Friday, January 19, 2007

The Rest... is Silents

I make no apologies for the fact that I believe William Shakespeare's Hamlet to be the greatest work ever written in the English language and Hamlet himself to be the greatest literary character ever created. Ever since I first discovered it in college and connected very deeply with the story's themes and protagonist, I have had a tremendous amount of affection for it and have labored to see every recorded version of the play that I could get my hands on (including that of Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, Nicol Williamson, Maximillian Schell, Mel Gibson, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Ethan Hawke, Adrian Lester and, my personal favorite, Campbell Scott). So, it was with no small measure of excitment that I read the following news item on IMDB today:

Although a silent version of HAMLET seems like a contradiction in terms, the Berlin film festival said Thursday that it plans to present a "rediscovered" color version of a German film of Shakespeare's play produced in 1920/21 starring an actress, Asta Nielsen, in the title role. The film was originally presented in color (it was shot in black and white and colored in post-production), but the color version was lost until recently. In a news release the film festival noted that the film caused controversy when it was originally released because of an alteration in Shakespeare's tale, to wit: "To secure the succession to the throne, the Queen of Denmark disguises her daughter as a boy."

I had read about this particular version before and had been very curious about it. Though I don't agree with the interpretation, I thought it was a very bold and imaginative way to answer many of the troubling questions about the play and its title character. Now, with its "re-discovery," perhaps they will release it on DVD. It may not be the first filmed version of this classic tale (that honor belongs to a very short 1900 silent with Sarah Bernhardt), but it has to be at least one of the earliest recorded adaptations of the Bard's classic and perhaps even the first full-length version. Either way, it is clearly a very significant film and I hope I get to see it.

Oh, and just because this is MY blog and I can do what I please, here are a few choice moments from a very satisfying experience in my "career" as an actor. In the summer of 2006, a long-time dream of mine was realized when I had the honor and privelege to play the tragic prince of Denmark himself in a local community theatre production of Hamlet.

Talking to my father, the ghost.

"To be or not to be. That is the question."

"I say we will have no more marriages!"

"Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio."

The "friendly" duel with Laertes

"Good night, sweet prince..."