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'Ophelia' Reimagines Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' From A Female Perspective

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The new film "Ophelia" looks to Shakespeare’s "Hamlet" from the perspective of its supporting female character.

Speaker 1: 00:00 She is the girl told to get herself to a nunnery and soon after she's found floating in a lake. Ophelia is not given many life options in Shakespeare's hamlet. A recent movie takes a shot at retelling the helmets saga from the young Ophelia's point of view on her podcast, cinema junkie, KPBS arts reporter Beth OCHA Mando talked with Claire McCarthy, the director of the movie, Ofelia about the challenges of putting a new focus on a classic story.

Speaker 2: 00:30 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 00:31 you may think you know

Speaker 2: 00:32 my story, many have told it. It has long passed into history.

Speaker 3: 00:47 Most people are probably familiar with Shakespeare's hamlet or at least know something about it's melancholy Dane who hesitates an avenging his father's death, but the new film, Ophelia reimagines, the play from the point of view of Hamlet's love interest. A young woman named Ophelia who commit suicide or does she

Speaker 2: 01:19 [inaudible].

Speaker 3: 01:20 I began my interview with Clair McCarthy by asking what attracted her to Lisa client's novel, Ophelia.

Speaker 4: 01:26 I think the, the challenge of this crazy kind of shift of the narrative access, showing an insight into a failures point of view. I was really attracted to trying to set up the best circumstances for a younger audience to feel for these complex characters and hopefully relate to to the struggle, the failure and to be emotionally moved. So to me it was, it was going to be a challenge. We discussed the language and I talked a lot about the need for there to be a crispness and a bounce to the interactions that this is not trying to be kind of Shakespeare in a classic sense that we want to see humor and for it to feel like a big intense epic.

Speaker 3: 02:09 Now you mentioned that you wanted this to appeal to a younger audience, but for you as part of the appeal also that the novel took the point of view of the female supporting character as opposed to just keeping it, I mean you could have done a hamlet for a younger generation, but you picked one that's particularly from a young woman's point of view in retelling and I was just curious if that was part of the appeal as well.

Speaker 4: 02:32 Absolutely, absolutely. I think as, as I was saying before, you know, an audience can, if they do know hamlet and they can really experience the hamlet, they they might know and love and hopefully find some winsy in the shift of the the narrative and tidal Lexis. But ultimately, yeah, this is, this is a failure through her world. The intention was to always be couched and her point of view and her particular insights about the dynamics around her, we never wanted to lose her or have this, you're passive or a victim as she was an original play. It's just such a tragic icon and such a, so such a small role in the play, but a, I think she's become a kind of iconic figure. So yeah, that was certainly a big attraction to this is to work out how to give her currency in a completely different way and to try and understand the dynamics of the hamlet story from a different point of views from her point of view.

Speaker 3: 03:27 Well, I'm a big fan of Shakespeare in his plays. And when I first heard about this that my one concern was that it was going to have this kind of perspective where they put a modern female character into this setting and that she might appear to contemporary. But what I really liked about what the film did was it showed what a strong intelligent woman had to kind of like suffer through being in that time period that she looks into the library where she's not allowed and because of her place of birth, she's, you know, limited to certain things that she can do with her life. And I, I really appreciated how you gave it a strong female perspective but didn't necessarily, you know, make it this unrealistic kind of contemporary character back in that setting.

Speaker 4: 04:16 It's a, it's incremental as to how far you can push these things because sometimes it can just feel anachronistic and you just wonder, that's just not believable. I can't relate to it. And so it's trying to work out how you were, how much latitude you have to push that character within that context of that world. And still hopefully allow there to be enough room to still let there be complexity and also our capacity for an audience of today to experience a re experience this particular situation.

Speaker 3: 04:45 Well and also seem like you not only gave us an insight into Ophelia's character, but also into Gertrude who is another character who is sometimes kind of difficult to understand from the small amount of time that we get to see her on stage.

Speaker 4: 05:00 That's true. And so in working with Naomi's such as navy watts is such a beautiful, complex, wonderful artists thinking about how to bring in, you know, we, we did a lot of this, we talked a lot about the way that Gertrude had been represented and, and often judged. I mean that's the other thing is in shifts the point of view, it's allowing the characters to have flaws and to, to do questionable things, but to not, not allow us to presume that they're bad or wrong or silly that we're trying to be inside this their situations. Yeah, I guess it allows us more latitude to understand what it would feel like to be, to be kind of lonely. You know, a lot of the complex kind of issues that she would be dealing with, you know, jealousy and shine and self-loading and depression. They're very contemporary sort of, um, discussion points, but there are things that are very inherent within her character. But definitely there, there was a, there was a lot of discussions with Naomi about how the land is character and to find the love, you know, I'd find the empathy for her as opposed to come from a point of, um, presumption that she's weak or inferior or just a part of the rottenness of that, of that empire that caught at that time.

Speaker 1: 06:23 That was KPBS arts reporter Beth Hock Amando talking with Claire McCarthy, the director of the movie. Ofelia. You can hear the whole conversation on the Cinema Junkie podcast number one 72. The female perspective.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.