Friday, April 9, 2010


Hamlet. It is one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written. I am absolutely astounded every time I read it, and this semester is my first opportunity to "study" it. Sadly, it is in a rather rushed, undisciplined class with an interesting but too-nice teacher (female. interpret at will). Nevertheless, nuggets of goodness leap out at me every now and again, and I revel in their discovery.

Still. Despite my new perspectives, and my complete adoration and obsession with the Ophelia character (much to the disappointment of my feminist peers), I follow the masses as I am drawn to THE speech. I have pondered the to be or not to be for a pretty long time, actually, ever since I was about nine or so and my mother quoted some of it to me. I remember driving home and asking her about the reference, and she told me from whence it came. She quoted what she knew, and then brushed it off by saying Shakespeare was hard to understand. I furrowed my little brow and said "He's talking about suicide. To die or not to exist." To not exist. That is just it. That is the power of that speech-- he doesn't want to die and go to greener pastures, necessarily. He wants the end to all things. He wants eternal rest. No dreams. No afterlife. NO perchance to dream shite. The burdens of life are far too much for him, the burden of his cyclical mind is something I can relate to, and something that makes the appeal of suicide all the more alluring. If you end your life, you will end all that cyclical nonsense, right? But what if you don't? What if it continues, spinning into space? The only relief Hamlet sees is nothingness, but there is no guarantee of such a thing.

For this reason, I really like Gibson's performance of said speech, as he wanders a tomb. It's the moment that he moves from to sleep.... perchance to dream. aye, there's the rub, where you see it in his face. No, not that, please not that. How tiresome. Actually, despite many amazing actors taking on this role, overall I'm mostly fond of Gibson. He captures something in Hamlet that I love.

Branagh is too hammy, first of all, and while his delivery of Shakespeare is AMAZING, and his film version of Hamlet is the best by far, I don't like his interpretation of Hamlet the man. He's too cold. Where Burton has anger and power and Olivier is consumed, Brannagh is in between-- a reassurance. No doubt, whatsoever, just strange determination. When he says to sleep, perchance to dream, it's as though he's saying, "Eh well. So what. Fuck that." Of course, this reminds me that as a character Hamlet just ain't the most likable guy out there.

Olivier's Hamlet is really mamby-pamby, melancholy, revolving completely around indecisiveness. Cop out. He also removes the relevancy from Hamlet and makes him somewhat of a victim. Ehh.

Burton... I love. Seeing him perform must have been the most amazing experience. Regardless, I find his Hamlet and especially his choices with this speech to be far too blustery. Not that Hamlet, the self-involved prick, couldn't be blustery, but I just don't buy it myself.

Kline may be my second-favorite Hamlet. He gets the inflection and he gets the weird humor of it as well. The irony in madness. I like that. I wish I could see the full performance rather than just clips on youtube. bad. Worst Hamlet I've ever seen in the worst adaptation I've ever seen. Although I do kind of like Julia Stiles's take on Ophelia (I don't prefer it, but it's interesting and sad) and LOVE LOVE LOVE Bill Murray as Polonius and Liev Schrieber (lookin' hot btw) as Laertes, Hawke sucks the life out of it and makes it a moody, GEN X kinda thing. Blaaaaah, Hawke, I hate you.

.... that was my intelligent comment of the week.


Sonja said...

I actually find that I prefer male English teachers myself (I've just liked the ones I've had better than the few female teachers). Which is odd since most of the people in my english class tend to be women.

Mel Gibson's performance as Hamlet freaked me out! Perhaps I was just too uncultured to appreciate it. ;)

Katrina said...

ahh! same here! on average my english classes have about 3 guys in them, but all of the best English teachers seem to be male. My film classes are a different story though, it seems alot more 50/50 there.

Mel Gibson IS freaky! I just like his tone best... I'm really in the minority, though. Most people seem to like Branagh or Olivier. That's the beauty of the subjectivity of art and performance, I don't think it has anything to do with being cultured, which of course you are.