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Directors Kenneth Branagh and Franco Zeffirelli have both released fantastic productions of William Shakespeare's Hamlet. These directors have come up with two contrasting movie versions

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Introduction

BRANAGH IS TRIUMPHANT WITH HAMLET Directors Kenneth Branagh and Franco Zeffirelli have both released fantastic productions of William Shakespeare's Hamlet. These directors have come up with two contrasting movie versions of the same play by manipulating film conventions in their own ways. The greatest aspect of watching the Mel Gibson's and Branagh's films together is noticing the subtle differences them. Both versions address, or evade, some of the most controversial issues in interpreting this play: Hamlet's possible madness and the nunnery scene, the chamber scene in which the ghost appears, and Ophelia's madness along with her suicidal demise. However, by the gradual development of the vicious themes of betrayal, revenge and death, Branagh's movie is much more effective in translating the theatrical Hamlet into a cinematic masterpiece. Branagh's production is more enhanced and he successfully masters the role of Hamlet. The talented actors, excellent direction and magnificent set designs help Branagh's movie excel over Zeffirelli's version. Zeffirelli strays too far from the original text and layout of the play unlike Branagh. The foremost thing to enhance Branagh's film is its star cast. Firstly, the actors chosen for Branagh's movie captivate the essence of Hamlet by penetrating themselves into the soul of their respective characters. ...read more.

Middle

In contrast, Alan Bates as Claudius in Zeffirelli's adaptation fails to depict such emotions in the Final scene. Overall, the cast in Branagh's film gave stronger performances than those of Zeffirelli's version. In addition to the star cast, Branagh surpassed Zeffirelli in direction too. In terms of direction, Branagh cuts and edits very little from the play and his correct sequencing of the scenes facilitates the development of the main themes of betrayal, revenge and death which helps the viewers to get essence of the play. In Zeffirelli's version, Hamlet says Ophelia "Get thee to a nunnery" (III, i, 121) before commencing the Mouse Trap where both Ophelia and Hamlet are seated in the audience. This confuses Ophelia and she responds with a blank puzzlement. In the Branagh's version, this dialogue is delivered when Ophelia is sent to spy on Hamlet by Claudius and Polonius. She feels exposed to danger and thus responds by getting scared, and later expresses her pity for him. Thus, the audience realizes that she is betraying her own love but is helpless. This kind of reaction best suits her character. Besides this, when Hamlet killed Polonius in the Chamber scene, Branagh's film focused more on Polonius' body in the pool of blood. ...read more.

Conclusion

The red colour associated with blood foreshadows the catastrophe involving the deaths of the chief characters. Additionally, in the Chamber scene, when the ghost of King Hamlet arrives, the audience can see candles burning in the background. This illustrates that his soul is in purgatory and is dying to seek revenge. The audience can comprehend that he felt betrayed and urges for justice to let his soul rest in peace. In contrast, Zeffirelli's version failed to use such techniques. However, it can be argued that the lack of dim lighting in the castle made it look artificial for the time period in which Hamlet was written. But the bright palace with the hall of mirrors, chessboard like tiles and red carpets indeed makes the audience feel that indeed "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" (I, iv, 90). This is because though the castle is lit, its decorative represents negativity. On the whole, the sets in Branagh's version help to captivate the essence of the play better. In conclusion, Branagh's narration helps to realize the themes of betrayal, revenge and death in depth than Zeffirelli's movie. The remarkable performances of the star cast, outstanding direction and splendid set designs makes Branagh's Hamlet better than Zeffirelli's. Branagh indeed made Hamlet immortal for the generations to come. ...read more.

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