Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hamlet Act 1: Scene 3, Ophelia, Laertes & Polonius

Michael Almereyda's Hamlet (2000) with Julia Stiles, Liev Schreiber & Bill Murray.

You have until Monday 2.9.09 @ noon to complete this assignment.

It is worth 100 points and will be graded with the APE Rubric.

Objective: Watch the performance above of a potion of Act 1 Scene 3 and crtique the director's interpretation of the scene.

Your critique of the video must be based on your knowledge and understanding of the passage, so you must provide textual evidence from Hamlet as well as provide descriptions of the video. I can't watch the video and read your post at the same time, so you need to make me see what you see with your words. It will also help you to take notes on the video while you watch it. Pay attention to what you captures your attention. Notice what you notice! (Hint: Watch the video more than once.)

Pay attention to:

  • delivery of the lines
  • imagery the setting / scenery
  • the portrayal of the actor (characterization)
  • lighting & camera effects
  • sound effects or music
  • etc--the list could keep going

You should make sure to develop a sophisticated thesis. Post in the comment stream of the video you choose below. It should be about 1,000 words (use your best judgement in either direction--this is a recommendation, not a requirement. It should be as long as it takes to develop your thesis.)

Edit and put spaces between paragraphs before you post please!


Kristen W. said...

In Michael Almereyda's Hamlet, the modernization creates a complete different view on what is seen to be occurring while reading the play itself. The setting, tone, and characterization are all add a different perspective of the play. The meanings behind the words do not actually change, but merely are brought upon in a different manner.

Immediately in the clip, Ophelia is seen with brightly painted nails and in what seems to be a much modernized library with Laertes. Ophelia is also looking at an actual picture of Hamlet. This adds a humorous view of a very seriously written scene. There are clear floor panels and modernized stairs throughout the house that it takes place within. The camera does not just zoom into the faces of the characters speaking. The characters walk around freely allowing the camera to show the actual setting of the movie. With the room that modernized I would think the smartest thing to do is to keep the camera zoomed into the faces to show more of the emotion rather than what the actual rooms look like. The modernization went a bit too far and gave it an unrealistic showing. If everything were to be that modernized than the words should have been as well. The words and the surrounding just do not have a natural blending with each other. Also, towards the end of the clip, Polonius and Laertes are having a discussion while Ophelia watches from atop. She is holding what seems to be a camera, and filming the discussion. I do not understand how that fits into what Shakespeare has written at all. Even though it does not state in the play that Ophelia leaves, I do not believe she would have sat there and found written what was being said. Having her filming is a modernized version of her sitting there writing what they were saying. I just think that this film is much too modernized than it should have been.

In the play itself, Shakespeare writes this scene with much emotion and emphasis. He writes, “Think it no more” (line11). This shows the tone of Laertes as be speaks. It shows that he is confident and doesn’t care what Ophelia thinks of the situation. He seems to be talking down to her which happens often to women in these times. He says it with what seems to be a demanding tone which Ophelia is obligated to follow. Within this clip, Laertes seems to be speaking in a mono-tone manner. He doesn’t seem overpowering at all, and it seems as if Ophelia has the power in that relationship. Ophelia speaks back with attitude and seems to have the commanding role. In the play, Ophelia seems to have the same commanding tone, but Laertes seems to end up being more dominant. The speaking roles of both Laertes and Polonius do not seem up to par with what they should be. Also, some of the gestures listed within stage direction of the play are not performed within the clip. In the play it is written saying that he is, “laying his hand on Laertes’ head.” (line 57). This does not happen within the clip. The characterization of all three of the characters is based mainly on tone, which the clip lacks. That overall brings down the effectiveness of scene three. The only way that power is seen is through clothing. Polonius enters wearing a suit which shows the power over the other two who wear less formal attire. Without the use of clothing, the power would not be seen. Neither of the characters seems emotional enough to be the characters of Shakespeare’s play.

The clip from Michael Almereyda's Hamlet does not compare to what Shakespeare had written. Although the points of the characters words are understandable, the way they are brought about does not correctly coincide with the meaning. This is just one of those plays that are not meant to be modernized, and this clip proved it.

Cynthia R said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cynthia R said...

Although at a first glance, Michael Almereyda's Hamlet looks like an accurate and modern-day portrayal of the play, there was something that it lacked in order to be a perfectly successful interpretation of Shakespeare’s work. The director’s choices in actors, scenery, and mood are what both added and took away from this modern- day interpretation.

To start off, the director’s choices when casting the actors was interesting. The best performance of the scene was that Liev Schreiber who was portraying Laertes. Schreiber mastered that cool and young vibe that an older brother would have when giving love advice to a younger sister. Although it could have been his accent, when Schreiber delivered his lines, they neither seemed forced nor out of place. It was interesting to see how his attitude shifted when speaking to Polonius than from how it was when he was speaking to Ophelia. From lines 14 to 44, Schreiber demonstrated a good understanding of what Laertes’ attitude would be toward Ophelia as he looked her in the eyes, paused to take some breaths, and spoke directly to her. An example of his good acting is when Schreiber says the lines “Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister.” Schreiber’s pauses and breaths could not have come at a more opportune moment. His mood changed, however, when Polonius came into the scene. Suddenly Schreiber portrayed a son who unwillingly listened to his fathers advice and warning. Overall Schreiber’s acting was the best part of the entire scene.

Unfortunately the same could not be said for Bill Murray’s acting as the father, Polonius. As soon as Murray descended the white staircase, the mood in the scene drastically changed. The staircase, by the way, seemed to be a hint towards the father’s higher position and thus the respect that his children owed him. It was difficult to take Murray seriously as the authoritative role in the scene and it certainly did not help that Murray’s voice was irritating and paled in comparison to Schreiber’s deeper and more mature voice. When Murray read his lines he made a few awkward pauses, especially when he read the lines, “Give thy thoughts no tongue,/ Nor any unproportion’d thought his act./ Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.” Towards the end of the scene, as Laertes is about to leave, Murray sounds more like he is pleading to his son than actually giving him advice for his journey. This took away from the authority that one would assume Polonius to have.

While Schreiber’s and Murray’s acting were on either end of the spectrum, Stiles’ portrayal of Ophelia, on the other hand, was neither terrible, nor amazing. Stiles started off the scene strong as she seems somewhat dismissive and irritated towards what Laertes is telling her. She paces back and forth, walks around, and takes deep breaths to demonstrate that she does not want to hear what Laertes has to say about Hamlet. Stiles keeps up this slight attitude until about 57 seconds into the clip when Laertes says, “Then weigh what loss your honor may sustain.” At this point, it seems as though what Laertes is saying has begun to sink in and by the time that Laertes says, “his unmast’red importunity,” Stiles’ attitude and facial expression has completely changed. She seems to be contemplating what he is saying and she seems genuinely worried. This is where Stiles begins to lose that personality that characterized Ophelia. Stiles could have used a lot more attitude, especially when saying the lines, “But, my good brother,/ Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,/ Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,/ Whiles [like] a puff’d and reckless libertine,/ Himself the primrose path of Dalliance treads,/ And reaks not his own rede.” Because Ophelia is calling out Laertes for his actions and telling him not to be a hypocrite in this scene, Stiles would have benefitted from some sassiness.

Although the director’s choices in actors were very important to the outcome of the scene, other factors like lighting, music, and scenery, also played an important role. The room where the scene took place was interesting because it was so white and even clear in some parts. This almost institutional-like atmosphere gave the room a clean yet cold vibe. It is not too certain if a warmer, more home-like environment would have made any difference to the overall outcome of the scene. The music playing in the background at the beginning of the scene did not do much for the overall effect until the part when Stiles stared blankly ahead. At this point, about 1 minute and 45 seconds into the scene, the volume of the music goes up a bit and it helps add to the pensive and skeptical look that is on Ophelia’s face.

When watching the scene, there were two questions that popped up. This first was about why the director chose to exclude the lines, “The chariest maid is prodigal enough/ If she unmask her beauty to the moon./ Virtue itself scapes not calumnious strokes./ The canker galls the infants of the spring./ Too oft before their buttons be disclos’d,/ And in the morn and liquid dew of youth/ Contagious blastments are most imminent.” What difference would it have made if the director had kept those lines in the scene? Did he exclude the lines because they could be thought too controversial or mature and thus increase the rating of the film? The second question that came up during the scene was why the director chose to have Laertes take, what seemed to look like a pin, from Ophelia’s hair at the end of the scene? What importance did that have to the scene or the entire film?

Overall the scene did help give the reader a better understanding of the events of the play. There were a few questionable choices on the part of the director such as casting Bill Murray as Polonius and setting the scene in a white room, however, these decisions were saved by Schreiber’s excellent portrayal of Laertes, Stiles’ attempt at Ophelia, and the interestingly close relationship between the brother and sister that is so reminiscent of Shakespeare’s work.

CarlaC said...

Carla Castillo
Period 2
Ap Literature

In Act 1 Scene 3 of Hamlet you are introduced to a new character Ophelia Daughter of Polonius, and sister of Laertes. In this scene of Act 1 Ophelia's brother Laertes is telling her to not let her passion for Hamlet get the best of her, to remember her virtues, and to remember that Hamlets first priority will always be to his country first before anyone else. While reading Act 1 Scene 3 it feels like Laertes is just preaching to his sister about what she should and should not do as if she is his property to order around. In the movie version by Michael Almereyda this scene has a completely different tone and execution to it but uses the same words. In Michael Almereyda's Hamlet, Almereyda gives Hamlet a modern update while sticking to the Shakespearean language to show that regardless of the time something occurs people of the future, past, and present face the same types of problems as each other.

Almereyda choose to do this scene with modern surroundings . I feel like by doing this it made it more relate able to the audience, so they were able to see that this story can be possible regardless of the date. Through out the scene the director did many subtle things to get the proper mood, or tone to this scene. For example the style of the home was almost art deco which has very pure and clean feeling to it. Then once having this art deco home he cluttered it with the things you would find in any normal home. The only difference was to the audience it did not truly feel like a home it had an empty appearance to it. Also he choose to make the noise from the outside silent until Polonius enters you can hear this almost thunderous noise outside and cars passing by. Almereyda chooses to keep all his shots between Ophelia and Laertes very close to their faces never letting the audience view the room in its entirety until Polonius appears. The director did this to show the close and almost loving relationship between Laertes and Ophelia. Laertes way of talking to Ophelia seemed even closer than a brother in a way his body language and tone almost made him seem like a love interest.

Polonius's interaction with Laertes is interesting because when Polonius enters Laertes almost runs out of their home. As his father follows him he seems more aggravated and almost annoyed as Polonius goes on and on with advice for his son although he seems not to care for it at all. This made it more connectable to the audience because children often refuse to take heed to the advice and guidance that their parents give them. Before Laertes takes his leave he says goodbye to his sister and he is very passionate towards her. It shows the audience the close and loving relationships that brothers and sisters still have to this day.

Almereyda's Hamlet was to show the audience that the problems from the past, future and present are all similar and are faced by people from all different walks of the earth. By using a home that had a clean and pure feeling to it, it allowed the audience to focus on the conflict that was occurring and not the surroundings. He choose to use almost muted colors, except for Ophelia of whom he dressed in red which is the color of love and passion which fit her conflict of whether to be with Hamlet or not. Almereyda's Hamlet was a brand new take on a classic and was portrayed quite effectively with out losing the meaning behind the words written by Shakespeare.

Pretty Lady said...

In Michael Almereyda's interpretation of Hamlet, his characters Ophelia and Laertes are portrayed committing incest in a third degree form. Because Shakespeare leaves very little stage direction, the audience is left to use his words to decrypt the character's tone, the imagery, and the surroundings of each character. Though Almereyda's modernization of the play takes away from the Shakespearean clothing and setting, it did, however demonstrate a sense of flexibility, where Shakespeares' play can be brought to a modern era and not lose its strength of words and characters, and it also gave a different perspective and supported the director's point of view in various ways.

After he modernizes the play, Almereyda's interpretation of the setting is greatly altered, giving the audience a clearer view of the relationship between Ophelia and Laertes and also between them and their family. Julia Stiles (playing Ophelia) and Liev Schreiber (playing Laeters) are portrayed as young adults talking in what appears to be a library inside their home. Surrounded by glass walls, glass bookshelves with thousands of books, and glass floors, Almereyda depicts the Ophelia and Laertes household as a rich and majestic place to reside. With a cloudy day on its way, Almereyda also sends a vibe of eeriness by not having intense lighting, but casting a somber shadow effect on the characters. The modernization of the play also adds to the disgust towards the introduction of incest between the siblings. The setting of the play represents wealth, with a dark background, or, in better words, it represents the characters wanting wealth, but with a deceitful desire.

In the play, Almereyda interprets the characters of Ophelia and Laeters as incestuous, as opposed to caring. Almereyda gives an introduction to the incest ideas by having brother and sister sit extremely close to each other, giving each other a few intense stares, and by having Laertes take one of his sister's hair clips for remembrance of her on his trip. When Laertes says, "If with too credent ear you list his songs, lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open to his unmastered importunity. Fear it, Ophelia. Fear it, my dear sister, and keep you in the rear of your affection, Out of the shot and danger of desire" (30-35), his tone of his voice is altered, which give the audience the impression that he goes from calm to furious, in order to have his sister listen to him. Laeters' tone of voice increases and he sits very close to his sister, imposing the fact that he is not only scared that his sister is falling for Hamlet, but he is also jealous and afraid of losing her. Laeters delivers his lines to his sister in a possessive and protective way, warning her that "Best safety lies in fear."

Ophelia, in return, answers her brother, not in a mocking tone, but in a compassionate and understanding way. Portrayed as a distraught and worried character, Ophelia instead of judging her brother's scandalous past, she returns the feeling of jealousy, saying, "But, good my brother, Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven Whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine, Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads And recks not his own rede" (46-51). As portrayed, Ophelia did not want her brother feeling affection for other women, just as she would cease her feelings for Hamlet. Almereyda characterizes Ophelia as an innocent and venerable girl who is in love with her brother.

Polonius (played by Bill Murray) is seen as a laid-back father. As opposed to his overprotective feelings towards Ophelia, Laertes tone of voice towards his father is cold, indifferent, and arrogant. Sitting within an inch of his sister he whispers, "I stay too long. But here my father comes" (53), in which Laertes quickly kisses his sister on the cheek, backs away from her and faces his father. His father, loosely questions why he is still at home and not on his trip, at which Laeters walks away into what appears as his bedroom. Having his back for more than most of the time while his father is talking, Laertes comes off as he is annoyed with his father and anxious to get out of his presence. His father, on the other hand, throws advice wildly, not noticing whether or not his son is even attentive to his words. The only moment in which Laetres is shown to be focusing on his father's speech is when Polonius concludes his speech with "This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man." (77-80) Once Laertes is ready to leave, a dead hug is exchanged between father and son.

In conclusion, Almereyda modern interpretation of Hamlet is both adaptable and repulsive to the audience. The audience can relate to the role play between father and son; Laertes almost ignoring his father's words, while his father is giving him exclusive and important information. But on the contrary, the audience is disgusted by the third degree incest between Ophelia and Laertes. Because brother and sister are not totally obvious with their love, the audience is not completely scandalized; nevertheless it is apparent that they have an abnormal affection towards each other. Through characterization, setting, and tone of words Almereyda captures the character's feelings towards each other.