"The Mirror up to Nature": Notes on Kozintsev's Hamlet


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Grigori Kozintsev's film of Hamlet re-invents Shakespeare's play by expanding the limitations of its stage reality in order to show us a more complete world.1 Although many dramatic moments and Shakespearean effects translate easily to the screen,2 Kozintsev's interest in narrative breadth also re-dramatizes the play. The director's aesthetic sense is such that what we see is a surface activity and structure and a treatment of objects and of natural reality which impose a peculiarly lyrical counterpointing upon the tough, interiorizing force of Shakespeare's powerfully enigmatic drama. Further, the film includes and acknowledges a sensibility dependent upon the Russian novel of epic scope and significance, and, in selected sequences, upon the Russian school of film montage. But it is important to make a qistinction here: the film does not conform to the characteristics of Soviet Socialist Realism, either by propagandizing man's struggle or harmony with the land or by removing focus from the individual in order to show or to dramatize his "collective" · importance. In an effort to define some of ,the effects and effectiveness of this Hamlet, I should like to look at Kozintsev's treatment of reality, that is, how he sees and how he photographs objects and the natural world; at his use of spaces and rhythms; at his conception of Ophelia; and at his cinematic translation of the ritual and improvisational occasions3 of Shakespeare's play.

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