The role of Hamlet is rather cast sensitive and requires a person with an immense stage presence. It is essential to have a strong performer, since this is a type of play which invokes the use of a variety of emotional states and bringing out certain aspects of characters. Characters casting in Hamlet will, therefore, be required to do their best, in order to produce an excellent performance. While Hamlet is one of the most performed of Shakespearean plays, it is one of the most complex ones, thus, calling for a high degree of competence in any production in which it is made. While contemporary film making has come up with various adaptations of this masterpiece, the most outstanding are versions by Mel Gibson and Kenneth Branagh
Gibson is one of the best actors in the industry that has acted in various productions with immense public and critical acclaim. Gibson is a perfect choice for Hamlet, since he effortlessly portrays character traits of Hamlet in such a manner that enables the audience to get a clear picture of the character. Through Gibson, one is able to perceive different aspects of Hamlet’s character. Hamlet is effectively portrayed as sensitive, though not weak. Gibson portrays his expertise quite professionally in the scene of the confrontation between Hamlet and Gertrude. Gibson’s Hamlet is cast as sensitive in that he is afflicted with the Oedipus complex, yet he is strong enough to keep a calm head and not move to kill his uncle.
Mel Gibson’s Hamlet is performed in a traditional setting which gives the audience a middle ages feeling which is excellent for the enjoyment of the play. Gibson’s Hamlet also seems more real, due to the setting, even as some scenes from the original text have been altered, and some have been lengthened. Branagh’s performance, on the other hand, is performed in more modern settings, though it comes out exceptionally well. Branagh’s play lasts for four hours, and hence, it offers the audience an opportunity to truly analyze and get to know the character of Hamlet. Although Branagh’s Hamlet does not have the exceptional quality, as portrayed by Gibson, he is on the set for quite some time which enables him to connect to the audience. It is in this scene that Branagh’s Hamlet truly stands out, as he expresses his passion for vengeance for his father’s death.
While many directors have cast Hamlet as a sad Gothic character, Branagh has been effective in the portrayal of Hamlet in that he has been portrayed as an ambitious and self-directed young man who maintains the capacity for sensitivity. There are several aspects which make Branagh’s Hamlet better than Gibson’s. The choice of setting plays a vital role in enhancing a play’s effectiveness and the use of a slightly modern setting made his work more palatable to modern audiences. A good example of this is the use of the Victorian ballroom, which contemporary viewers are more likely to connect to, as opposed to the castle setting of Gibson’s work. His work is also better in that he effectively made use of the whole original text, which requires exceptional directing, if it is to be effective. Gibson, on the other hand, edited out a lot of scenes and lengthened some of them, which made the play less realistic. He cuts a quite essential scene where Hamlet meets Horatio, and where the ghost appears to him. Most scenes where the audience would have met main characters were removed. The use of gifted actors, such as Winslet Kate and Crystal Billy, also played a vital role in the effectiveness of the play, since the use of familiar faces is an aspect that makes plays enjoyable. Mel Gibson’s character comes out as flat, since he does not seem to have any passion, but rather seems to be reciting lines, as opposed to being Hamlet. Ophelia is one of Gibson’s characters who is quite convincing in the recitation of her lines. Hamlet’s lines, on the other hand, are jumbled and are likely to confuse the audience. A good example of this is “Get thee to the nunnery!”
On the editing of productions, Branagh’s work also comes out better than Gibson’s. Gibson does not make use of lengthy productions or cameral shots, as compared to Gibson, who makes the play more comprehensive and harmonious. Hamlet in Gibson’s production is, however, more passionate as he is motivated by the desire to avenge his father. On the other hand, Branagh’s Hamlet is less effective in portraying the character, since he is portrayed as a weakling who is driven by the fear of his father’s ghost. Both acts, however, come short in portraying only one aspect of the character, since it is evident that Shakespeare intended to portray the sensitive, yet strong duality of Hamlet’s character. Gibson’s Hamlet is portrayed as having an incestuous relationship with his mother, which is totally against the contemporary interpretation of the text.
Branagh’s performance is more effective in the portrayal of the character Hamlet through the innovative use of the stage. Hamlet is cast wearing black clothing, thus, making him conspicuous, while the camera is positioned behind him to create the illusion of him addressing a enormous crowd. Branagh also uses the camera more effectively in moving from actor to actor, and to the audience, as opposed to Gibson who makes use of a direct camera, which makes it monotonous, since the audience’s focus is not purposely directed at different actors at crucial moments. Branagh’s portrayal of Hamlet is, however, wanting, since his Hamlet is portrayed as an emotional wreck. Gibson’s Hamlet, on the other hand, is a dignified character which fits more with his rank and position, and possibly with what Shakespeare intended to portray.
Gibson’s Hamlet seems older and more experienced, while Branagh’s is immature, but highly intelligent. Their emotions are similar – anger; however, they express these emotions differently. Gibson’s anger is destructive, while Branagh’s is more subtle. Both acts are quite outstanding, but Branagh’s version fully transcripts the meaning of the play Hamlet.