difference between Mel Gibson's performance and Branagh's

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I am doing a compare and contrast paper on the performances of Mel Gibson and Ken Branagh in Hamlet. I am having a hard time organizing my thoughts. I believe that Gibson seems more mad, while Branagh seems angry. Any input!!!! PLEASE!!!!

-- joy whitson (whit7391@bellsouth.net), November 18, 2002


Hm! It appears to be that time of year again when the obligatory "Hamlet paper" falls upon the student as a rite of passage.

There are a couple of compare a contrast papers in the "Articles" section of this site. Also, you might find the following site to be particularly useful: http://www.mindspring.com/~jamesthomas/theme.htm

I don't want to use the F-word but just to give you a hint, I think that Gibson's Hamlet is decidedly closer to his mother than Branagh's.

-- Virginia (vsmleong@yahoo.com), November 18, 2002.

Ha! That brings to mind what I saw on E bay once - someone was selling their copy of Gibson's Hamlet. They posted the warning that it was more exciting to watch paint dry than the actual movie! They also warned that seeing Mel in tights did NOT make up for the fact that the movie was awful! And this from the seller! Well - there was one example of truth in advertising!

You want the difference? Branagh KNEW what it was that he was saying/doing and why. Gibson was ... was...just bad. I blame it on Zeffirelli, though. That jerk still owes me $8 for that piece of dreck.

-- Casey (mikken@neo.rr.com), November 19, 2002.

With you Casey, every step.

All the same, to try and be of assisttance: some ideas. Gibson's is more of a larrikin (check out the sword fight at the end, especially). Branagh's is more of an emotional wreck. Gibson's is more blokey and matey. Branagh's is more princely and commanding. Gibson's seems older, more experenced. Branagh's, you can believe in the barely-a-man Hamlet, but appears more intelligent. I do think they both seem angry here and there. I think they're equally NOT MAD, but that they pretend madness differently: Gibson more destructive, Branagh more kooky-zany (how the hell do you spell kooky?).

But really, these questions always micturate me off. I mean, who the hell cares. Of course, every actor's performance of any character is going to be his own. Because an actor taps into himself as well as the character. So Gibson's Hamlet is more like Gibson, and Branagh's is more like Branagh. That's my Friday whinge - catch me on Sundays.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), November 22, 2002.

Mel's Hamlet is one of my alltime favorite movies. The critics didn't think he could do it and then wrote grudgingly great reviews. Most that I read agreed that his performance was one of the best Hamlets acted in modern times. You might look for old reviews of the movie to see if the reviewer compares performances. You might then be able to adapt that information to give you the bones of your paper.

By the way I'm a Shakespeare fan. I've read them all and seen a lot of performances live and on tape. I wonder if the folks who didn't like Mel's performance were watching it as actual Shakespeare fans or just wanted to be entertained. Ones appreciation might be altered by what they were expecting.

-- debra in ks (windfish@toto.net), November 24, 2002.

Thanks, especially about the tip to look at old reviews. I agree that Mel and Ken both made the Hamlet thier own. That is why I am having a hard time dragging it out to four pages. thanks to all!

-- Joy (whit7391@bellsouth.net), November 24, 2002.

Thought of another angle: may use up a fair bit of space, and would also put Hamlet back in his context - always a plus. You could look at how the performance of each is dictated by what other characters do and how they behave. That is, the two Ophelias are different, and their approaches to Hamlet are different. So Hamlet's relationship with Ophelia, the way he treats her, etc., is different in each production. You could go through several of the characters doing that. I think Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Laertes and Polonius could be very good.

As to Debra's comments just posed ... Who, I ask you, is going to sit through four hours of HAMLET who is not a WS fan? Yep, read 'em all, seen lots, studied some, acted some, directed one. Perhaps addict is more the word than fan. Now this, you see is my problem with Zef.'s HAMLET. I have expectations. You know, like actors knowing what they're saying, relationships and activities making sense according to the words people say, less than about half cut out, Fortinbras in HAMLET, that kind of thing. Nothing too high, but expectations nonetheless. I feel that WS, and an audience - whether it is very familliar with Shakespeare or not - both deserve that much respect.

Given the obstacles provided by Zef., Mel did do commendably, though I maintain he did often seem to not know what he was saying. Now that could be direction - the fact that, as I say, relationships and actions frequently don't match the words. Maybe Zef. didn't understand it. But against what HAMLET should and can be, it contributed to making the total production pretty much what Casey, who I believe is also a fan of well-performed Shakespeare, called it: dreck.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), November 25, 2002.

I feel that Gibson's soliloquies are not as passionate as Branagh's. He puts real feelings into his whereas Gibson's are more sensitive. I think they both portray madness in their own ways, which is good as it gives you two different insights into the play! Branagh is more angry than Gibson, that is clearly noticeable, but i think Branagh's performance is so much better.

-- Sarah-jane Steggles (Sarah-Jane.Steggles@Staugustines.edin.sch.uk), November 27, 2002.

I am studying the play Hamlet right now and I am critiquing both movies. When it comes down to it never show Branagh's movie first becaue nothing else can beat that. Kenneth has Studied and directted WS plays for a long time. He is an amazing actor. Gibson can play more modern movies very well such as braveheart. Gibsons anger is to be brought out in physical outrage (killing anything and everything). But Hamlet has to be thinker, someone who is ahead all the time. Kenneth knows what the play means so when he plays it he takes the role of Hamlet and turns himself into it. Gibson acts as if he memorizes the lines and puts very few emotions into his work. But you can't blame Gibson for every horrible fault. Zeff. is to blame as well, he produced it. Moving the to be speech farther in the blame was not a good idea, or skipping the part where polonius hires Reynaldo to look after Laretes. That is a key part it really shows Polonius as a man. One thing that really made me hate Zeff. version of Hamlet was he made Horatio unimportant. Horatio is very important in the play, he is not to be forgotten. I cried on the scene where Hamlet is dying from the posion and Horatio threatens to kill himself with the posion. Zeff. left that part out of his play and that was a huge down fall. That to me was a huge emotional part of the play and he really screwed it up. Well, I could go on forever for I really love this play and watching the movies, but I can't so thanks for letting me express my thoughts.

-- Judy Bennnett (guwan_18@lycos.com), April 02, 2003.

Hi I am currently writing a paper on the policing of sexuality in Hamlet and Measure for Measure (final year of literature degree)I am surprised no one has mentioned Freud in the above suggestions. I think That Mel is ok but overplays the Oedipus Complex a little, having said that I guess I would feel just a touch oedipal if Glen Close was my mum. I have an memories of her in Dangerous Liasion that just won't go away. On a serious note I feel that Glen herself (and not WS's character of Gertrude)was probably responsible for what went on in the Closet Scene. It seems like ever since Dr Freud the closet scene is now a bedroom scene

Branagh Film is much better on the male character's control of women particular Ophelia who was controlled to death by her brother, father, King and sometime lover. The Branagh film has Polonius and Ophelia speaking behind bars and in a church emphasing her impriosnment and the patriarchal control of religion original sin , guilt etc. Also unforgettably Branagh has Ophelia in a cell being washed clean from her madness with HOSES (Phallic symbolism at just about its most obvious)

Just because she chose to speak in snatches of song and rhyme, did that make her mad or was she an early feminist attempting to wrestle language back from her patriarchal masters?

I am beginning to wander.... my next assignment is...

'Discuss the representation of the relationship between Prospero, Ariel and Caliban in The Tempest in the light of competing critical interpretations of the play.

Any ideas gratefully accepted at the above e-mail address. Anyone really into WS wants to chat drop me a line. I have an ambition to direct Midsummer Nights Dream at a modern day music festival so that we can have fun with Puck's magic love potions. Plus I would like to cast Eminem or another really powerful rapper as Macbeth and direct him strutting the stage as he turns Sh.'s Iambic Pentameter into lyrical bombs.

For a film version of a Shakespeare play that really captures the poetic mood there is no contest, Baz's Romeo was great at opening up Shakespeare for kids and Polanski's bleak but honest Macbeth was much underated in 1971 but if you love Shakespeare and have not yet seen it, Watch GRIGORI KOZINTSEVS'... KING LEAR. (1971)

B/W English Sub-Titles


-- Dennis R. Bull (bigden179@aol.com), June 06, 2003.

God, I think Polanski's Macbeth was shit. Dull, flat, unimaginative and uninspired. And I still don't understand the big deal about "opening Shakespeare up to kids". I mean, it isn't kids stuff! I discovered Shakespeare for myself when I was in my early 20's. What would Hamlet's dilemma or Othello's breakdown or the tragedy of King Lear or whatever the hell, mean to kids? Nothing. We were taught Shakespeare at school when I was 14. I was taught Macbeth: In English! What the fuck!? We didn't touch on Shakespeare ONCE in 5 years of drama class and yet studied it in English!? No wonder kids find it dead, and dull as ditchwater. No, I found that Romeo and Juliet dull too. Very antiseptic. GRIGORI KOZINTSEVS' KING LEAR is great though.

-- Patrick Walker (the_right_hand_of_doom@msn.com), June 06, 2003.

I don't think I could sum it up any better than the wonderful Mr. Ray Bradbury did at a convention once when someone asked him about Fahrenheit 451 (a one-time Gibson project) and he praised Mel's work in Hamlet while at the same time stating that the Branagh fellow should have just sat on a blank stage with a respirator and the book reading it monotone and verbatim to accomplish the same effect as his film. Everyone laughed and agreed. I don't mean to knock Branagh's film but I'm a true Shakespearean who believes the enjoyment in his work is in the individuals interpretation not just the reading alone. Gibson performs a much more realistic Hamlet in my opinion. In fact, Hamlet himself says it all in one line: "The plays the thing".

-- Richard Lee Colbert (rlcolbert@comcast.net), August 14, 2003.

While I cannot fault the wonderful achievement that Branagh's Hamlet is, nor some of the wonderful performances that it has brought to the screen from some of its cast, I must confess to finding it like eating a large tasty ten-course meal that, at the end of it, leaves you very hungry indeed. There is something very unfulfilling and unsatisfying about Branagh's Hamlet. I am not a fan of Gibson's movie, but I find Nicol Williamson's Hamlet (from Ian Richardson's film), though very cut down in the text, and having some of the scenes scrambled about, to be a much more satisfying portrayal. It feels meaty. While I do not agree with all of his Hamlet (and nor do I Branagh's), it is satisfying. Nicol's soliloques beat Branagh's out of the water. Let's face it! Branagh's Hamlet I find firstly to be rather unsatisfying in that we are constantly on his side. It seems to be the world vs Hamlet. Hamlet is always the one wronged. Even in the nunnery scene and the closet scene, where we should, I feel, lose Hamlet's sympathy, it seems to antiseptic and we are behind him all the way. I also find, stangley enough, that the ending of Branagh's film leaves me rather unemotional. I don't feel like I have followed this man's great journey through to it's great tragical conclusion. In watching Jacobi's Hamlet for the BBC Shakespeare I was left in tears. I find Nicol Williamson's movie more moving at its conclusion and even Olivier's. Branagh's movie of Hamlet is a great film and a great achievement, but Branagh's own Hamlet, while often touching on inventive genius, is not great. The sooner we stop holding Branagh's truly "likeable" prince in such high esteem the better. Hamlet should be more Marlon Brando circa Streetcar Named Desire and less Tom Cruise.

-- Patrick Walker (the_right_hand_of_doom@msn.com), August 14, 2003.

Why isn't Shakespeare kid's stuff? Every year I direct 12-14 year olds in one of Shakespeare's plays. If you don't think that kids go through many of the situations that Shakespeare wrote about than you aren't in touch with the current educational system! My kids love it and get it more than some adults do. I do agree that Shakespeare is made dull and boring by most teachers. Shakespeare was not meant to be merely read like a novel, but acted out and experienced!

-- Janine Armstrong (janinerenee@mchsi.com), September 28, 2003.

I'm 16, still at school and I doing drama. We don't touch Shakespeare and for English, so far we've done Romeo and Juliet last year (which we did watch the Lurhman's movie and in my opinion killed Shakespeare for me more than ever. What is just me or did none of them seem like they understood what they were saying?) and Much Ado About Nothing this year.

Last year we watch the film and read the whole play out loud. It was SO boring. I hated Shakespeare from then on. Then I was walking through the video shop and saw Hamlet. So I grabbed it. I was not drawn by the Shakspeare, but the huge cast (very sad I know). But from then on I've nearly read all the plays.

Much Ado About Nothing was different this year. We only watched the Branagh film. It was still boring and didn't capture much, but at least it was better.

Shakespeare should be not just read, but acted, and teachers do make it very boring, but Shakespeare is for everyone, and it had always been like that. Shakspeare didn't write to the nobility, he wrote to the public - to everyone

-- Rachel Hatton (hattonhead@aol.com), September 28, 2003.

>>Why isn't Shakespeare kid's stuff?<<

I'll tell you why, Janine. I simply don't think that some of Shakespeare's deeply psychological plays which touched on themes such as murder, incest, madness, suicide, and sexual jealousy, are to be understood, comprehended or even suitable for the minds of children of the age groups you mentioned. Sure, they might enjoy them. I am not out to ruin anyone's fun here, nor am I being an old prude, but I am dubious and realistic. I wonder why they enjoy them. Is it because they are told they are supposed to?

No, come on, seriously. It ISN'T "kids stuff".

-- Patrick Walker (the_right_hand_of_doom@msn.com), September 29, 2003.

Patrick, when was it that you first started enjoying Shakespeare? Who introduced his works to you? What was the first play you read? If Shakespeare is never introduced to someone (whether it be kids or adults)how or when will they get a chance to experience Shakespeare on a deeper level. I am not proposing that the children I work with fully understand everything Shakespeare was writing about, nor that they should yet, but they have developed an appreciation that will hopefully bleed over into other encounters with his works. If you think that children enjoy something " because they are told they are supposed to?" then you are underestimating them. Is Shakespeare just for smart, intellectual types who can write witty responses to Shakespearian dilemas, or is it for anyone who has an appreciation for his work and wants to learn more?

-- Janine Armstrong (janinerenee@mchsi.com), October 11, 2003.

Beautifully put.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), October 11, 2003.

this QUESTION is asked in sep 2002 and the answers are continued till 2003 I guess it will continue>>>>>.....

I am writing an Essay on the Cinematography, sound and music. My teacher is a director and she @#$%

any more Ideas Please!!!!!!!!!

-- AMIRINENI VENKATA ASHOK (amirineni@cox.net), December 11, 2003.

hey - i have a hamlet paper coming up - its about ophelia- if u knwo anythign that could contribute to a characetr sketch, emal me with the subject "opheli answer"" or somehting - so i no what it is. thanx a bunch

-- Daniella Ester (nonee4000@aol.com), November 11, 2004.

Hola!! Anyway, It is really true. Some questions are maybe just meant to be left unanswered. "To be or not to be?" I wish I could speak to Freud and Shakespeare. They are so cool! I mean they aren't alive,(well they are alive, they live through us) but they left us with unanswered questions,and unquestioned answers..... ??? Both of them showed us what a real human thinks like. They showed us the real inside of us...It's like not only the character Hamlet, but also Freud's suggestion leave us with an emotional purging and wonder and thoughts and questions...


I've always been a Mel Gibson fan! Loved the film, but why did Zef leave Fortinbras out?

I wish I could have met Shakespeare ands Freud.

-- Raquel C. (papitasysalsa@hotmail.com), November 19, 2004.

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