I’ve always loved Shakespeare — especially Hamlet. I was 11 when I first saw the film with Sir Laurence Olivier. I didn’t understand a word he said. But I could figure out that Hamlet’s father died. My own father died when I was a baby. This was the first time I saw a movie where someone else’s father had died. I might have needed a translator, but I felt I had something in common with this guy.
I’ve seen many films and theatrical productions of Hamlet, and now I know I have something else in common with him: mental illness. He’s called the Melancholy Dane for good reasons. He can’t make up his mind. He broods a lot. He craves being alone. He thinks constantly about revenge. He’s passive-aggressive (going through the trouble of staging an entire play-within-a-play to get back at his mother and uncle.) He takes orders from his dead father’s ghost.
I could go on and on. But the more flawed Hamlet is, the more I relate to him. And who but Shakespeare could make madness so damned poetic? This scene is from one of my favorite recent incarnations of Hamlet. I usually don’t like to see Shakespeare “modernized,” but in this production, it’s done effectively. Here’s Hamlet (played by Dr. Who’s David Tennant) in all his mad glory.