Ophelia

This one’s been sitting idle in my drafts folder for way too long. All I had was the title, Ophelia, which was a freebie.

As you may have guessed (or perhaps you’ve seen the film, released as it was in 2018), this is a re-telling from Hamlet, from the fair Ophelia’s point of view. She doesn’t exactly get a fair shake from Shakespeare. Will director Claire McCarthy finally do her justice?

I’ve seen this described as a “feminist reinterpretation” so many times I want to throw a pewter goblet through a stained glass window. Stories with female protagonists don’t need special labels. It’s like saying the original Hamlet had an “idiotic interpretation” just like all stories with male protagonists. Oh, that seems unfair and perhaps a bit reductive? YEAH I FUCKING KNOW. I have so much rage. Of course I want to give this movie a pass just for having to deal with stupid male critics and stupid male bias and stupid male viewers but the truth is, this female was bored stiff.

Yes, it’s shot extremely well; there’s palpable value in its production. And Daisy Ridley and George MacKay are quite wonderful, really. But the thing is, very rarely are going to improve upon FUCKING SHAKESPEARE. Sure Ophelia got a shitty deal, and yes, it’s nice to see her flexing some agency. But this version just feels like we’re getting the bits of Hamlet that were left on the cutting room floor – and for good reason. There’s only so many jugs of water a girl can fetch. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy. But while Ophelia’s background may be fecund in theory, it was rather barren in execution. It fell so far short of the mark for me I rather wished we’d been in Queen Gertrude’s (Naomi Watts) shoes instead, uncomfortable as I’m sure they were.

8 thoughts on “Ophelia

  1. tensecondsfromnow

    I’m going to try to make a case for this one; you’re right to think it’s madness to improve on Shakespeare. But Shakespeare will still be there when films like this have been and gone. A film like this, like Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead, offer a different route through a well established story and there’s merit in that. Why should one man living hundreds of years ago have the only version of this story? Shakespeare didn’t invent Hamlet, it existed as a story long before he came along…

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  2. Christopher

    Someone else already mentioned Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead and with any luck we’ll see a decent film version of Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus sometime soon. So, yeah, there’s plenty of Shakespeare and revisions and stories inspired by Shakespeare that this one can easily go into the slush pile, but it’s disappointing. I think Ophelia deserved better. All around.

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  3. mydangblog

    I taught Hamlet for years but finally stopped when I had the sudden epiphany that the guy was a total dick. I switched to Titus Andronicus–also a dick but at least not as self-absorbed.

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