Shakespeare’s plays are dreamt to be directed well by all famous film makers, and Hamlet is one of the most famous plays from his inspirational works. Many versions of this epic writing have come into life through plays and films, and the two most famous were the versions by Kenneth Branagh and the other by Franco Zeffirelli. The film adaptations were released in the same century, Zeffirelli’s in 1990, and Branagh’s in 1996. In order to understand the difference between each directors rendition, one must watch the two films to visualize and discern it.


A look on how we viewed each film is given below:



Branagh’s Hamlet

This film runs at 242 minutes (4 hours and 2 minutes), making it detailed and well converted from the Hamlet text into screenplay. It was the first complete theatrical interpretation of the famous Shakespeare writing. The film was more theatrical than cinematic, and the film runs longer takes on the famous Hamlet soliloquy, “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” Branagh uses long takes with cinematographic elements as he shoots the scenes. Furthermore, Hamlet and Ophelia interact uniquely, yet similarly in both versions of Hamlet. Claudius and Polonius eavesdrop in the film from the halls hidden behind mirrors. The theatrical elements are strongly pertained in the version of Hamlet by Branagh.






Zeffirelli’s Hamlet

The film runs at 134 minutes (2 hours and 14 minutes), making it a shorter version of Hamlet in comparison to Branagh’s version. Zeffirelli cuts the length of the script to suit the cinema, and long pieces of lines are swapped in the film. The plot is quickened and fast-paced, which does not happen in Branagh’s version.  Also, the director has used a multitudes of cinematic techniques in the film and action-film basis. The famous soliloquy of Hamlet, “To be, or not to be…” is strongly shot with Mel Gibson deep voice enthralling the audience. Gibson performs all Shakespeare lines superbly through the film, and Claudius and Polonius in the movie are shown to eavesdrop from behind pillars in the halls. Overall, the  film focuses on cinematic elements, and is shorter than the other versions.