Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet

April 14, 2006

Why?

…I'm tempted to let that be the whole post. It's not that there isn't anything to like about this New York City, year 2000 Hamlet. "To be or not to be" in the Action aisle at Blockbuster is cute. Sam Shepard is a fun choice for the ghost. But there seems to be nothing more to this movie than just using as many different locations as possible (a laundromat, an airplane bathroom, a hip nightclub, a rooftop, a limo, somebody's apartment, somebody else's apartment) and using fax machines instead of messengers. It doesn't shed any light on the play, doesn't actually bring out anything to make the play more relevant to the present moment. And it doesn't go as far as Baz Luhrmann did with Romeo + Juliet in terms of filmmaking stylization — Hawke is a big step up from DiCaprio in terms of using the language, but at least Luhrmann had a vision for the story that had some kick to it.

One thing that works surprisingly well is the violence. It's interesting — when a play is set in the past, the violence is easier to take. That's just how things were then, we think; it's not like that anymore. When Hamlet shoots Polonius in the eye in his mother's bedroom with a pistol, even the ridiculous casting of Bill Murray doesn't take away from the shock of it. The stakes are higher. We think about police reports and a trial and sentencing for Hamlet, whereas in a world in which everyone has a sword at their side all the time, stabbing the councillor seems more like a pardonable offence. Setting the next scene in the laundromat, with Hamlet washing his bloody clothes, is a nice touch. If there's one thing I can take away from this movie for my production, it's the sense that the violence is highly disturbing to the characters.

Also: what is it with Julia Stiles and Shakespeare adaptations?

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2 Responses to “Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet”

  1. Edgar Landa Says:

    kill julia stiles. please.

  2. Kristin Norris Says:

    My favorite part is when the ghost disappears into the vending machine….pure genius.


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