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Contrast of Hamlet – Gibson and Branagh

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An example of two different movies that have the same title, contain a scene that is essentially getting the same message across, but differ so much in the depiction of two scenes, would be hamlet. In 1990, Mel Gibson and Paul Scofield played the role of prince hamlet, and the ghost of king hamlet. 6 years later, in 1996, another version of hamlet was released, starring Kenneth Branagh as prince hamlet, and Brian Blessed as the Ghost of hamlet. These two films were very much the same in terms of characters, and the point being made to the audience. At the same time, however, the way these two films were depicted was entirely different. The two main differences between these two films were the cinematography, and the setting.

The first difference between the two films is the cinematography. The three main deciphering factors of cinematography include camera angles, zoom, and the lighting. In the Branagh version, the camera was tilted up looking at the ghost, and tilted down looking at hamlet. This created the effect that the ghost was bigger and wiser then hamlet, and that hamlet looked at the ghost as a higher figure, or someone he was frightened or intimidated by. In the Gibson version, the camera was tilted down towards both the ghost, and hamlet. In the Branagh version, the zoom was focused on the eyes and mouth or the ghost. This put a focus on the emotion and tone of the ghost. In the Gibson version, the zoom was focused on the faces of the characters only. In the Branagh version, the lighting was bright on the face of the ghost, as to create the feel that the ghost was not human. In the Gibson version, the lighting was faded on the ghost, as to create a sad emotion of the ghost.

The second difference between the two films is the setting in which each scene takes place. In the Branagh version, the scene takes place in the woods. The back drop of nature creates the feeling of insecurity for hamlet, and adds to the tone and emotion of the ghost. Hamlet is clearly very intimidated. The ground is steaming, the trees seem endless, and it looks very cold and secluded. Hamlet has no escape, and has to face the ghost. In the Gibson version, the setting takes place in a castle, just as the scene takes place in a castle in the original play. The scene in the Gibson version has more of a sad emotion, as the ghost pleads for hamlet to take revenge on his murderer. This keeps the feeling for hamlet that this is his father, king hamlet, and he must seek revenge on the murderer, for his fathers sake.

In my opinion, the Branagh version did a much better job in getting the ghosts point across to hamlet. The emotion was much stronger, and the setting and cinematography added much more to the general feel to the movie then the Branagh version did. These two films are very much alike in their title, plot, and storyline. At the same time, however, these similar films contain two scenes that are very much different in their cinematography, and the setting in which the scenes take place.


Hamlet – Staring Mel Gibson – 1990Hamlet – Staring Kenneth Branagh – 1996

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