The story is seen through his eyes and, when he is not present, through his imagination…I saw the camera seeing most things through Hamlet’s eyes.
Laurence Olivier, On Acting, 1986
Ophelia appears in only five of the play’s twenty scenes.
Elaine Showalter, ‘Representing Ophelia’, 1990
Because they are so familiar, so evident, we are culturally blind to the ubiquity of representations of feminine death. Though in a plethora of representations feminine death is perfectly visible we only see it with some difficulty.
Elisabeth Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body, 1992
the desire to explore the female body, to cut beneath the skin and open it to the admiring gaze of fellow observers (whether poets, painters, or anatomists) was impossible to resist…Hesitation before the female form…is a nineteenth-century invention, one entirely foreign to the ruthless dynamism of Renaissance explorations of the human figure—particularly the female human figure.
Jonathan Sawday, The Body Emblazoned, 1995
These voices supply a background conversation for my own reading of Ophelia in four filmtexts that invite thinking about how they use her scripted role—and body—to serve what they each construct as a resolutely masculinist Hamlet. Laurence Olivier (1947), Grigori Kozintsev (1964), Franco Zeffirelli (1990) and Kenneth Branagh (1997) place their cameras to see ‘things through Hamlet’s eyes’. Locating the essential ‘story’ of Shakespeare’s tragedy in the prince’s narrative, each directs that narrative towards a celebration of heroic masculinity by privileging moments that spectacularly define it. 1 But they have to achieve their heroic Hamlet