A promising start to Gregory Doran’s modern interpretation of Hamlet, with interesting details emphasizing the up to date twist, leads to high expectations for the rest of the film – which were sadly not fulfilled.
Though the concept and how it is presented through the use of modern technology, such as security cameras, was interesting, the acting was overly extravagant bordering on ridiculous, and the use of the original language in comparison to the modern setting led to much confusion.
The acting in itself is better suited to the stage; being far too exaggerated for the screen. David Tennant, the apparent star of the show, creates a childish and bratty interpretation of Hamlet, and on occasion acts more like a psychotic rabbit than a severely depressed individual. His acting is reminiscent of his time on Doctor Who, suggesting perhaps an inability to play any other role.
Tennant is not the only weak link amongst the ensemble. Mariah Gale, in the role of Ophelia, causes a somewhat normal girl to be simply weak, pathetic and uninteresting. Her descent into madness – although still over the top and simply absurd at times, with completely unnecessary moments such as her stripping – however, is mildly more convincing than Hamlet’s own being obviously grief-ridden rather than psychotic and petulant.
Although the acting is weak and unsuited for film, there are some diamonds in the rough in this true tragedy. One particularly outstanding moment is the infamous to be or not to be soliloquy – in a moment of directorial genius, Doran framed the scene as though Tennant were speaking directly to the audience, thus breaking the fourth wall and having an incredibly direct and therefore moving impact on the viewer.
The close up used consistently forces the viewer to solely focus on Hamlet’s words and nothing else. A recurring motif throughout the film, it is perhaps the only way the audience become truly engaged with the narrative and the characters. Hamlet’s ‘Am I a coward?’ directed straight at the viewer, causes them to question and evaluate his character in what may be one of the only truly interesting moments of the film.
Disappointingly, this moment is followed by what may be one of the worst scenes in this three hour long travesty. Hamlet’s attack on Ophelia is ridiculous at best, with Hamlet simply appearing like an escapee from a mental asylum, rather than someone suffering from severe depression and wracked by grief and anger. Ophelia, to be frank, comes across as pathetic and irritating, leading to little sympathy from the viewer.
Another point to the ever growing tally of Doran’s failings is the decision to cast Sir Patrick Stewart as both Claudius and the ghost. A simply idiotic decision, it leads to both confusion and a lack of real contrast between the pair. With few differences in the representation of both characters, the audience simply sees them as two alike characters – rather than the stark contrast they are supposed to be seen as.
Although originally promising, it is clear that Doran’s conversion of the stage production has failed, and miserably at that. With the acting excessively wild and unrestrained, a decent enough idea is utterly destroyed, the clever editing and staging doing little to make up for the travesty unfolding before us.