Directed by Carmelo Bene. With Carmelo Bene, Lydia Mancinelli, Alfiero Vincenti
Italy 1973, 35mm, color, 68 min. Italian with English subtitles
Bene’s version of Hamlet celebrates the power and beauty of Shakespeare’s theatricality, while attempting to strip the piece of the morbid piety that has come to cling to it over the centuries. The film radically condenses most of the action of the play and further deforms the text: lines are repeated; original passages inserted; the “To be or not to be” soliloquy is not delivered by Hamlet but read – in an extremely abbreviated version – by Horatio; Polonius quotes Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. This film then is perhaps the best example of what Bene called his aesthetic/strategy of contestation. Bene also incorporates a critique of the play’s sexual politics: the male characters sport elaborate and even ludicrous costumes, while the women wear outfits that reveal more than they cover.