October 28, 2014
Hamlet Film Analysis: Interpretation on Ophelia’s Madness
Act 4 Scene 5 uses the controversial debate of Ophelia’s innocence and her delusional grief about her dead father open to interpretation among various films. This scene asks directors to decide what theme the scene is more focused on, whether it be Ophelia’s relationship with Hamlet, or the death of her father Polonius. Both the Tennant film, and the 1996 Branagh film center this scene around Ophelia’s relationship with Hamlet and her crazed state of mind deriving from it. However, they show her emotions in different ways by using clothing, tone and pitch, camera angles, and added in extras apart from the original text. Essentially, both scenes point out the same ideas, but portray them in different ways using the original text as a concrete script but adding material elements to enhance their main focus.
The 1996 Branagh film starts the scene with Ophelia laying in the fetal position in a strait jacket. This first glimpse of Ophelia sets the tone for the rest of the scene. By laying curled in a ball, the director promotes Ophelia’s vulnerability and weakness in this moment. Using the strait jacket implies to the viewer that Ophelia is delusional and possibly dangerous, but her voice is soft as she talks to Gertrude, giving off the impression that she is confused. The director has her pant and struggle to get out of her strait jacket with a fearful look on her face to show that she is unaware of her surroundings, testifying for her insanity. As the scene goes on, Ophelia’s voice increases in volume as she gets angrier. The original text has Ophelia singing about her “true love” (Ham 4. 5. 23) and her father who is “dead and gone…his heels a stone” (Ham 4. 5. 30, 32), but the director has Ophelia speak these lines instead of sing them to emphasize the importance of her insanity in this scene, and to build up the suspense of a later song she...
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