Based on the acting, setting, and other cinematic elements the best portrayal of Hamlet’s state of mind during his famous soliloquy is the first video clip featuring Laurence Olivier. This scene focuses on Hamlet’s mounting confusion and madness. By simply reading the text one most likely would expect such a scene to be quite dramatic and serious due to the soliloquy’s subject matter. Laurence Olivier brilliantly captured the emotions, tone and overall mood of the soliloquy in his depiction.
Each video uses various techniques to convey a unique interpretation of Hamlet’s soliloquy but the first video uses many cinematic techniques collaboratively to produce an interesting interpretation. The first video clip featuring Laurence Olivier emphasizes setting and uses it in a strategic manner to reflect Hamlet’s mood. The scene opens with shots of the roaring ocean and later the scene transitions to Hamlet sitting upon a cliff over the ocean. The physical set mirrors Hamlet’s words “Or to take arms against a sea of troubles” (81). Interestingly, his figurative language is interpreted literally here. The stormy environment is symbolic of the conflict and uncertainty of the situation and the fact that the violent waves wait below Hamlet foreshadows impending disaster, a disaster implied by the lines “The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks/That flesh is heir to” (81). The idea that great trouble in life is inevitable is expressed through those lines and through the symbolic ocean. Continuing on the subject of setting, Hamlet is constantly surrounded by what appears to be clouds or fog which is again symbolic of Hamlet’s his uncertainty about his situation. From his famous opening lines “To be, or not to be, that is the question” (81), it is clear that Hamlet is in a state of deep contemplation. The setting aids in expressing this point. Hamlet’s sits alone on a cliff for a portion of the scene before finally walking about. His physical isolation is reflective of his internal or mental isolation. The setting contributes to the effective interpretation of the scene and shows that the scene is multifaceted.
As for the actor, his delivery of the lines and his actions combine to produce an exemplary depiction of Hamlet’s state of mind. Throughout the scene Olivier maintains a calm and pensive tone. At some points he closes his eyes, as in deep thought, and at others it will appear that his mouth is not moving but his voice is still heard. He also often looks around as if he is searching for something, perhaps an answer to his problems. He chooses to pause between lines and therefore appears to be contemplating his situation. Finally his movements are slow a dramatic which serves the same purpose as his other actions: to show his preoccupied mental state. For example, he takes the sword out of his shirt in a slow, cautious manner and therefore makes him appear as if he is preoccupied by the thought of death. The slow, drowsy delivery could also represent the sleep that Hamlet frequently references. Therefore the slowness would reflect the slowness that comes with sleep, or in this case death. Olivier’s physical movements and delivery allow the audience to recognize his thoughtful state of mind and internal conflict.
The camera’s position and areas of focus are important to note as well. During the beginning of the scene the camera focuses on Hamlet’s face and head. This clearly directs the focus to Hamlet’s mind and therefore contributes to the idea of deep thought. The camera, at times, focuses in on Hamlet’s eyes. When viewing this, the saying “eyes are the mirrors to the soul” comes to mind. Thus focus on the eyes probably was used to show that Hamlet’s thoughts can be determined by looking into his eyes and what he is saying comes straight from his soul and is sincere. Other than that the camera stays still during long portions of the soliloquy which allows the viewer to totally focus on Hamlet.
Other cinematic techniques include the music which was strategically selected to reflect Hamlet’s mind and confusion. The music begins with what sounds to be violins. The violins create a dreamlike sound which could be symbolic of Hamlet’s the surreal state of Hamlet’s mind. As the music progresses and with the addition of heavy wind instruments and the roaring ocean, creating a deeper sound, the music becomes ominous. The music also picks up speed, dramatizing the scene. The sound of the music at this point resembles a downward spiral which is reflective of Hamlet’s actual spiraling state of mind. The music then simply fades out and Hamlet’ begins his soliloquy. The music is another example of symbolism throughout the scene and is an example of how the creators of this film thought to tie together all of the film’s cinematic elements to produce a successful portrayal of Hamlet.
The audience can appreciate the consideration of and attention to cinematic detail demonstrated in this scene. All of the cinematic elements, from set to camera movements, merge together seamlessly to produce a scene that is textually accurate. The time taken by the director and his or her strategic thinking is apparent. The cohesiveness of the film’s elements and the strategic direction are quite effective and contribute to an improved understanding of Hamlet’s frame of mind. This clip succeeds in portraying the mood of the scene which is necessary to understanding the message of the soliloquy.
March 5, 2009 9:15 PM