The 1920 German expressionist film Hamlet: Drama of Vengeance, directed by Sven Gade, stars famous Danish silent film actress Asta Nielsen in the title role. This is Hamlet with a significant gender twist that has both comic and heart-rending consequences.
Silents Now has mounted several gala screenings of this beautiful, wry, touching film over the years. It opened the inaugural York International Shakespeare Festival, accompanied by an exciting new score by Robin Harris, played live on piano, cello, accordion, recorder, xylophone and assorted percussion.
This film always plays well with audiences: it’s an irresistible piece of cinema. But audiences responded particularly warmly to the drama and the creative synergies between the film and the new score.
In a short introduction to the screening, Judith Buchanan provided some context about the rich history of female Hamlets on stage and screen to point up some of the traditions that Asta Nielsen both adopts and rejects in her memorably stylish performance here.