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Mel Gibson vs Kenneth Branaugh as Hamlet First in an installment looking at the modern film versions of Shakespeares plays by Lynn Davison Jr Contributing Writer The recent box office rebirth of Englands favorite bard has left Hollywood with much to do about interpreting Shakespeares classic dramas The characters of Ophelia Rosencrantz and Guildenstern the gravedigger and of course Hamlet himself take new life as the greatest actors of our time assume these timeless roles Produced in 1990 Mel Gibsons Hamlet is a more straightforward highly edited version of the original text in comparison to Kenneth Brannaghs lavish rendition of the same tale At only 135 minutes Gibsons Hamlet might be considered Shakespeare Light the cinematic equivalent of Cliffs Notes However although Brannagh should be commended for sticking to the text be forewarned about this Hamlet-by including every line of the original play this movie clocks in at exactly 242 minutes The setting chosen for Brannaghs and Gibsons Elsinore Castle are as different as day and night quite literally And these bright and dark castle settings symbolically reinforce the specific mood or themes each director emphasizes For instance the lugubrious Gibson feels perfectly at home in his dark and dank mansion an ideal place for a grieving soul to maintain its ruefull descent Conversely the introspective Brannagh is continuously catching glimpses of himself and others and into their true souls in the mirror-lined ballrooms of his glistening castle Since Hamlet is in its essence truly a ghost story so apropos for Halloween week each director has handled these special effects quite differently Gibson gives a more stage-like handling of the ghost of Hamlets father using only lighting to cast an eerie glow or flickering shadows on its actors Brannagh on the other hand seeks to use every filmmakers device possible including the light blue glowing eyes of Hamlets father and the dry ice forest both of which stretched the limits of viewers imagination One special
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