Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Rachel's Hamlet Review: Live v. Filmed

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So I had the incredible opportunity to see this version of Hamlet live at the Barbican last fall while studying in London. And it was absolutely incredible! I thought I would use this post to review how the two versions were different: seeing it live versus seeing it filmed.

While at the Barbican, I was sitting pretty close to the stage, so when the play opens with Hamlet leaning against the boxes, we saw him rise up on to the stage, less than twenty feet away from us. This was different in the filmed version, where they faded in and he was there.

During the performance, while close to the stage, we were also not centered. You could see the whole set, but the view was not as clear as it was in the filmed version, where they could zoom in on the characters and on different scenes. I preferred being able to see the whole stage though; zooming in caused me to miss some of the background action. Some of my favorite parts occurred during Hamlet's soliloquies while seeing it live. During this "stop motion" action, when Hamlet is spotlighted and the others move slowly, it was really neat to look around at the other characters, to see how they were responding. This could not really be done in the filmed version - much of the focus was on Hamlet, and it was hard for me to not be able to see the other characters as they went through these scenes.
The filmed version was also hard to watch in that the picture became blurry at times, or the sound faltered, whereas that would not happen in the live version like it did.

The setting was really interesting to me. I loved the castle setting, and its large scale. It was neat to see just how much detail was in the set, which, while amplified and zoomed in in the filmed version, you could only see selective parts which detracted from the experience for me. The setting also allowed more characterization, with room to add or subtract things as time passed - it was really neat to see the character growth and change as the lighting got darker and darker.

Overall, when a play is filmed, you lose many elements present in the live version - your view, while closer, becomes selective. You lose the ability to see a broader picture and therefore some elements that I think are powerful to a live version. There are some interactions and instances where seeing it live allow you to draw your own conclusions versus them being drawn for you. I really enjoyed being able to see this Hamlet again, having now read the play. It brought on so much more meaning then before, and has helped me to think more on my paper topic as well.


  1. Rachel, obviously I am going to voice what we are all thinking, boy am I jealous you got to see it live! But I think your final paragraph talking about how seeing it live allowed you to draw your own conclusions is such a great point. That is so true, and the decisions are made largely by the camera angles so if you didn't have the live performance to compare to, you wouldn't even know these choices were being made for you!

  2. I too, was conflicted about the filming viewpoint. I did find myself willing the camera to back out during some scenes, wishing I could see other character's reactions to things. But I also loved seeing all the facial expressions.