By Alex Cox
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From a scepticism that is not quite aware of itself ’. 13 Burdened by the ghost’s demands, but then motivated by the betrayal he experiences at the hands of Gertrude and Ophelia, this Hamlet has a simplified emotional trajectory to achieve.
The inn scenes, including those in the flashbacks recalling happier days with Falstaff, are set in nondescript, drab timbered rooms. In this film, the selfconscious e lement is provided by Derek Jacobi’s chorus, conceived as a ‘timeless’ war correspondent striding through the battlefield as occasion demands. ’ before the screen is plunged into the obscurity from which Canterbury and York will be found conspiring. 7 This is a distinctly intimate, un-epic view of its historical subject. In Chimes at Midnight Orson Welles sets the chilly court of Henry Bolingbroke, staged in the gloomy, high-arched spaces of a monastery church, against the warm, hospitable world of Eastcheap, the ‘Merrie England’ that Falstaff embodies and that Hal, becoming Henry V, must forswear.
Welles may open himself here, as elsewhere in his films, to accusations of hogging the screen, but this is a small price to pay for his extraordinary ability to think of his own role in terms of powerful cinematic images. 4 (in the second Quarto’s version). The concluding assertion, ‘This is the story of a man who could not make up his mind’ is a gross simplification, as has often been pointed out, not only of the play but of the film itself, but the fact that the actor’s voice is instantly recognizable may suggest that the funeral scene we see in the first overhead view of the castle’s platform is that of the speaker, and that Hamlet’s story will be related by and through himself.