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Compare the opening sections of Kenneth Branagh's and Franco Zeffirelli's film versions of Hamlet.

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Introduction

Compare the opening sections of Kenneth Branagh's and Franco Zeffirelli's film versions of Hamlet. So exactly why is it that Hamlet is still so popular with our modern day audiences when it was written for the na�ve audiences of the 17th century? Personally I believe this is because Hamlet deals with many fresh issues including corruption, love and the supernatural, which still appeal to contemporary audiences. These issues are also present in many films made recently e.g. 'The Exorcist,' 'The Others' and 'Sixth Sense' all these films are also popular. Shakespeare's Hamlet is a play filled with revenge, ambition and faithlessness. It was written in the 17th century though Shakespeare set it long before his own time. Hamlet is significant as the first of Shakespeare's four great tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. People are still entertained by ordinary passions and ambitions with which a modern day audience can still identify and relate to. Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play due to the fact that it has to deal with the complex and complicated moral dilemma the viewers find Hamlet facing, whether to avenge the death of his father or not. There are many interpretations of Shakespeare's Hamlet, some say the Lion King is based on Hamlet and though there may not be a direct and obvious link there are many similarities, like the murder of the king for the uncle to take the throne. I've looked at two very diverse directors, who both interpret Hamlet's issues and moral dilemmas very differently. I have focused on Kenneth Branagh's and Franco Zeffirelli's versions of the play and analysed the obvious and hidden differences. We see Branagh is very true to Shakespeare's opening yet Zeffirelli's makes up his own beginning and uses text from other parts of the play. At the very beginning of Branagh's version the viewers see the words 'William Shakespeare's' in a Bold, prominent red, which stands out against the black background. ...read more.

Middle

We can hear horrid stereotypical choral singing, this is meant to make the ghost even more frightening. The camera is looking up to the ghost making it appear bigger than human form. The camera quickly cuts back to the men running through a large magnificent gate. This is a high angled shot and is made to look like the ghost's point of view looking down on the men. The music carries on getting frantic as the men continue to run away from the ghost holding their spears. This is quite ironic as one, they are running away from the ghost not attacking it and two, their spears could not harm the ghost anyway. The camera chases them as they run across the lit drive-way and up into the courtyard. They end up sheltering behind a large stone structure and we once again get a high angled shot of their quivering bodies. The camera sweeps up and we once again get a short sharp shot of the ghost. Behind the ghost there is a light source to make the ghost appear even more unearthly and threatening. The camera then sweeps down as the music gets faster and more upbeat. The guards encourage Horatio to speak to the ghost and he begins to shout up to where we believe the ghost is standing. We never get a long shot of the ghost, Branagh uses the men's scared faces and trembling voices to make the ghost appear more frightening. The camera cuts one last time to the ghost which appears to be moving though an intelligent person would see it as just the camera pulling away, there is more choral singing as the ghost moves away and disappears. We then hear the men frantically talking amongst themselves. The first thing your notice about Zeffirelli's Hamlet is not so much what you see but more what you hear. ...read more.

Conclusion

He's obviously upset, troubled and hurt about his discovery of the relationship between his mother and dead father's brother. As Hamlet leaves the camera pulls back and shows us a medium angled shot of the crypt, the people around and Hamlet. As he walks through the door his head is bowed and his black hood is up, this shows he is still as distressed as ever even after his father has been laid to rest. As Hamlet walks through the stone door the scene slowly fades into a black screen. Both directors obviously have different intentions about what their opening tells the viewer. Branagh is set on creating atmosphere and playing with the viewer's minds. There is next to no character building in Branagh's version, but I don't believe he needs to introduce the guards in detail anyway. Zeffirelli on the other hand does not concentrate on either character building or atmosphere, but gives the audience a successful balance of the two. I personally prefer Zeffirelli's version as, though he makes up his own scene, he introduces the plays background, including the relationships surrounding Hamlet and peoples status in the castle. Though I would not condemn Branagh's version, you could see a lot of time an effort had gone into making everything perfect, the only thing I thought spoilt it was one of the guard's American accent with was very out of place. My favourite part of Zeffirelli's opening was when Gertrude removed the flower from her hair kissed it and laid it on her deceased husband's coffin. I could see a lot of thought had gone into these few seconds and everything from her facial expressions to her discrete movements were carefully planned out. After finishing this essay I have found myself carefully analysing all films I watch, however annoying for the people I'm watching it with, and I have realised how important the few opening seconds of a film really are. Whether a director uses them to create atmosphere or to introduce characters, they make all the difference of capturing the viewer's attention or it being turned off. ...read more.

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