened and shocked. His breathing gets heavier as the scene goes on. The ghost begins to talk in a whisper.
It seems as if he is about to break into tears as he speaks about how his spirit is doomed to stay in purgatory for a certain time. Hamlet hears his father talking of how he was murdered, and a close up shows him wiping tears away from his eyes wit his hands. Hamlet is so upset that he has resorted to weeping. When the ghost says, “With all my imperfections on my head. Oh horrible, oh horrible, most horrible” his voice breaks and he is holding his hands above his head. This is a sign of his vulnerability. The ghost says his final words to his son. “Adieu, adieu, adieu. Remember me.
He reaches out with his arms, as if he wishes he could hug his son, then disappears. Hamlet falls to his knees in despair and cries. Hamlet gets up and walks down some steps. A window in the roof reveals the dining hall, in which Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, and uncle, Claudius, are eating at a party. The light shines on Hamlet’s face from below. We can hear the laughter and voices of these people in the background. Hamlet is very angry with his uncle for killing his father. He begins to swing his sword around, hitting walls with anger.
He shouts out in disgust, “Oh most pernicious woman! as he is upset with his mother for marrying the man who killed her husband. He is almost bellowing these words, “Oh villain, villain, smiling damned villain! ” He is determined to get revenge. Hamlet holds up his sword as if it is a crucifix whilst reciting these words. “Now to my word: It is “Adieu, adieu. Remember me. ” I have sworn’t. ” This shows he has sworn to God and his dead father that he will avenge his father’s murder. I am now going to consider how the Branagh film portrayed the ghost scene. This version of Hamlet is set in the mid eighteenth century, and the language doesn’t exactly match the setting.
The ghost scene is set in some misty woods, and opens showing Hamlet dressed in a black outfit, running and jumping over logs and bushes. He is delivering his first few lines in a very panicky, rushed manner. It is winter in the scene, which is associated with death and depression. This is the most mythical and paranormal version of the scene. The lighting shows that it is night, yet the fog shows up in the moonlight with a blueish tint. This blue tint connotates cold, ice and death. There are many special effects in this scene. We see flames, mist, the earth opening up, and a bubbling river.
All of these could suggest an opening to Hell. There are lots of tracking shots showing Hamlet running to find his father’s ghost, with many cuts to flames and mist. This helps to create tension, as the audience have to deal with many images in a short space of time. The ghost finally appears wearing a helmet and a soldier’s outfit. Hamlet jumps back in surprise when he sees the ghost. The apparition has a big grey beard, and his eyes are whitened out, which makes him look scary, mystical, and helps to show that he is dead.
The ghost begins to speak. I am thy father’s spirit” He has a haunting voice. It is very husky, and like a loud whisper. During the conversation, there are many cuts and close ups between the two actors. There are lots of close ups just of the mouths or eyes. This makes everything seem more secretive, as they are speaking only to each other. No one else is supposed to hear what the ghost has to say. The ghost begins to speak of his murder. “Sleeping within my orchard, my custom always of the afternoon. ” Here, a flashback of the murder begins. The orchard is snowy, and very light, as it is day.
We see the Old Hamlet sleeping, and some feet walking towards him. We then see the king hold his ear and fall to the ground, dead. We also see some flashbacks of when the king was alive. He lived in a very expensive, rich-looking palace. He and his wife are both wearing bright red outfits. This could connotates the passion between Hamlet’s father and his “most seeming virtuous queen. ” Another flashback shows Gertrude and Claudius playing a game in the palace. It is in slow motion, which emphasises the passion between them. Whilst we see these flashbacks, creepy eerie music is playing.
The ghost says, “Let not the royal bed of Denmark be a couch for luxury and damned incest. ” When he hears the word “incest,” a close up of Hamlet shows him disgusted at the thought. The ghost reaches for his son’s hand, and then disappears, leaving Hamlet on his knees in sadness. Hamlet says, “O all you host of Heaven! O earth! What else? ” It sounds like his is about to cry. He remains quite calm, although we can tell he is very upset. The scene ends with Hamlet swearing to get revenge, holding his sword like a crucifix. This is a very similar ending to the Gibson version, only much calmer, and with less anger.
I am now going to look at the treatment of the ghost scene in the Hawke version of the play. This film is set in present day, meaning that the language is very peculiar for the era. The scene is set in Hamlet’s modern flat. The room is quite messy. This shows that Hamlet has been so distraught about his father’s death that he doesn’t care about the cleanliness of his apartment. Hamlet is wearing black, modern clothes. It is dark night outdoors, as we can see through the windows. A lamp is switched on inside, and it is mirrored in the glass doors, so it seems lighter.
Hamlet’s father’s spirit comes in wearing a black outfit, holding a black jacket. He also has a red tie, which connotates danger, blood and anger. He is holding a cloth, which he occasionally uses to touch his ear with. This shows that blood is slowly pouring from his fatal wound, and he has to clean it up from time to time. The ghost seems much more real in this scene. There is nothing supernatural or mysterious. The spirit begins to talk. “My hour is almost come. ” He speaks in a loud whisper. As he walks further into the room, a television can be seen in the background.
On the screen, buildings can be seen getting blown up, and exploding. This could be there to represent Hell. Throughout the scene, dramatic music can be heard softly in the background. There are many shots showing side views of the two actors. The ghost walks around in circles, which confuses Hamlet. The ghost seems almost angry. Hamlet cries out “Oh god! ” in a very bewildered, troubled manner. The ghost pins his son up against the wall, trapping him so that h must listen to what he has to say. The ghost tells Hamlet about his death. Hamlet’s face shows expressions of confusion and fear.
Once he has finished talking, the ghost hugs Hamlet very tightly, and then vanishes. The dramatic music becomes much louder when they hug. The scene ends with Hamlet looking shocked, as his father has completely disappeared. This version is very different to the other adaptations I have studied. It is a lot shorter, and most of the text has been edited out. I personally preferred the film in which Mel Gibson played Hamlet. This is the first film I discussed. I enjoyed it more because the setting seemed more realistic than the other two, and it wasn’t too supernatural that it looked false.
Mel Gibson portrays himself as Hamlet very accurately. He is anguished and tearful as he hears about how his father was assassinated, and he is very outraged when he sees his incestuous mother and uncle. This is how I think Hamlet should react. If I were him, I would be very distressed and would never want to see my uncle again. I thought that the actor playing the ghost was good. He looked and sounded very vulnerable and upset, which is how I imagine the ghost to be like. I quite enjoyed the Hawke film as well. I thought that, even though the language was very out of date, it worked well.
I didn’t enjoy the Branagh version as much, as I thought that the costumes were not very realistic. I am now going to imagine that I have the chance to present the ghost scene. I would set it in Shakespearean times. It would be on the roof of a typical stone castle. The lighting would be quite dark, as I would want it to be set in night time, but I think a blue tinted light would be relatively effective. It would help to create a feeling of suspense in the atmosphere. There would be a very dim spotlight on the main part of the castle, where most of the conversation in the scene would take place.
Hamlet would be wearing quite plain, dark clothes, and the ghost would be wearing a more high-class outfit, which would show is authority as the deceased king. The spirit would not have any props, but Hamlet might have a sword. Hamlet will be running along the roof of the castle, looking for his father, who we can hear say, “My hour is almost come when I to sulph’rous and tormenting flames must render up myself. ” His voice should be very deep and hoarse. It will be quite a chilling and creepy voice. I would like Hamlet to act quite frightened and jump back when he first sees his father, who will touch Hamlet on the back.
There won’t be many special effects, as I don’t think it is necessary. The camera will follow the conversation using many cuts. This will also help to create tension in the scene. I would have a flashback of the murder. Hamlet’s father will be seen sleeping in a summer orchard. There will be lots of trees, and green grass. This will show that he had very good living conditions, and didn’t deserve to die. Hamlet’s uncle would be seen pouring a liquid into his brother’s ear. Then we would see the king wake and fall to the ground.
He will look as if he is in pain, holding his ear, and looking terrified and anguished, knowing that his brother has killed him. The ghost will finish his speech and walk off, slowly fading away. He will leave his son in tears. Hamlet will look shocked for a minute, then come to his senses, and get angry. He will shout out in rage, “O most pernicious woman! O villain, villain, smiling damned villain! ” At the end he will say, “So uncle, there you are. ” in a tempting way, as to show that he will get vengeance. The ghost scene in the Gibson film is set in medieval times, and fits in well with the language and costumes.
The Branagh film is set in more modern times, around the eighteenth century. The costumes are unrealistic, and the scene is very supernatural and paranormal. The Hawke version of the ghost scene is set in present day and is the most realistic scene I have viewed. I would have my production set in the same era as the Gibson version, and I would use flashbacks, like in the Branagh version. Some of the shots and lighting effects I would use would be totally original, and not taken from any of the accounts I have watched, for example the blue lighting effect.