Hamlet (1996): Kenneth Branagh's Epic Adaptation of Shakespeare's Tragic Masterpiece

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The movie, Hamlet (1996)

The movie, Hamlet (1996), centers on Hamlet (Branagh), who is the Prince of Denmark and mourning his father’s death (Brian Blessed) and the marriage of his mother Getrude (Julie Christie) to his uncle. Hamlet feels betrayed by his mother’s marriage to his uncle, Claudius, just after the death of his father. What’s worse, a spirit haunts Elsinor Castle and when confronted by Hamlet, the ghost claims to be the late king’s spirit that will be on earth for a certain period of time. The spirit further claims that Claudius used a deadly poison to claim both the crown and the queen. Once Hamlet hears about this, he sets on a path to revenge and hence either begins his carefully planned act to appear mad or spirals into madness.

Appeal and Themes

Hamlet is appealing due to its complex characters as well as its tragic and twisty plot. The movie deals with issues such as revenge, treachery, love, ghosts, revenge, politics, madness and sex, both figurative and real. Interestingly, the movie still has in it good old-fashioned adventure, and humor despite the weight and depth of themes. Hamlet can make someone cry, laugh, cheer and hiss. There are also famous lines from the movie that make it quite memorable. For instance, “To be, or not to be, that is the question” and ‘To thine own self be true.” The ambiguity of everyone’s actions and motives further make the movie so intriguing. The nephew of the King of Norway (Rufus Sewell) is putting an army together to attack Sweden. Hamlet’s lover has been denied from having any form of contact with him. Two former schoolmates of Hamlet have been brought by Claudius to help him betray their friend.

Visual Sense and Setting

The amazing visual sense of the movie makes it one of the best ever produced. From the beginning to the end, the movie is filled with costumes, startling camera angles, production values and vibrant colors that make it one of the most interesting. The setting and dressing resemble those of the nineteenth century yet there is no part of the film that is anachronistic. Additionally, an important aspect of the cinema is the use of place and time to augment the story and that is successfully accomplished by Branagh. For instance, the Elsinore’s terraced throne room is stunning to the extent that it overshadows Hamlet’s pain, Claudius guilt and Gertrude’s uncertainty. There are also various scenes that were quite interesting and captured the attention of most viewers. The first is Gertrude’s and Claudius’s departure under flower petals as Hamlet watches. The second is when Hamlet has an encounter with his father’s spirit. The third is the scene at the graveyard where the final act opens up. Finally, the climax is marred with adventure and drama.

Top-notch International Cast

The top-notch international cast also play a major role in the success of the film. Richard Briers brings intelligence and guile in his interpretation of Polonius. Derek Jacob’s play as Claudius is cultured and politically savvy to the extent that is deserves as Oscar recognition. Brian Blessed enhances the presence, malevolence and power of the ghost that talks to Hamlet. Julie Christie perfectly plays the role of Gertrude and helps us understand why Claudius ended up murdering the king to win her over. Branagh is the undisputed star due to the emotion as well as introspective and contemplative quality to the performance. Hamlet (1996) is clearly one of the most appealing films that left most of its viewers in a grip of wave.

September 25, 2023

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