This wasn’t the first time that a woman had played Hamlet but it was almost certainly the first time that the Prince had actually been a Princess – one forced to conceal her sex in order to maintain the Danish throne and who’s dithering route to revenge is now explained by her femininity. Well, that’s how Dr. Edward P. Vining's book The Mystery of Hamlet had it in 1881 but here, with Asta Nielsen as the Prince, it’s a little different…
|One of the tinted sequences - Hamlet rides with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern|
|Asta Nielsen and Lilly Jacobson|
|Sometimes it's hard to be a woman...|
|My father was killed by a Danish sword...but let us put their hatred behind us!|
|Hamlet instructs the players|
|Hamlet teases Polonius|
|How lovely Provence must be...|
Hamlet’s situation starts with her father, also called Hamlet (Paul Conradi), almost dying in battle. Her mother Queen Gertrude (Mathilde Brandt), delivers a baby girl but decides the only way to secure the throne is to tell the world it is a son. King Hamlet recovers but agrees to go along with the deception.
|The Danish Royal Family: complicated...|
The King is removed by snakebite and his funeral wake quickly morphs into a wedding party as his brother and murderer hastily arranges a wedding. Hamlet enters the great hall, dressed in black with her cape flowing impressively behind as she storms towards the throne: she has her suspicions and when she discovers Claudius’ knife next to the snake pit from which he took the viper that did the deed… she knows her enemy.
|Hamlet flies in to challenge the new King|
Kindly old Polonius (Hans Junkermann) – who is quite splendidly made up like an out-take from an Aubrey Beardsley illustrated Japanese fairy tale – tries to help the seeming unfortunate who then persuades his daughter Ophelia (Lilly Jacobson) to fall for him and not Horatio… That’s just not going to work out and, by the same token, nor can the Norwegian King Fortinbras (Fritz Achterberg) expect his relationship with the young Price of Denmark to ever be more than… fraternal.
|The fair Ophelia gets closer to the water...|
The Edition Filmmuseum DVD is available direct and can find it on Amazon.de, .com and ,co.uk too.
More details of Robin Harris can be found on his website which also features musical samples from his score for Der Golem! Lovely stuff.