I was about to call it a day when I saw something that just angered me. Live for Films reports that Emile Hirsch is going to be playing Hamlet in an upcoming film of the greatest play ever written that will be set in modern times. I’ve made it known that I adore this play and have been generally pleased by most of the film versions of the story up to this point. However, some things about this project are just terrifying and I am convinced it is going to be a complete disaster. Here are some reasons why:
- The makers of this film clearly have limited knowledge of the play. If you’re going to approach Hamlet, even at the community theatre level you have to be a die hard enthusiast of the work, if you want it to be a success. Producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen are quoted saying: “Hamlet was in college when the story takes place, yet there hasnâ€™t been a movie version with an appropriately-aged actor playing the role.” Anyone who loves the play knows that Hamlet is intended to be 30 years old (here’s a good list of proof). Most actors who have done Hamlet right (Branagh, Olivier) were within two or three years of being thirty at the time.
- They have changed the text to make it more “accessible.” I don’t know exactly what this means, but I’m guessing they probably just dumbed down the language. Purists everywhere will be weeping.
- The play is being set in modern times. This is done over and over again to Shakespeare’s works, most of the time with very limited success. Also, when this is done it usually causes the set pieces to overwhelm the story instead of letting the text speak for itself.
- It was all Emile Hirsch’s idea. Sorry, I know that Emile Hirsch is a fine actor, but just because he says “I want to play Hamlet” doesn’t mean it should happen. Every actor wants to play Hamlet, but as Branagh says in the DVD extras of his version, you have to be at a certain maturity level to pull it off. 24 year old Hirsch just isn’t there yet.
It just breaks my heart that my favorite piece of literature in the world is about to get the High School Musical treatment. Please Hollywood, I’m begging you to stop.