Movie Essays - Oedipal Hamlet in Film

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Oedipal Hamlet on Film

It has commonly been suggested by such disciples of Sigmund Freud as Ernest Jones that Shakespeare's character of Hamlet is the victim of an Oedipus complex. While any reading of the play Hamlet, Prince of Denmark that focuses on the text and not the psychoanalytical fads of the current age disproves any notion of Hamlet's oedipal nature, many film artists have followed popular psychology and have adopted this theory for the screen. Whether out of precedent, pressure, or some need to discover some complex in Hamlet, this has become a very popular trend for filmmakers. Seeing as how it is impossible to do a production of Hamlet without addressing Hamlet's relationship with Gertrude, Hamlet, Sr., and
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Clearly the relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude, at least emotionally, goes somewhat deeper than family. In order to accomplish this Olivier makes several textual edits and free adaptations. For example, Gertrude's death is a suicide intended to expose the king and save her son in a final fruition of the love-pact. Gertrude knowingly drinks the poisoned wine, sacrificing herself, and repenting in order to try to rescue her love, Hamlet. This Gertrude is not defined by her appetites, but by her quasi-sexual lust, reminiscent of that of Venus for Adonis, which is so strong that she willingly gives her life because of it.

"Olivier's psychological interpretation of an Oedipus complex... was very much in keeping with the themes of 1940s films, Freud and psychoanalysis were in vogue, a fashion that found cinematic expression in films such as ... Spellbound (1945)." (Leong). Because of precedent, Olivier gives us a Gertrude who is more attached to her son than his father, or even Claudius, and a Hamlet who is trapped in a circle of confusion, unable to make up his mind due to a sexual incontinence.

Olivier's own precedent (as it is safe to say that there is nothing oedipal in Gade's 1921 film) along with the incessant ravings of psychoanalytical critics seem to have spawned similar ideas in such filmmakers as Franco Zeffirelli. Mel Gibson's Hamlet is, as the video cover claims "more macho

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