In Geoffrey Doran’s 2009 film version of Hamlet, starring David Tennant as the Dane, an anachronistic staging takes place, wherein knightly clothing is substituted with muscle t-shirts, parkas and ragged suits. This somewhat modern, high-energy version of the tale also incorporates modern devices like security camera footage, and Tennant’s Hamlet recites many of his monologues into a personal camera. This strips it of its royal airs and allows a more naturalistic, modern approach that makes it more accessible to modern audiences. It also allows Hamlet to be seen as a conflicted child, showing his vulnerability.
One marked contrast between the play and the film version is the scene of Ophelia’s madness. In the play, it is relatively exciting, but the words are simply not brought to life on their own. In Doran’s Hamlet, however, you get to see the unhinged nature of Ophelia, twitchy and singsong, as she flutters between characters, singing her bawdy songs and being generally frenetic.
The “to be or not to be” speech is contemplative in the play; in the writing, it is clear it is a soliloquy to the audience, loud and abrasive. David Tennant, however, turns it even further inward; the film medium allows him to think it with a whisper, wondering whether he should contemplate suicide to leave his wretched existence behind. You can see the pain in his eyes as he knows not what to do about his own situation. Tennant’s intensity in the scene belies the theatricality of the text, grounding it and allowing it to see like modern, naturalistic dialogue.
Hamlet [Blu-ray]. Dir. Gregory Doran. Perf. David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, Penny Downie. Bbc Warner, 2009. DVD.
Shakespeare, William, Tucker Brooke, and Jack Randall Crawford. The tragedy of Hamlet, prince of Denmark, . New Haven: Yale University Press;, 1947. Print.