Ophelia is directed by Australian Claire McCarthy and is a “re-imagining” of the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, told from the perspective of Ophelia. This film stars a group of very talented individuals including Daisy Ridley, alongside Clive Owen, Tom Felton and Naomi Watts.
Ophelia is labeled as a “re-imagining” of the original Shakespeare play, which is an instantly risky move, as Hamlet is world famous and has been re-told and re-imagined many times before.
This film had a duty to bring something new to the table. It needed to provide a reason or justify itself for being re-imagined from Ophelia’s perspective. Unfortunately, I do not believe this movie did that. After watching this film, I don’t feel like the characters were deepened anywhere near enough. The only scenes in the film I feel work really well are the ones that are important to Hamlet, namely, the conflicts between him and Claudius.
Daisy Ridley does perform as Ophelia fairly well. Although I believe way too much of the film was simply her reacting to other events happening in the story, especially in the first half of the film.
The standout of the film by far is Clive Owen as Claudius, who relishes every moment on screen. He is not only intimidating, but provides an energy and passion that is unfortunately rare in the movie.
On a technical level, the film is very inconsistent. Some aspects were very competent, while others stood out and often distracted from the story. These distracting elements include the lighting motivation, makeup, special effects and shot composition. Not to mention the overall tone which felt very off and was something that could have been fixed in the editing stage.
There were some scenes that seemed to overstay their welcome and others that ended too quickly.
On the positive side certainly were the stunning locations, set design and costume design. These elements were not only beautiful on a visual level, but also fit with the character’s personalities and progression within the story.
One thing that can be said in the movie’s defence is that there were undeniably a number of people who were a part of the production who cared and put a lot of effort and love into this film. It was apparent that there was an effort made to present scenes in an interesting, creative way, especially in terms of the flowing camera movements and varying angles.
I believe this film is worth a watch for those familiar with Shakespeare and those intrigued to see ‘Hamlet’ told in a different way. However, I don’t see this film as one that offers much for those who are not die hard Shakespeare fans.
Ophelia will be shown at the same time Melbourne International Film Festival, being released for the first time in Australia alongside films such as; ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ and ‘The Nightingale’. Regardless of this films success, this year’s MIFF has a lot of Australian talent on display, which runs through the first half of August.
Screenings of Ophelia will begin 1st August at Cinema Nova.