The Three Versions of Hamlet

            William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" has been filmed and performed on stage numerous times. What is interesting is the distinct differences a director or screenwriter can create in the same play through film. Three versions of Hamlet, the classic, long-time favorite starring and directed by Laurence Olivier, the 1996 version starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh and the most recent version, released in 2000 starring and directed by Campbell Scott. All three versions tell the same story, but with different nuances which change the feel of the movie. These most obvious differences can be seen in each movies setting and time period, script and the manner in which the individual characters are portrayed.

             The first difference between the three movies is what strikes the viewer immediately, the setting and time period. The original play was set in Denmark in the 1500s. Olivier's version seems to be set in about the same era. The fact that the castle is lit by candles, the style of the characters wardrobes and the lack of guns as weapons all fall in accurately with the time period originally established by Shakespeare. This Hamlets castle is built of cold stone and seems almost dungeon like, which suits the Hamlet quotation, "Denmark's a prison." Rather well. Being filmed in black and white also lends to the films feeling of another antiquity and moodiness. This dark setting envelops the viewer and works very well with the dark turbulence of Olivier's "Hamlet".

             Branagh's version brings Hamlet into a bit of a more modern time period. First, Hamlet's castle seems to be a bit more modern and designed with the opulence of royalty. The Branagh version uses gas lamps for lighting and there is a pool table in Claudius's room. Also, when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive, they are getting off of a train. There are guns and cannons in this version of Hamlet and when Ophelia goes mad, she is placed in a straight jacket, this puts the date further in time.

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