I’m an English lit nerd. I’ll admit it, I’m on a first name basis with most of the workers at my local Barnes and Noble (and most of the workers at Bath and Body Works). I love book to film movies, but I also love when plays are made into movies. Like most students I suffered through Shakespeare at least once a year in English class. Unlike most high school English students I wasn’t scared by Shakespearean English, as it’s still English at the end of the day, but rather I was pissed off by his obvious distaste for women (did you know even the female characters in Shakespeare's plays were acted out by males?). However a certain female character from Hamlet is getting the limelight she deserves.
Just as a recap: Hamlet’s uncle Claudius murders Hamlet’s father, marries Hamlet’s mother, becomes King, and Hamlet goes mad trying to out Claudius as a murderer. A side effect of Hamlet’s madness is killing off his love interest Ophelia’s father, and after slut shaming Ophelia so much it drives her to commit suicide by drowning herself. Of course, because this is Shakespeare, SPOILER ALERT everyone else dies in the end after a long winded monologue from the main character. Dangers of toxic masculinity at it’s finest I guess.
Ophelia the film, which is currently only playing at film festivals, takes a different approach. Ophelia is the narrator of this story, and takes the audience behind the curtain of Hamlet’s famous plot. Though the writers are careful to never quote the original play exactly, it’s just enough to know where the two stories cross.
The original Ophelia is a poor pawn, made helpless by Hamlet’s hurtful behavior and flirtations. The new Ophelia? Clever, cunning, wise, and defiant. The film takes twists and turns offering Ophelia a less finite ending. It’s feminist fan fiction come to life right before our eyes. It’s not a perfect movie (is anything truly perfect though?), but it doesn’t need to be overly critical of the original plot line to give Ophelia the story she deserves.
Just remember, the old Ophelia can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Cause she’s dead.