William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" has been filmed and performed on stage numerous times. What is interesting is the distinct differences a director or screenwriter can create in the same play through film. Three versions of Hamlet, the classic, long-time favorite starring and directed by Laurence Olivier, the 1996 version starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh and the most recent version, released in 2000 starring and directed by Campbell Scott. All three versions tell the same story, but with different nuances which change the feel of the movie. These most obvious differences can be seen in each movies setting and time period, script and the manner in which the individual characters are portrayed.
The first difference between the three movies is what strikes the viewer immediately, the setting and time period. The original play was set in Denmark in the 1500s. Olivier's version seems to be set in about the same era. The fact that the castle is lit by candles, the style of the characters wardrobes and the lack of guns as weapons all fall in accurately with the time period originally established by Shakespeare. This Hamlets castle is built of cold stone and seems almost dungeon like, which suits the Hamlet quotation, "Denm
She is played by an African-American actress, Lisa Gay Hamilton, which adds a whole new level as to why her father and brother may warn against giving her heart to Hamlet. The famous "To be or not to be"" soliloquy is delivered from a lofty position; Hamlet is perched upon a cliff. The film versions help the viewer gain more of a feeling on the intensity and tangibility of Hamlet and Ophelia. The men are not dressed in tights and there is a lavishness and brilliance about the costuming and palace. Branagh's Claudius, played by Derek Jacobi, performs very well as "good" Claudius for the first half of the film. Branagh's version seems to be placed somewhere in the late 19th century. This version relies on the combination of her father's death and Hamlet's rejection to lead Ophelia to insanity. It is portrayed as it was originally written. An interesting aspect of "Hamlet" is the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia. Even the background music is a more modern type of jazz. This brings the Gertrude to a whole new level. He is hyper and manic in his direction of the actors and very funny as continuously interrupts the actors, explaining how their lines should be delivered. In both Branagh's and Scott's versions, there is no inference of any type of incestuous relationship between Hamlet and his mother, the queen. Polonius is another compelling character.