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The 'new' Ophelia in Michael Almereyda's "Hamlet"
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Amanda RooksAmanda Rooks
Michael Almereyda's "Hamlet" compels audiences to reflect on the history and form of Ophelia's representation over time and across texts. This essay positions the film as a self-conscious exploration of Ophelia's ideological efficacy, one that rejects various cultural constructions of gender informing past representations of this character, including those found in the popular film adaptions of Lawrence Olivier, Franco Zeffirelli and Kenneth Branagh. Almereyda's interrogation of "seeing" and "looking" are certainly evident in the film's extensive use of video surveillance, a motif which works to offer an implicit challenge to the object position commonly afforded Ophelia who, in this case, has a distinct awareness of herself as an image. Despite the inherent difficulty of enacting a feminist re-visioning of a text as recognizable and mythologized as "Hamlet," Almereyda manages to avoid what Chillington Rutter has described as the tendency to deliver the story as a 'one-man-show[,] ... a celebration of heroic masculinity' (299). Rather than trivializing Ophelia by means of focusing exclusively on her beauty, purity, hysteria, or sexuality, Almereyda highlights the complexities and contradictions in her character that render her, much like Hamlet, elusive yet "real," conflicted yet politically potent.