International Hamlets: On Film, Around the Globe

Teachers often rightfully turn to international adaptations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet to help students connect with the play; a foreign culture’s reaction to a well-known play can defamiliarize the play and help it feel fresh, strange, and compelling. International adaptations offer insights into the play, into the artistic style of a modern direction and actors adapting it, as well as into the culture and history that these films often seek to exhibit, celebrate, and/or critique. While Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood and Ran are his most famous Shakespearean adaptations (of Macbeth and Lear, respectively) and both offer excellent resources for teaching Shakespeare’s plays, Kurosawa’s adaptation of Hamlet (The Bad Sleep Well) is both far lesser known and just as excellent as a resource. In our seminar, we will survey a variety of international adaptations of Hamlet and discuss what pedagogical value “International Hamlets” offer in the classroom. Possible films we will sample and discuss include Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well; Hamile: The Tongo Hamlet; Johnny Hamlet (Italian); The Banquet (Chinese); Haider (Hindi); and Gamlet (Russian).