Kenneth Branagh’s interpretation of “Hamlet” in Act 1 Scene 5 is the scene of Hamlet chasing after his father’s ghost in the dark woods. Branagh’s created a spine-chilling experience by creating a specific atmosphere, having the actors deliver their lines in a specific tone and emotion, and the characterization of the characters in the scene. By setting up the scene in this specific way, the viewers can envision the fear in Hamlet as he lies on the ground witnessing his father’s ghost.
Branagh created an eerie scene by manipulating the forest in which Hamlet runs though. Right from the start of the scene, the camera frantically chases Hamlet as he rushes though the forest. The scene also takes place in the night of a foggy night. As Hamlet runs though, the viewers can imagine being in a forest surrounded in darkness and fog. A sea of endless and leafless trees sticks their branches out from the ground and obscures the visibility as well. At the same time the earth shakes, cracks, and release smoke like hell was entering the human world. The camera keeps panning back and forth between the panicking Hamlet, the cracking ground, and the daunting image of a man in armor covered in the mists and the shadows of the night. Everything quickly comes at the viewer creating a frantic feeling while watching the scene. The background music also becomes increasingly louder and quicker adding to the eerie atmosphere. Everything becomes even more uneasy when everything stops. Once act 1 scene 5 begins with Hamlet deciding that he will “go no further” (Shakespeare 1) the background music becomes silent, the quick pandering of the camera slows down, and the explosions and the destruction of the environment stops as well. Once his father finally appears, the background music starts the pick up again with a slow and light sound of an instrument sounding like a flute and the steam flows from the ground again. The darkness fog, and trees makes it terrifying to be in alone, while the destruction, music, the frantic camera gives an uneasiness feeling. Branagh was able to create the uneasy feeling with just the stage setting alone.
Branagh also uses the deliverance of the lines to express the frantic tone of the scene. Hamlet is first shown in the scene yelling in a quick and panicked voice. Hamlet expresses his fear when he screams out “I’ll call the Hamlet, King, father, royal Dane. O, answer me!” (Shakespeare Act 1 Scene 4 Line 44). From lines 39 to 57 Hamlet speaks quickly and running out of breath. He has a shaky tone and occasionally raises his voice to express his fear and confusion. Meanwhile, Hamlet’s father’s voice expresses a much different tone. His voice echoes though out the forest giving off the same deep and ghostly voice. The ghost not only delivers a freighting message about hell he also delivers it in his low and hissing tone. He repeats his desire for revenge for the “foul and most unnatural murther,” (Shakespeare 25) and repeats “murther” in his monotone but ghastly voice. The viewers can easily see the fear when Hamlet screams out “O God!” (Shakespeare 24) The use of Hamlet’s fear and the ghastly voice of his father adds to the atmosphere by allowing to feel Hamlet’s fear while listening to his intimidating father.
Lastly, Branagh uses characterization to add to the suspense and atmosphere. Branagh characterizes Hamlet by giving him a rather plain and relatable look. He looks like a very down to earth and human character which allows the viewer to able to relate to him and feel how he feels. The viewers can more easily empathize with Hamlet and immerse themselves in the scene. Meanwhile the characterization of his father allows the reader to easily feel terror. He is constantly casted over by a shadow and hiding from sight. He is encased in a cold and hard armor as if he is ready for way. His face shows no emotion and his eyes stare at Hamlet without even blinking. The ghost’s eyes are even colored ice blue and seem frozen. His lines and the tone he gives with it make him sound tormented and insane.
Branagh is able to create a scene that depicts a very eerie event by the use of various affects in the environment, the tone of the characters, and the characterization of the characters. Each of these techniques allows the viewer to be immersed into the scene and empathize themselves with Hamlet. The uneasiness created by being surrounded in fog and darkness with an intimidating ghost is passed on from Hamlet to the viewers giving the viewers and immersive experience.