To Be Or Not To Be… Excited For Catherine Hardwicke’s Hamlet

Published 6 years ago by , Updated August 22nd, 2013 at 5:24 pm,

Overture Films recently announced plans to produce a modernized version of the classic Shakespearean drama Hamlet. The film will feature Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer) as the famed Prince of Denmark and will be helmed by Twilight director, Catherine Hardwicke. The two previously worked together on the 2005 drama, Lords of Dogtown.

From film luminaries like Akira Kurosawa to stalwart Shakespeareans like Kenneth Branagh, many directors have taken turns adapting William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy over the years. While many have criticized Catherine Hardwicke for her association with the Twilight franchise, her experience directing films focused on disenfranchised youth (Thirteen) could lend a unique modern sensibility to Hamlet.

Of course, the operative word here is could. Shakespeare adaptations have been notoriously hit-or-miss at the theater and, as seen from his turn in the box-office bomb Speed Racer, Emile Hirsch, while undeniably talented, is far from proven as a bankable leading man.

The most recent attempt to modernize Hamlet, Michael Almereyda’s 2000 adaptation, featured Ethan Hawke as Prince Hamlet lost in a world of towering Manhattan skyscrapers and isolated by technology. While Almereyda’s vision spawned a number of term papers from Shakespeare scholars, the movie received mixed reviews from popular critics. According to Hardwicke, her version of Hamlet will focus more on the inherent suspense of Shakespeare’s work, showing some of the action that goes on behind the scenes at Elsinore. Here are some things she said in a recent statement about the project:

“In our version, we’re working hard to make Hamlet a thrilling cinema experience – the violent, intense, and romantic scenes that happen ‘off-stage’ in the play will be shown in vivid detail.”

“Our goal is to present the story as a suspense thriller. We want to make it exciting and accessible for an audience today.”

While it is probably the wrong comparison to make, I immediately thought of Baz Luhrmann’s frenetic Shakespearean adaptation, Romeo+Juliet. That film, which set the original language of Romeo and Juliet against the urban Miami-like “Verona Beach” received generally positive praise for its creativity and unique visual style.

What do you think? Would you go see a Catherine Hardwicke-directed Hamlet? Are modern adaptations of Shakespeare worthwhile?

The release date for Hamlet is pending.

Source: /Film

TAGS: Hamlet
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  1. I have no problem with “contemporising” Shakespeare. I thought Romeo + Juliet was going to be a nightmare and ended up thoroughly enjoying it; Kurosawa set his Macbeth adaptation Throne Of Blood in feudal Japan; Ian McKellan’s Richard III was set in some 1930s fascist England that never existed, and worked perfectly; likewise, Branagh’s own Hamlet played out in some fictional version of the 18th century. Even in Shakespeare’s own time plays set in the past were often performed in contemporary costume (as suggested in the intro to Olivier’s Henry V). However, “off-stage” events are by definition going to be written by someone who ain’t Bill. That IS going to be a problem.

    Rob, I think you meant “…which set the original language of Romeo And Juliet…”! Hamlet set on a Miami beach could be interesting though…

  2. Branagh: 19th century I meant. That’ll teach me to point out other people’s mistakes!

  3. It depends on how they pull off the modernized version of it.
    But I am curious about it.
    We shall see.

  4. And that’s McKellEn. Damn. I haven’t seen the Ethan Hawke version but apparently even that used the original text. The only instance I can think of where another writer “expanded” upon Shakespeare was Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, about two of the supporting characters in Hamlet.

  5. @The Big Dentist

    Thanks for catching that mistake. The Ethan Hawke version was interesting, but I think my favorite is the Branagh version, which used the full text of the play.

  6. I am interested in Hardwicke as a director (Thirteen is fantastic), and I love the Bard, so I’ll definitely see it in the theatre. I’m of two minds about this action-thriller talk, though. On one hand, I always disliked how Hamlet has usually been portrayed as a weak-willed quisling for most of the story; it’s not that simple. On the other hand, I was unimpressed with the action scenes in Twilight, so I’m not sure Hardwicke can execute an intriguing interpretation properly.

  7. More matter with less art.

    »Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 92–99

  8. I don’t really care. I like Emile Hirsch, so will probably go see it. Hardwicke is kinda good at these dramas, horrible at CGI so there better be none but how would CGI fit in with Hamlet? (I wouldn’t know, haven’t read it yet.)

    I’ll definitely go see also because I like things based on Shakespeare. There are a lot of excellent teen movies based on Shakespeare like 10 Things I Hate About You or She’s The Man.

  9. Just dug out and watched another Shakespeare expansion that I’d totally forgotten about: Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books, based on The Tempest. Visually, not unlike seeing Dave McKean’s montage Sandman covers come to life.

    It just occurred to me that I could have misinterpreted Hardwicke and she might not be talking about adding written scenes, but rather just portraying offstage stuff with a voiceover from the original text, but that’s exactly what Branagh did with his version, surely?