It needs to be said that anyone who decides to do an adaptation of Shakespeare has got some serious balls - especially when they flex their own creative licence on the narrative. Additionally, anyone who adapts the story of 'Hamlet' by filtering the story through the lens of a female protagonist deserves some praise. With 'Ophelia', it was refreshing to watch the well-known story through the lens of a heroine - an intelligent, well-spoken and self-dependant one at that. Before delving in and fleshing out some of the positives and negatives this film has to offer, it is important to credit it for its bold presence of women, both on and off-screen. In this way, it was positive to see that some films are leading the way in light of inclusivity, especially at the transformation of one of history’s most turbulent women in literature.
Daisy Ridley (‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, ‘Murder on the Orient Express’) gives voice to Ophelia, a lady in waiting to Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts, ‘Diana’, ‘The Impossible’). The narrative follows the basic structure of Hamlet whereby the killing of the king leads to a disturbance in the court. Gertrude marries the king's brother Claudius (Clive Owen, ‘King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword’) shortly after the funeral, which obviously doesn’t leave Hamlet (George MacKay, ‘Captain Fantastic’) feeling too red-hot. Unbeknownst to viewers, the stories we have heard previously about the fate of Ophelia are wrong. What follows is the character’s true recount of what really went down in Denmark, and a story righted about the madness and suicide of Hamlet’s true love.
Look, ‘Ophelia’ is like that other Hemsworth brother: so much wasted potential. Although the film offers fun little embellishments away from the original story, it was still quite conservative. It feels like we were waiting for a dance number to David Bowie’s ‘Golden Years’ at the climax of the story. Yeah yeah, I know it’s already been done, but I think the story needed a little more gusto. The costumes are extravagant, the cinematography offered some great shots of the location, and it was technically sound. The story just never proved to be exciting - we were in taxi for the whole journey, no take-off and no landing. As a viewer, what I struggled with was the loyalty I had to the original story. I couldn’t help but sit there with my Grade 12 English teacher’s voice in my head talking over the intricate plot that is 'Hamlet'. We’re talking a story that covers self-enlightenment, altruism versus self-determination, inherent good and evil, plays within plays, and a microcosm set to teach the world about itself.
The costumes are extravagant, the cinematography offered some great shots of the location, and it was technically sound. The story just never proved to be exciting - we were in taxi for the whole journey, no take-off and no landing.
‘Ophelia’ was fine by way of entertainment, but it doesn't do justice to the intricacies of the original story. It doesn't portray Hamlet’s quick-witted nature, Polonius’s shit-stirring, or Claudius’s grappling with guilt. It's incredible in all elements of filmmaking, but lacks the true heart and layers of Shakespeare's work.