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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: November ::
Re: Branagh
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1169  Wednesday, 18 November 1998.

[1]     From:   Sarah Hatchuel <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Nov 1998 23:18:09 +0100
        Subj:   Branagh

[2]     From:   Drew Whitehead <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 18 Nov 1998 09:05:30 +1000 (GMT+1000)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1153  Re: Branagh


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sarah Hatchuel <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Nov 1998 23:18:09 +0100
Subject:        Branagh

Andrew Murphy wrote about the "How all occasions" soliloquy:

>But, apart from all of that, the staging of the soliloquy is just plain
>silly -- it presumably is there as something to hang the interval on.

I'm afraid I disagree with you on this topic.

When I first saw that soliloquy, yes, I thought that it was a bit
overstaged and did not suit the intimate feelings that the soliloquy
seemed to offer.  But, in fact, the more I watched the movie, the more I
realized that I had been used to a particular kind of staging and was
unable to adapt my vision to the one of the director. The sequence
actually began to grow on me and now it's become one of my favourite out
of the whole movie. In one single shot, Branagh goes against the
traditional staging of the soliloquy on film : instead of using a
forward move towards the character, he uses a backward traveling shot
that we usually find in epic sequences (see the "Once more unto the
breach" in Olivier's Henry V, for example). With this special use of the
camera, the soliloquy becomes a kind of exhortation, a call to action,
as if Hamlet led Fortinbras' army marching in the background. I don't
say that this is a good or a bad choice. But I do say it is an
interesting one. Moreover, as the camera moves back, we see Hamlet's
body becoming smaller and smaller, dissolving in the snowy landscape, as
if Hamlet was disappearing into space, leaving only his voice to state
his "bloody thoughts".

When we are confronted to an adaptation of Shakespeare on film, I don't
think it is the academic's job to give an opinion and say this sequence
is just plain silly or absolutely wonderful. Let's leave those kinds of
remarks to the film critic. In a Shakespeare movie, what interests me is
what Shakespeare's plays *become* when they are put on film, a medium
for which they were *not* written. Let us objectively see what Branagh,
Olivier, Welles, and the other directors who have adapted Shakespeare
have brought (or removed...) from the plays, what the cinematic
treatment of some texts written for the theatre has created. Let's not
condemn nor praise inconsiderately. Let us analyse and remain objective.

This is just my opinion, of course. But I am always grateful to see that
some film directors have the courage to tackle this difficult task and
put Shakespeare on film, thus giving us the opportunity to see what
happens when Shakespeare is seen through the prism of another medium and
another author, the film director.

Sarah Hatchuel
University of Rouen

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Drew Whitehead <
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Date:           Wednesday, 18 Nov 1998 09:05:30 +1000 (GMT+1000)
Subject: 9.1153  Re: Branagh
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1153  Re: Branagh

Andrew Murphy wrote:

> It's worth asking just what is meant by 'full script'. 'How all
> occasions' appears in Q2 only. What Branagh has filmed is, of course, a
> conflated _Hamlet_, which combines material from both Q2 and F. This, of
> course, serves to problematise the claims for 'authenticity' on which
> the movie is predicated. Oddly, for someone with a theatrical
> background, Branagh ignores recent arguments about Q2 and F as two
> distinctive visions of the play.

I feel that this is a little unfair.  Surely this is an academic
distinction. To the world at large, the movie-going world at large, the
only Hamlet they know is the one that is produced in various editions of
the play available in their local bookshop.  They know nothing of folio
and quarto versions.  If they went to the movies expecting a "full text"
Hamlet then they would expect it to agree with their Pelican or Signet
edition of the play.  If we as Academics are responsible for the
initiation of this belief in a single "definitive" edition of
Shakespeare's plays, we cannot then blame Branagh for giving the
audience what they expected to see.

Imagine a poster that said "The Full Q2 Hamlet."  Who the hell but us
would know what was meant by that.

Drew Whitehead
 

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