Sunday, August 15, 2010


This version of Hamlet is not meant to be some kind of criticism of the play where I'm saying that the old way doesn't work anymore and everything needs to be changed. This is more of a re-imagining of the play in which certain elements are stressed at the expense of others. I have cut away a lot of the politics of the play because I've seen that angle done very well and I don't think I could add much to it. Jan Kott does an excellent job of covering that element in his book Shakespeare Our Contemporary and I recommend it highly for anyone who wants to take that approach. My approach is more of the existential approach.

The most important line in this interpretation is "Denmark's a prison" and that prison is "a goodly one with many confines, wards and dungeons." For me this prison is death and death-bound subjectivity and the mind that is created by such death-bound subjectivity. It is a world of cruelty and abuse and insanity in many, many forms. It is a world without friendship (which is why Horatio has been eliminated from this version). It is a world of betrayal and misery and desperation that is expressed in psychological subtleties and in images of tremendous need and passion. Hamlet needs to understand, Ophelia needs to be understood, Gertrude needs to be loved, Claudius needs power. Their needs are naked and sometimes violent and they are driven and tormented by these needs. Shakespeare has shown this in his own way and I have shown it in mine.

I have also severely cut the role of Hamlet because the play is simply too long for a movie (Branagh's attempt notwithstanding). I want 90 zippy minutes where the audience can get involved with the characters and the action and then go out for coffee afterwards and talk about it. The marathon of a four hour movie tends to discourage conversation. It seems to me to be more of a sledge-hammer directed at the audience's skull. Don't get me wrong. I believe it's possible to make a four hour Hamlet that would be very compelling and cool but I am not that film-maker. That person would need a concept that extended into every nook and cranny of the play and that could be translated into compelling images that somehow interacted in an exciting way with the words. My approach is more to cut the hell out of the words and add images that occurred to me viscerally in relation to the words. Even now, as I write this, I feel that my own version is a little word heavy and that I might cut more and use more images. That is my vision of film and I think that if you want the words, you can read the play or go to the theatre where it is almost surely playing somewhere.

Here is a version of Hamlet that comes from sensual reactions to the play and thoughts about the play and my own experience as an actor with the play and from my own sensibilities of what constitutes a good film. Like the million versions before this one, it will please a certain group, alienate another group and be met with profound indifference by most of the world. C'est la vie.

I ask for or expect no indulgence from anyone. I write what I want to write, make what I want to make and leave others to enjoy or hate or ignore as they please. This Hamlet comes from a deep fascination with and appreciation of the play over many years. I love this work and I love how it has made me feel and how it has changed for me over all these years. I have returned to it over and over almost always with great pleasure and I’m grateful to Shakespeare for giving it to us. I’m also grateful that it entered my mind in a way that wanted to be expressed as film and my only serious concern it to find the right people to make that film and create something close to my vision that can also have its own life and be a source of interest and inspiration for those audience members who see things in a similar way to me.

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