To watch, or not to watch, that is the question. When it comes to Shakespeare adaptations, there are so many interpretations that it’s difficult to bring anything fresh to the centuries old table. Whether on stage or on screen, the tales of tragedy, love, and revenge have been told over and over again. Proving that the work of Shakespeare still has plenty to offer in the arts, Paul Warner’s take on Hamlet is nothing short of creativity at its finest.
Warner’s film Hamlet/Horatio tells the tragedy of Hamlet from the perspective of Horatio, an often underappreciated character in the classic. In the original play when Hamlet is at the brink of death, he tells Horatio to stay alive and tell his story. Warner and writer David Vando interpret this line in a literal way, making Horatio, played by Themo Melikidze, the director of Hamlet’s story. While the film recounts the infamous lives of Hamlet (Andrew Burdette), Ophelia (Phage Nolte), and Claudius (Michael Elian), among others, the audience is immersed into the world of production with lights, cameras, and crew.
Hamlet/Horatio takes Shakespeare’s poetic effects to a new level. With rhythmic editing (Sean Robinson) that matches the rhythm of the lyrical lines, the film has an ebb and flow that allows the audience to get lost in the story. The cinematography (Hernan Toro) bounces from a soft, warm, and glowy look to a highly saturated and highly contrasted dramatic look that captures Shakespeare’s balance of romance and pain. Above all, the acting is what brings out the Shakespearean awe.
While Early Modern English, also known as Elizabethan English, can be an encumbrance to follow and understand, the acting performances and line deliveries seen in the film make it captivating and elegant. Burdette and Melikidze delivered every line with passion and intent, making it hard not feel the intense emotions that Shakespeare is known for. It’s clear that Warner had a bold and ambitious creative vision. With the skilled cinematography, editing, and acting, that vision was fulfilled in a way that honors the true art of Shakespeare’s writing and translates it’s written brilliance into a visual one.