Hamlet Movie Paper
Books or plays that are made into movies often differ from the original. Franco Zeffirelli does not sway from this statement in his movie, Hamlet (1991), made of Shakespeare’s 16th century play, Hamlet. He uses costumes and makeup, lighting, and changes from the original script to portray an innocence of Ophelia (Helena Bonham Carter). In the movie, after the death of Polonius, Ophelia goes to talk to Queen Gertrude about it. Depicted as a victim of the wrongdoings of men, Ophelia loses the original sense of remorse brought about in the play.
Zeffirelli depicts Ophelia in a unique, childlike fashion.
He then uses different types of lighting to stress features that were not obvious in the text. Zeffirelli also cuts out parts of the script, causing the scene to be less dramatic. Due to the lessened dramatization of the scene, the death of a woman is taken more lightly. This may potentially be evidence that in society, women are not regarded as highly as men are.
In the beginning of the scene, Zeffirelli portrays Ophelia as being very childish, using clothing and makeup. Children are often seen as innocent, ensuring the innocence of Ophelia which is not clear in the play.
Her hair is down, messy, and tangled, and looks as if it had not been brushed in a long while. She is unable to care for herself after the passing of her father, and shows that women cannot care for themselves without a strong man in their life. Ophelia wears a purple dress, the color often symbolic of royalty. One would expect the rest of the outfit to be ornate and elaborate, though it is not, and no jewelry is worn, another oddity contrasting with nobility. Zeffirelli makes Ophelia look very wholesome and innocent through her makeup.
The makeup is natural and does not accentuate or bring out much in her face. Though the scene brings light to the pureness of Ophelia, she possesses contradicting attributes as well. She has dark features, including her hair and eyes. Other characters do not possess these qualities, perhaps showing that although she is seen with innocence, an impurity lies beneath that is not directly seen within the text. Zeffirelli also uses lighting to represent characters with greater meaning. The lighting of Ophelia changes during the scene, emphasizing features that are not as evident in the text.
Upon her entrance to the castle, Ophelia has more light brought to her than the other characters. Light and dark are often used to give visual difference between good and bad, pure and impure, innocence and guilt. The characters then enter the room in which Ophelia sits on Gertrude’s throne with a single bright light shining on her. She can be compared easily to an angel in heaven, the purest of all pure things, emphasizing her innocence yet again. As Ophelia talks to the other characters, the lighting on her face changes from bright to being darker.
She then walks into the shadows of the castle and her face becomes darker for the rest of the scene. Zeffirelli shows through the lighting that Ophelia changes from an innocent child to a woman after her father dies. She has lost her innocence as the men abandon her in her life. He also is possibly foreshadowing that Ophelia’s death nears because she has no one to support her due to the loss of the influential men in her life. Zeffirelli excludes lines from the play, in turn taking away from Ophelia being seen as insane.
The film produced a sense of serenity and purity, not previously attained from the play itself. In Shakespeare’s text, Ophelia leads one to believe that her relationship with Hamlet was not pure and innocent, as once viewed. She sings many songs, hinting at her relations with Hamlet, and highlighting her madness. One song in particular hints at her and Hamlet doing the dirty, “‘Before you tumbled me, you promised me to wed’” (4. 5. 67-68). The reader’s view is changed drastically at this point, as all innocence is lost. As Zeffirelli did not use these lines, Ophelia retains her innocence.
If the lines had been used all innocence would have been lost, just as in the play, because she was an unmarried woman. The viewing audience therefore has pity for Ophelia that, if the lines were included, would have been lost. The technical use of lighting, costuming, makeup, and script by Zeffirelli show that society holds greater standards for women than men. Shakespeare’s society held the view that women must be perfect. In Shakespearean time, women were looked down upon for poor hygiene, appearance, or speech, as well as having sexual relations before marriage.
Zeffirelli casts a fake innocence on Ophelia, providing reason for one to believe that women are taken advantage of often, though they are in fact feeble, powerless, and heavily dependent on strong men in their society. Zeffirelli causes Ophelia to obtain a false innocence in the film that is not achieved in Shakespeare’s original play.
Hamlet. Dir. Franco Zeffirelli. Perf. Mel Gibson, Glenn Close, Alan Bates. DVD. 1991. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Pocket Books, 1993. On my honor as a student, I have neither given nor received any unauthorized assistance on this paper.
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