When Dylan met the Bard: Fragments of screen (sound) in Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet

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Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet (2000) offers a stunning contemporary vision of the Shakespeare’s Hamlet, set in a sleek urban world of New York City that is plagued by claustrophobia, conspiracy, and global corporate power. The film radically shifts the original period and milieu of Hamlet, and drastically edits and fragments Shakespeare’s playtext. To counter the film’s temporal brevity and drastic cuts, Almereyda employs numerous intertextual and popular culture references, as well as eclectic musical cues, in order to quickly and succinctly convey mood, tone, and significant textual information that have otherwise been excised from his film. Musical quotation is in particular, a potent signifier in Hamlet. A fragment of the Bob Dylan song ‘All Along the Watchtower’ (1966) is used as a filmic shortcut to translate Shakespeare’s iconic ‘Gravedigger scene’ between Hamlet and the Gravedigger from playtext to screen. ‘All Along the Watchtower’ encapsulates certain ideas about mortality and the worth of life from the ‘Gravedigger scene’ and demonstrates these issues still resonate in the contemporary urban world the film is set. Dylan’s lyrics are a deliberate modern translation of Shakespeare’s poetry that casts Hamlet as the used and abused Joker struggling for meaning in his life, and Claudius as both Businessman and Thief, who robs Hamlet of the possibilities of succession.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalCerae: an Australasian journal of medieval and early modern studies
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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