There are two defining qualities of the infamous closet scene from Hamlet in the version that Kenneth Branagh brings to the screen that set this scene apart from other versions. One aspect of the closet scene thatâ??s seemingly different is the response of Hamlet to the appearance of his father and the other being the visual and vocal style in which the ghost is shown.
Upon the appearance of the ghost, Hamlet seems to become calm. The presence of the ghost takes place as Hamlet and Gertrude are speaking to one another very closely; Hamlet perhaps speaking too harshly to his mother for the liking of his deceased father. The specter appears, out of focus, between the two in the background. Hamletâ??s attention is averted from his mother and the recent killing of Polonius, to the ghost of his father.
The shift in focus does not mean that the ghost has become the focal point of the scene. His presence simply reminds Hamlet of his task - revenge. Hamlet’s father serves as a point of refocusing. In previous scenes, especially in the Branagh version of the play, the act of becoming insane comes across as some what distracting. The way in which Branagh portrays his characters insanity, while tongue-in-cheek, can be a distraction to the audience as these portions of the film seem almost silly in contrast to the rest of Branagh’s performance. The fact that Branagh’s version of Hamlet’s insanity does not become overtly portrayed in this scene is interesting. Perhaps, the reason for the over acting of insanity in the other portions of the film serve as a demarcation, so that as an audience we are able to perceive the fact that Hamlet has not lost the power of his mind in this particular scene.
Differing from the ghost in the Lawrence Olivier version, here in the Branagh version, the audience becomes plainly aware of the ghostâ??s presence in the scene. In his physical appearance the ghost does not exude an all-consuming dominance over the scene as in other versions. In this version of the scene, the ghost appears cloaked in a cool colored cloth, his body almost totally hidden from sight. The deceased Hamlet looks calm and comfortable and speaks to his son in such a manner.
While, the attention of Hamlet shifts from verbally berating his mother to listening to his father speak calmly from beyond the grave, another shift takes place. The calm appearance of his father is transferred to Hamlet. When this change in Hamletsâ?? mood occurs, the ghost proceeds to act as an intermediary between Hamlet and Gertrude. Communication has seemingly broken down between the mother and son, leaving Hamlet only able to verbally spar with her. The ghost interrupts these proceedings. Branagh decides to use the appearance of the ghost in the closet scene to achieve a different result than in other versions of the play. Hamlet remains composed, his sanity not being shaken, and returns to the remainder of the film with a new found composure in lieu of overt insanity.