About Sven Gade & Heinz Schall's "Hamlet" (1921)
Silent Guest Stars: Dame Suellen Aucejo, Dame Mary Mallory, Herr Robert Birchard, Herr Dennis Doros und James Bazen
Dame Suellen Aucejo wrote: "That must be interesting!
But I have a question...If Herr Hamlet is, in this version, Dame Hamlett, what is Ophelia? Is she a Herr or a dame too?...
If she is a dame too, that would be even more interesting to watch! I'd love to see how they dealt with the most controversial of topics in history, which is homosexuality, or if they did adapt for Ophelia too and transformed her in a boy, how did he/she die drawned by his/her dress...
This seems extremelly complcated after all! LOL
Does anyone know?".
Und Dame Mary Mallory said: "I and two other women who saw this at UCLA in August loved it. We were mesmerized, moved, and thought itbeautifully shot. We loved Nielsen's performance, finding her strong yet vulnerable and very androgynous. It makes the film more interesting from a sexual identity/gender role perspective, in that Hamlet has feelings for a male friend but can't reveal them, while Ophelia (female) has feelings for Hamlet and has no idea why he's not interested. We are seeking out photos and images from the film".
Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien added: "One of the most interesting aspects of this German version of "Hamlet" is the "new" relevance of the sufferings of Ophelia; this German count could say that she is the most harmed in this special Danish "mènage a trois".
Her feelings for Hamlet are sincere, pure and innocent and she doesn't understand why the Prince rejects her. Meanwhile, Hamlet is more interested in Horatio but that special relationship never can come to fruition because Horatio is interested exclusively in comradeship. Hamlet realizes of course that the role he/she must play makes any love relationship a farce.
In the midst of all this turmoil is Ophelia who will be sacrificed for both, becoming mentally unbalanced and taking her own life because of her unrequited love.
Suddenly Herr Robert Birchard commented: "The film is played with Asta as a man--except for the fact that periodically she covers her chest with her hand when someone gets too close and might discover that she has breasts. The big reveal is at the end of the picture as Hamlet kicks the bucket.
This is purely stunt casting, and I think the only reason that Hamlet is ultimately revealed to be a woman is that Asta N. is totally unconvincing as a man.
I disagree with the person who found it a handsome production. It was not especially well made, performances were so-so, and the overall picture was rather tedious".
And then Herr Dennis Doros added: "Bob, I think you must have missed the beginning which explains that Hamlet's father is falsely pronounced dead on the battlefield and because of this, the mother is forced to announce that the new baby girl is a boy to keep the lineage going. So all along, Hamlet is a girl who's forced to play dress-up and can't pull it off. Ophelia is hot for Hamlet while he/she has feelings for his/her college friend (was it Horatio?). The movie is based on a late 19th century German novel of Hamlet rather than directly from Shakespeare's play itself. I always thought the homo-eroticism and role-playing makes this version one of the most psychologically interesting variations of Shakespeare around.
That, and the fact that former Milestoner Anke Mebold restored the film, made it a special experience to see it last year".
Und Herr Robert Birchard replied: "Well, Dennis, yes, I guess I did miss the beginning, but even with the explanation it still doesn't change my opinion of the picture. It always seems that there's some obscure German novel to back these sorts of experiments up, but in every other way but the transgender gimmick, the film owes its storyline and characters to old Bill S. I saw Hamlet on a double bill with the Mabel Normand film "Head Over Heels", which in many ways was a terrible film, but which impressed me for the way it was staged with a bit of wit and energy and for the way Mabel Normand's personality came across. Asta Nielsen, by contrast, had next to no screen presence and Hamlet was staged like a stage pageant. For me it was a pretty dull and lifeless affair, and as I say, even with the explanation, it still comes off to me as a stunt. The more interesting psychological aspects all take place in the mind of the audience, not really in the intentions of the filmmakers. I'm glad I saw it (or, most of it, anyway), because it was a film I had long wanted to see, but having seen it I'll check it off the list and be glad I'll never have to look at it again. It, for me, was a dreary exercise at best".
Last but not least, Herr Dennis Doros added: "Certainly not denying that you can dislike a film or that one of us is right or wrong. There's just a whole heritage of variations on Shakespeare (who based his career on adaptations as well) and this one happens to be based on a then-popular German one. As much as I like Joseph Papp's productions, I rarely found his attempts at placing Shakespeare in a different time or place as psychologically interesting as this version of Hamlet and the concept of what made H. the melancholy Dane. After that, whether it's a good film or a bad one is subjective".
Finally, Herr James Bazen said: "Yes, I agree. I've seen the okay-quality, untranslated German titled Peter Kavel VHS copy and thought it was one of the most fascinating films I've seen and Asta was excellent. I hope one day someone puts this on DVD as it really is an impressive film. In fact, if Kino would ever decide to do a follow-up of their gay themed German film set, this would be an excellent candidate".
Published in Silent Films Yahoo Newsgroup