Sunday, February 24, 2008

"I wished that I were anyone but Ophelia, victim of mischance and evil"

I won't rehash my love of all things Shakespeare and the particular love i have for his play Hamlet here (although my reading of the particular young adult novel Ophelia by Lisa Klein did prompt a viewing of all six of my various Hamlet dvds for their sundry interpretations~it is always better to view performances than just to read over the text and i felt it all needed slight refreshing so i pulled i started by rereading the text itself then decided to pull out all five of my Hamlet dvds and watch those instead.

I started with the Kenneth Branagh version because that is the first version to actually use the full text of the play. It is set in Denmark, though in the nineteenth century (somehow i feel a bit iffy with the whole messing around with the bard thing~but then i think~how anachronistic was old Will to begin with? and i rethink my whole thinking...) Overall i liked the Branagh version (though, of course, i did have a few quarrels with it~can anyone ever do a film of something you love ever fully to your liking?~i found Ophelia a tad too "knowing", if that is in fact the word...).

I've always been fond of Franco Zeffirelli's Shakespeare and his Hamlet is no exception (tho i've somewhat soured on Mel Gibson now~i do love Helena Bonham-Carter as Ophelia and the locations here are wonderful). Olivier is brilliant as always~i can see why he is who he is (was?), but of course (tho how you can leave out Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is beyond me...) and i also really like Richard Burton's dress rehearsal version. I must say i'm not a huge Ethan Hawke fan but i did like his Hamlet (even if it was set in "modern"~well year 2000, god how time does fly~New York). And then there is the Russian Grigori Kozintsev's Hamlet, beautifully sparse and spare (just as imagine ninth century Denmark), it is also beautifully Russian… (i would also love to get my hands on a Ralph Fiennes Broadway production~so i'm just a little obsessesed~but this was probably enough for a single film festival...)

I think that Lisa Klein might be a slightly better author than Lisa Fiedler (what is it about the name Lisa and making feminists out of Shakespearean heroines~even when there already are a few feminist Shakespearean heroines already?). I’m actually quite struck by many of the similarities of the backstory in these novels. Klein doesn't seem to be stretching quite so much for her language anyway, and the book just seemed to flow much more naturally. Her Ophelia also seemed to be much more of a real feminist than did Fiedler’s (who’s felt more like what every young girl dreamed of being in a strong female~but maybe that is appropriate to a young adult novel.) And is there really a textual basis for Ophelia being an expert herbalist (other than her “there’s rue for you..” speech?~much of which content was more common knowledge than it is today) Not that i didn’t love the detail but it was common to both novels. I did have some problems with the setting tho~seemed to be more Elizabethan than the ninth century Danish i wanted it to be (there i go again...)

I really liked the relationship developed between Ophelia and Gertrude, as well as between Hamlet and Ophelia. Familial relationships seem to be more realistic than in Fiedler’s book (and no obnoxious father reworking...) The end is somewhat predictable (although about half of the novel takes place after the end of the play) from too many clues laid out along the way (and doesn’t seem entirely in keeping with the point of the novel~tho i suppose some concessions must be made.) ‘nough said? Too much?

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