The focus of this production is on making this story into a film. Words are being sacrificed. Beautiful words. Amazing words that have so much deep meaning. It's very hard for me to do this. And as I work more and more deeply on the piece, I get rid of even more words because this is a film.
To me, this means exploring the way in which the words create images and putting images in place of words when it serves the film. There are some pretty good film versions of Hamlet out there. Some of them have a lot of merit.
I love the Olivier version because he really does explore some of the filmic possibilities. It's like a horror movie. Very atmospheric. The castle, the fog and the ocean waves are also characters. He also explored the psychology in some depth and he created some powerful images based on his reading of Freudian psychologist (and student) Ernest Jones' book about Hamlet. There's a lot to recommend it...but it's not the film I want to make.
Mel Gibson is pretty good too. Very clear and interesting version. My biggest complaint is that the director takes the film outside and breaks the spell of the claustrophobia that seems to grip everybody in the story. In some ways, a good Hamlet should resemble Luis Bunuel's film The Exterminating Angel where a bunch of people get trapped in a place by some invisible (possibly internal) force that makes them unable to take the simple action of leaving.
A lot of Hamlet films (and stage productions) are vanity pieces for Hamlet. I understand what draws actors to Hamlet. It's an incredible role and I had the honor of doing it myself long ago. But it seems to me that a film is a good chance to explore more than just the one guy. The whole world is disintegrating around them. Everything they believe is being called into question. The stability of their country is challenged by internal and external threats. The story can easily explore what is happening to all of these interesting people.
So what am I doing? I'm trying to extract images and let those images lead me organically to creating a film based on images. This means that certain themes or plot points may change as they undergo the process of being fit into a 90 minute (or so) image based creation that has to have its own logic and its own raison d'etre. There is no way to make Shakespeare's Hamlet in such a short film. And there is no way to preserve all the beauties and wonders of Shakespeare in any film and still be able to call it a film.
I have planted my imagination in Shakespeare's garden and let it grow whatever it grows. I'm also working within a set of parameters (especially that this must be an organic film) that necessarily influence what I'm doing.
I also expect the actors to add to this stew. Actors will bring their own personalities and talents and insights into the ring and those also will influence the final shape of the film.
I am doing my best not to butcher what I love about Hamlet but I am very concerned to make a real film with the real actors who are part of it. I want to let this material live in a different form.
A film has to have its own life. Shakespeare's theatrical writing threatens to strangle the life out of the image-based medium of film unless you extract his images and translate them into film like you would translate his work into French.
I hope this gives you more of an idea what I'm trying to do.