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Film / Ophelia

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A 2019 note  British-American romantic period drama film, based on the novel of the same name by Lisa Klein. It is a reimagining of William Shakespeare's Hamlet told from the perspective of Ophelia, Prince Hamlet's ill-fated love interest.

It was directed by Claire McCarthy, while the screenplay was written by Semi Chellas, and stars Daisy Ridley as Ophelia, Naomi Watts as Gertrude and Mechtild, George MacKay as Hamlet, Clive Owen as Claudius, Devon Terrell as Horatio and Tom Felton as Laertes.


Ophelia contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: As if Ophelia didn't have enough things going wrong for her already, in this film she gets constantly bullied by the other ladies-in-waiting for being a lowborn 'weirdo', people are a lot more hostile about her being the supposed cause of Hamlet's madness (Claudius in particular starts to suspect she knows he murdered his brother and is turning Hamlet against him and Gertrude) and she is forcibly betrothed to a Jerkass to remove her as a threat; said jerk is a sleazy misogynist who sexually harassed her and another woman and later tries to force himself on her.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • Ophelia is depicted here as being a lot more assertive and proactive; near the climax she even knocks a bully to the floor and threatens her, fights off a would-be rapist, outruns the castle guards and nearly single-handedly comes up with an elaborate plan to fake her death and flee the court.
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    • Queen Gertrude, who in this version is the one who ultimately kills Claudius, driving her son's sword through Claudius's chest and right through the back of his throne.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: Not to say that Ophelia is stupid in Hamlet, but here there's a lot more emphasis placed on her bookishness and intellect. She can about match Hamlet in wits and also figures out on her own that Claudius murdered the previous king, as well as faking both her madness and her own death as part of a gambit to escape Elsinore.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Hamlet is a lot less of a jerk to Ophelia in this film than he is in Hamlet. A prominent example is the 'Get thee to a nunnery' scene; here Ophelia tips off Hamlet that they're being watched and they pretend to argue to throw off Claudius. Hamlet's "Go to a nunnery" line is also not meant as an insult (though it appears that way to those spying on them), but as an actual warning to go shelter in a nunnery to protect her from Claudius.
  • Adaptational Villainy: On top of all the stuff he pulls in the original play, in this version it's revealed that Claudius seduced and knocked up Gertrude's sister Mechtild after falsely promising to marry her, then accused her of being a witch when their child was stillborn and would've let the townsfolk burn her just so he could be rid of her. He's also even more of a jerk to Ophelia, threatening her with violence on a few occasions and trying to force her into an unwanted marriage.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film gives a lot more focus to the characters of Ophelia and Gertrude, including depicting Ophelia's life and the beginning of her relationship with Hamlet prior to the events of the original play, as well as giving Gertrude a backstory and exploring her motives for marrying Claudius so soon after her husband's death. King Hamlet (Hamlet's father) is also a supporting character early in the film, while in the play he's already dead and only shows up as a ghost...maybe.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: In Hamlet, while Hamlet and Ophelia clearly have romantic feelings for each other, it's never made clear if they acted upon them. Here, they are depicted as having a Secret Relationship, and go as far as getting married. Furthermore, in Hamlet the title character had a rather strained relationship with Ophelia due to his own grief and paranoia, while here they tend to confide in each other more and even feign an argument to throw off Claudius.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Ophelia is bullied and looked down upon by the other ladies-in-waiting because she's not nobleborn. Gertrude mentions that when she was young, she was picked on at the convent where she was raised, though she had her sister to look out for her.
  • Animal Motif: Claudius is associated with snakes. In his first scene, he mentions the Biblical story of Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge and causing humankind's fall from grace, only for Gertrude to point out that technically it was a serpent who persuaded her to do so. Claudius uses snake venom to kill his brother and take the throne, with the king's death being attributed to a snake bite. In the Mousetrap play, Hamlet depicts the king being poisoned by a snake. When Ophelia visits Mechtild and sees a cloaked man whom she eventually recognizes as Claudius, a snake slithers across her feet as she hides.
  • Arranged Marriage: Claudius attempts to force Ophelia to marry a Jerkass courtier so as to prevent her and Hamlet from interfering in his plans. However, Ophelia's ensuing Sanity Slippage – which is quite deliberate on her part – throws a wrench in this. Not to mention she's actually already married to Hamlet.
  • Ascended Extra: In the original play, Ophelia doesn't actually appear that much (she's only in five scenes and has 58 lines, though she still manages to make quite an impact on both the story and the audience). Here, she's firmly The Protagonist.
  • Attempted Rape: Ophelia comes across a group of courtiers harassing a woman and intervenes; they then make similar advances towards her until Hamlet turns up. Much later, the man she is unwillingly betrothed to on Claudius's orders tries to force himself on her; she is able to escape by kneeing him in the groin and hitting him over the head with a flaming torch.
  • Bathing Beauty: Played with; Ophelia is shown to have a love of swimming in the river, which is ironic considering her tragic drowning. Hamlet and Horatio happen upon her while she's swimming and Hamlet is instantly smitten with her. Ophelia and Hamlet later bring up the myth of Artemis and Acteon, with Hamlet subtly comparing her to the goddess.
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: Medieval equivalent; as Ophelia is bringing water for Gertrude's bath to the bathing chamber, she overhears the other ladies gossiping about how poor her father is that she always wears flowers instead of jewels in her hair. Ophelia says nothing when she enters the room (and they proceed to insult her to her face anyway) though she does take the flowers out from embarrassment.
  • Big Bad: Claudius, as in the original story, is the primary cause of most of the film's conflict.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Laertes looks out for Ophelia and tries to give her advice to keep her safe. After she appears to go mad from grief, Laertes doesn't shun her and instead gently encourages her to approach him, also protesting Claudius having her locked up. In fact, when the guards try to drag her away, he jumps to his feet and nearly draws his sword, demanding that they unhand her. He later challenges Hamlet to a duel to the death due to believing he is the cause of his sister's tragic fate unaware she's actually still alive.
    • Gertrude mentions her twin sister would defend her from bullies while they lived together in a convent growing up.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Danish royal family, with a sprinkling of Royally Screwed Up.
    • Hamlet Sr. seems to be a decent king but priortises his duty to the point of neglecting his wife and appears to be aware his brother has the hots for her.
    • Gertrude is desperately lonely, possibly depressed and has low self-esteem, is estranged from her sister and possibly cheated on her husband with his brother, marrying him barely a month after the king is buried.
    • Claudius blatantly tries to seduce his brother's wife and takes advantage of her vulnerable emotional state, is a loutish jerk to his young nephew, murders his brother to take his throne and plots to kill his nephew and threatens his girlfriend when he suspects they're onto him. To say nothing of how he treated his ex-lover, who is his wife's sister.
    • Hamlet is a nice enough guy but has mood swings and a fixation on vengeance; he's pretty messed up mentally by his father's sudden death, his mother's swift remarriage to the uncle who has always been a dick to him and then finding out that Claudius probably murdered his dad, after which he becomes obsessed with killing him. Given in this version he marries Ophelia, she and her family get dragged into the mess too; Hamlet accidentally kills his own father-in-law after mistaking him for Claudius, his brother-in-law swears vengeance against him and they both end up killing each other and his wife supposedly loses her mind and drowns herself (though ironically Ophelia is actually the sanest of the lot).
    • Finally, there's Gertrude's sister Mechtild, the local witch, who lives alone in the woods, doesn't much care for visitors and is very disenchanted with life in general. It turns out that as a young woman she was impregnated by her lover and then lost her baby, after which she was branded a witch and forced to fake her death to go into hiding. Her sister the queen doesn't seem to do much to support her beyond buying a tonic she makes for her and it turns out she married her former lover, so Claudius traded in Mechtild for her twin sister despite claiming to love her. Oh but it gets better; it turns out Claudius was the one who started the whole witchcraft rumour in the first place to hide his relationship with Mechtild and would've let the mob burn her.
  • Bitch Alert: Lady Christina's first scene involves her mockingly telling Ophelia she "dances like a goat", which tells you pretty much all you need to know about her.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The film ends much the same as the original Hamlet; pretty much everyone dies and Denmark falls to Norway, but in this version Ophelia survives and escapes to live a peaceful life – albeit mourning that Hamlet ultimately chose vengeance over her – while King Claudius gets what's coming to him.
  • Bookworm: Ophelia loves to read; as a child she tried to follow her brother to his reading lessons and she volunteers to read for the queen when she says her eyes are too tired.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor Ophelia. She's a kind and free-spirited girl who just wants to be able to learn like the boys and live happily ever after with her prince. She ends up going through absolute hell, to the point of losing her mind. Luckily for her, in this version it doesn't become Kill the Cutie and she starts getting better.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Hamlet and Ophelia, respectively.
  • Burn the Witch!: Mechtild nearly suffered this fate, but was able to prevent it by faking her death using snake venom, which made her appear dead.
  • Canon Foreigner:
    • Mechtild, a purported witch and healer who lives in the woods near the castle, whom Ophelia visits on behalf of Queen Gertrude to get a special tonic for her and seeks out herself later on for help. She's revealed to be Gertrude's twin sister and Claudius's former lover.
    • There's also Christina, a lady-in-waiting to Gertrude who bullies Ophelia.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The snake venom Ophelia finds in Mechtild's hovel and her explanation of how she used it to fake her own death and avoid being executed as a witch, as only a few drops causes a person to become temporarily paralysed and appear dead. Ophelia recognises it as the same vial Claudius has in his cloak, causing her to realise he used it to poison his brother. She herself later uses it to fake her drowning, while Gertrude uses a stronger dosage to commit suicide.
    • Horatio and Laertes explaining to Ophelia how bodies of the recently deceased are dug up to be examined in universities. During her 'fit of madness', Ophelia tells Horatio to remember to dig her up after she dies, tipping him off that she intends to fake her death. He later digs up her coffin after the funeral to let her out.
  • Composite Character: Ophelia is given a few elements of other Shakespeare heroines such as Juliet (has a secret marriage, nearly gets married off to another guy against her will, fakes her death to avoid said marriage and to try and reunite with her husband) and, to a much lesser extent, Portia (disguises herself as a bloke to try and save her love interest) note .
  • The Confidant: Ophelia for both Gertrude and Hamlet.
  • Costume Drama: The film is set in medieval Denmark, revolving around a lady-in-waiting attempting to navigate the tumultuous royal court while embarking on a forbidden love affair with the prince, and its elaborate and gorgeous costumes are often cited as a highlight.
  • Covers Always Lie: Downplayed. An early poster for the film appears to depict Ophelia standing away from the viewer, wearing a short-sleeved and backless gown. Not only does Ophelia never wear anything remotely resembling this in the film itself, the gown also looks quite anachronistic while the film's actual costumes make some effort to be historically accurate. Her hair also looks completely different; in the film Ophelia is depicted with waist-length red hair, while the poster depicts her with shorter, darker hair with a seemingly modern style.
  • Cuckold: King Hamlet appears to be aware of his wife and brother's attraction to each other, though it's left ambiguous as to whether they actually had a full-blown affair.
  • Dead Sparks: Gertrude and King Hamlet's marriage is apparently a sexless one and they rarely spend time together outside of public appearances and formal occasions. Gertrude is very upset and frustrated over this and it's a big part of the reason she is so susceptible to Claudius's charms.
  • Desperately Craves Affection: Gertrude, who is neglected by her husband and fears she's growing old and unattractive. As a result, she falls right into Claudius's arms due to him showering her with attention and compliments, and swiftly marries him after her first husband's untimely death so she won't be alone.
  • Determined Widow: Even after Hamlet's death, Ophelia is resolved to keep living life to the fullest, making a long and arduous trek alone across the countryside to reach safety.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Hamlet dies in Gertrude's arms. Gertrude herself dies in the arms of her sister Mechtild.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Claudius and Gertrude. In the original story, Hamlet kills Claudius and Gertrude is accidentally poisoned. In Ophelia, Hamlet succumbs to Laertes's poisoned sword before he can kill Claudius, prompting Gertrude to take his sword and run Claudius through herself. When Fortinbras's forces invade the castle, Gertrude intentionally drinks poison.
  • Distant Finale: The final scene is set a few years after the main events of the film showing Ophelia in the countryside with her little daughter.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Ophelia has spent much of the film being taunted and belittled by Christina the most out of all the ladies. She never retaliates...until Christina mockingly informs her that Hamlet is (supposedly) dead, knowing that Ophelia loves him. Ophelia responds by tackling her to the floor and threatening to strangle her unless she tells her everything she knows.
  • Doomed by Canon: Just about all the main characters except for Ophelia herself, who ultimately survives in this version.
  • Doting Parent: Gertrude towards Hamlet, which Claudius tends to mock him for. Polonius is also this to Ophelia.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • The opening scene depicts the famous image of Ophelia drowned in the river. However, it's later revealed that in this version Ophelia only pretended to drown herself as part of a plan to escape Claudius's clutches and reunite with Hamlet.
    • As Fortinbras' forces invade the castle and begin slaughtering everyone in sight, Gertrude – who had just seen her son die in front of her and murdered Claudius to avenge him – drinks a fatal dose of poison, both because it's Better to Die than Be Killed and out of guilt and despair over the loss of everything she ever loved.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Gertrude appears to be addicted to a herbal tonic Mechtild makes for her, describing it as "what she needs". It's not entirely clear what's in it, but it seems to be some sort of drug that she takes to alleviate her feelings of sadness and isolation.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Closer to Earn Your Bittersweet Ending, but still, Ophelia gets away from court just as the shit hits the fan, survives and lives a happy life with her daughter (who may possibly be Hamlet's daughter too).
  • Easily Forgiven: Ophelia forgives Hamlet quite quickly for killing her father; in fairness, she knows it was an accident as Hamlet had meant to kill Claudius and he's clearly distraught by what happened.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: In the end, all the main characters and plenty of side characters are dead except for Ophelia (and possibly Mechtild, though we ultimately don't know what happened to her).
  • Evil Uncle: Claudius to Hamlet. Even before he murders his own brother to take his throne and wife, he is shown to be a real jerk to Hamlet, mocking him for not being 'manly' enough and being a bit of a Momma's Boy. It only escalates from there.
  • Faking the Dead:
    • After being accused of witchcraft, Mechtild used snake venom that temporarily paralysed her and thus made her appear physically dead to avoid being burnt at the stake, then went into hiding in the woods.
    • In this version of the story, it turns out Ophelia faked her drowning using the same snake venom as Mechtild, a la Romeo and Juliet. She's able to tip off Horatio about what she intends to do and he digs her up after the funeral. She then leaves the court to begin a new life, trying and failing to persuade Hamlet to come with her.
  • Flower Motif: Since childhood, Ophelia is shown to have a love for flowers, often gathering them to put on her windowsill and wearing them in her hair rather than jewels (which her father can't afford). And of course there's the iconic scene where she dances around the castle hall, handing out flowers with specific symbolic meanings to Gertrude and Claudius.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Anyone who's familiar with Hamlet will know how a lot of the story plays out, although Ophelia does take some liberties with the original tale.
  • Geeky Turn-On: Both Hamlet and Ophelia are attracted to each other's wit and intellect.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Hamlet is a snarky and sharp-witted prince, which is one of the things that draws Ophelia to him. She gives as good as she gets, which he likes about her.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Heavily downplayed for Queen Gertrude. While she's not evil and is portrayed rather sympathetically at times, she is a rather oblivious and self-absorbed woman who tends to put her own wants and desires before everything and everyone else, resulting in Claudius – who is definitely evil – gaining power and causing a lot of the drama in the story.
  • Gossipy Hens: Queen Gertrude's ladies-in-waiting love to gossip and spread rumours, especially when it comes to Ophelia and her relationship with Hamlet. Gertrude even compares them to hens pecking at each other and says the nuns she lived with as a girl were little different.
  • Guile Heroine: Ophelia to the max, especially in the climax where she convincingly feigns madness as part of a scheme to fake her own death and inform Gertrude that her husband is not as innocent as she believes.
  • Guyliner: Hamlet wears this several times, particularly at court festivities.
  • Happily Married:
    • Polonius was to his late wife until her death and it's clear from when he speaks about her that he still loves her.
    • Gertrude and Claudius are initially. Not so much by the end after all the tragedy that has occurred, especially when Gertrude finally realizes what kind of man Claudius really is.
    • Hamlet and Ophelia are briefly very happily married, but sadly circumstances see them torn apart.
  • Her Heart Will Go On: Ophelia in this version outlives Hamlet and though she is grieved by the loss of him, she is resolved to keep living a fulfilling life and not give in to despair and vengeance.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Gertrude when her first husband dies, tearing down the curtains of her room and sobbing uncontrollably. She has another one near the end after Hamlet dies and the Norwegian forces invade the castle accompanied by her own sister and it's at this point she visibly crosses the Despair Event Horizon.
    • Ophelia goes into one when she believes Hamlet is dead, her father is dead and she's being forced by Claudius to marry some jerk to get her out of the way, to the point of Sanity Slippage. Then Horatio reveals Hamlet is still alive, prompting her to hatch a plan to escape and reunite with him.
  • Hero of Another Story: Literally in Hamlet's case. He's the deuteragonist to Ophelia and we only see what he does in Hamlet on-screen when it overlaps with Ophelia's story.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Gertrude is very self-conscious and sensitive about her looks because she's getting older. Claudius assures her he thinks she's beautiful; she's also played by Naomi Watts.
  • Innocently Insensitive: While viewing a tapestry of the goddess Artemis, Hamlet remarks that he thinks she looks too old and decrepit and that he always imagined Artemis as a youthful and wild girl. He'd intended it as a compliment to Ophelia...only to be informed that the tapestry is meant to be modelled on his mother, who is standing right there. The cringe is palpable.
  • In the Hood: Ophelia wears a red cloak with a hood whenever she needs to do something sneaky, such as slipping out for a swim in the river or getting the queen's tonic from the local witch...
  • King Incognito: Hamlet disguises himself as a peasant to accompany Ophelia – also dressed in peasant garb – to the countryside so they can get married.
  • Lady-in-Waiting: Gertrude has several, the most prominent of which are Ophelia, the main character whom she views as something of a surrogate daughter, and Christina, Ophelia's main rival who later replaces her as the queen's favourite.
  • Lighter and Softer: Shakespeare's Hamlet is known as one of his darkest works, dealing with madness, murder and grief, and infamously ends with nearly everyone in the main cast dying tragically. Comparatively, Ophelia has a more lighthearted tone (probably due in part to the fact it cuts out Hamlet's many angst-ridden soliloquies and focuses more on Ophelia, who is characterised here as a Plucky Girl) and it manages to end on a more uplifting note.
  • Like a Daughter to Me: Gertrude views Ophelia as something of a surrogate daughter; she took her in and raised her to be a lady after learning her mother died, and tends to favour her above the other ladies (at least at first).
  • Living with the Villain: The Big Bad is kind of hard to avoid when he's the king; he's also Gertrude's new husband and Hamlet's uncle/stepfather.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: In the end, this is what separates Hamlet and Ophelia. Though they make it clear they love each other, Hamlet insists on carrying out his vengeance against Claudius even if it ends in his death, while Ophelia is unwilling to stay and doom herself along with everyone else and so leaves to keep on living.
  • Love Martyr: Mechtild admits to Ophelia she still loves her ex-lover, even though he ultimately abandoned her for her twin sister, no less. This is why she supplied him with the poison he used to kill his brother; though she didn't know what he intended to use it for, she didn't ask too many questions either. Then Ophelia reveals that Claudius was actually the one who her accused of witchcraft in the first place and wouldn't have lifted a finger to save her. She is not amused.
  • Madness Makeover: Following her Sanity Slippage, the previously well-groomed and brightly-dressed Ophelia spends her time wandering around in a shift, with her hair hanging loose and messy, a pale face and dark under-eyes. Although she does stop caring about her appearance from grief and stress, it's also likely she intentionally plays it up as part of her Obfuscating Insanity.
  • Maid and Maiden: Gertrude and Ophelia initially have this dynamic; Queen Gertrude is an older woman who treats her young lady-in-waiting Ophelia like a daughter. It's actually partially Played for Drama, as Gertrude feels quite self-conscious about her looks now that she's getting older and feels she's less beautiful than her more youthful ladies, especially when an unwitting Hamlet unfavorably compares her with Ophelia/a younger woman. After Gertrude marries Claudius, she becomes more distant from Ophelia and even starts to blame her for Hamlet's behaviour although they make up to an extent near the end, after Gertrude realises it was Claudius who is the real villain.
  • Married to the Job: King Hamlet is greatly preoccupied with his kingdom, causing his relationship with his wife to suffer as she feels neglected.
  • Marry for Love:
    • It's implied that Gertrude thinks she's marrying Claudius, her brother-in-law, out of love after being stuck in a passionless marriage for years, but their feelings for each other actually seem closer to infatuation, not to mention Claudius desires the throne first and foremost (which Gertrude appears oblivious to).
    • It's mentioned that Polonius's marriage to Laertes's and Ophelia's late mother was a love match.
    • Hamlet and Ophelia secretly marry for love even though she's considered too lowborn for him.
    • Mechtild thought that her ex-lover would marry her after she got pregnant and that they genuinely loved each other, but it turns out he probably didn't love her at all.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Claudius has gotten his meddling nephew Hamlet killed and Ophelia is out of the way too, so there's no one left to challenge him. However, his own wife than snatches up Hamlet's sword and plunges it through his chest in a grief-fuelled rage. And even then, Fortinbras's army was only minutes away from storming the castle, aided by Claudius's vengeful ex-lover Mechtild.
  • Missing Mom: Ophelia's mother died when she was very young. This is part of the reason Gertrude takes her as her one of her ladies, as Polonius admits he's clueless as to how to raise a girl.
  • Mistaken for Undead: When Gertrude comes to see Mechtild at her hovel and instead finds Ophelia - who she thought she had seen die only hours ago - she is horrified and believes her to be a ghost come back to haunt her, begging her forgiveness. In fairness, Ophelia faked her death rather convincingly and looks rather like a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl at the time. It's not until Ophelia tells her to take her hand that Gertrude realises she's actually there in the flesh.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Ophelia wakes up like this after spending the night with Hamlet.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Hamlet when he inadvertently kills Polonius after mistaking him for Claudius, screaming for Ophelia to forgive him as he's taken away.
    • Gertrude gets one moment of this after another towards the end of the film, as she realizes her selfish actions have led to several deaths and a tyrant on the throne. Upon encountering Ophelia's 'ghost' and being told by her that Claudius was the man who betrayed her sister, she falls to her knees and begs for forgiveness.
    • Mechtild's expression smacks of this when she helps invade the castle with the Norwegian army to get revenge on Claudius, only to watch her twin sister poison herself right in front of her, leaving her utterly alone.
  • My Own Private "I Do": In this version, Ophelia and Hamlet secretly get married in a private ceremony presided over by a country priest.
  • Nature Lover: Ophelia loves being out in the countryside, gathering flowers, wandering the gardens and woods and swimming in the river.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Polonius claims that the cause of Hamlet's 'madness' is his love for Polonius's daughter Ophelia, He thinks he's helping and that the prince's interest in her would be advantageous, but this results in Claudius getting tipped off that Ophelia and Hamlet might both be onto him and leads to him figuring out they're secretly married.
    • After confirming that Claudius murdered his father using the Mousetrap play, Hamlet attempts to kill him but accidentally kills Polonius, who had gone to see the queen about forgiving Ophelia. Things quickly go From Bad to Worse.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Hamlet pretends to be crazy to throw off his uncle and the other courtiers, so they won't catch wind of his plot to uncover whether Claudius murdered his father and his intended revenge against him. It turns out that Ophelia's descent into madness is also this for similar reasons.
  • One True Love: Hamlet proclaims that Ophelia is his. She herself says she has never loved anyone but him, though alas, their love is doomed to tragedy.
  • The Ophelia: The Trope Namer herself is the main protagonist. She starts out perfectly sane, but by the third act she's dancing about in her undershift, randomly bursting into song, giggling or babbling nonsense, handing out flowers and occasionally lashing out physically at people, before drowning herself in the river. This version actually provides a subversion; while Ophelia does temporarily have an emotional breakdown, she is only pretending to be completely insane as part of her plan to undermine and escape Claudius. Everyone but Claudius and Horatio are fooled; Horatio is in on the plan, while Claudius can't do anything too nasty to her because he'll look like an asshole being cruel to a poor, innocent girl gone mad with grief.
  • Our Nudity Is Different: Ophelia removes all her clothes save for a long-sleeved shift that reaches her ankles to go swimming. By most modern Western standards she's overdressed to go swimming, but given this is medieval Denmark, she's essentially in her underwear and the characters react accordingly. When Hamlet and Horatio stumble across her, she and Horatio are quite embarrassed, while Hamlet becomes flirty with her; she chides him for staring and then starts flirting back by slowly rising out of the water. She refuses to get out of the water until they're not looking and then sprints away, clutching her gown over herself.
  • Outliving One's Offspring:
    • It's revealed that Mechtild was accused of being a witch partly because her unborn child was stillborn. It's later revealed that Claudius was the child's father.
    • Gertrude outlives Hamlet, though not by very long.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: When Ophelia disguises herself as a servant boy in the climax, she and Getrude don't do much besides cut her hair short and dress her in men's clothing. Nobody recognises her save for Hamlet when she speaks to him directly and it's pretty obvious who she is. Then again, everyone else is quite distracted by the upcoming duel between Hamlet and Laertes, Ophelia is thought to be dead at this point and servants tend to be treated as invisible (case in point, Laertes doesn't even look at Ophelia and Claudius only gives her a brief look when he gives her an order).
  • Period Piece: The film, like the original play, is set in Denmark in the Middle Ages, though the exact time period is vague.
  • Perspective Flip: The film tells the story of Hamlet from Ophelia's perspective, though it also changes some of the plot elements as well as adding a few new plot threads and characters.
  • Pet the Dog: A mild example. Upon learning of the king's death and seeing how distraught the queen is, Christina and the other ladies all look genuinely upset. When Ophelia asks Christina what happened, for once she doesn't take the opportunity to be mean to her and just tearfully tells her the king is dead.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Ophelia's resplendent gold and blue ballgown. Gertrude also wears lots of very beautiful, complex and elaborately-decorated gowns, seeing as she's the queen.
  • Planning for the Future Before the End: After faking her death, Ophelia begs Hamlet to run away with her and shelter in a nunnery like he suggested. However, he is still fixated on getting revenge on Claudius. He tells Ophelia to go on ahead, promising that he will follow her once Claudius has been dealt with...but they both seem to know that Hamlet isn't going to make it.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Mechtild and Gertrude, despite being identical twins, are quite different in personality and lifestyle. Gertrude is Queen of Denmark, living a life of luxury in a castle and surrounded by courtiers, servants and family, though she is still unsatisfied and doesn't really know what she wants to be truly happy. Mechtild lives a lonely and humble life as a healer and is more outwardly bitter and self-aware.
  • Pregnant Badass: Given the ending depicts her with a daughter, it's heavily implied that Ophelia was already in the early stages of pregnancy in the film's third act, in which case she's definitely an example of this, fighting off a rapist, busting out of the dungeon, putting on a hell of a performance to convince everyone she's crazy, drinking snake venom and pretending to drown herself, sneaking in and out of a heavily-guarded castle and walking across miles of countryside to reach refuge.
  • Pretty Boy: Prince Hamlet. He is handsome in a delicate, boyish way and has a lean though still muscular build. Ophelia is very smitten.
  • Public Secret Message: Ophelia uses her supposed mad ramblings to communicate secret messages to Gertrude and Horatio, letting the former know that Claudius murdered his brother and that he had something to do with what happened to her sister, and the latter know that she's going to pretend to kill herself and he needs to dig her up after the fact.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Ophelia's hair goes past her waist and she frequently wears it loose, giving her an ethereal and free-spirited appearance and making her stand out from the other ladies, who usually wear their hair braided or covered by headdresses.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Ophelia's dad Polonius, who is a rather significant supporting character, gets accidentally killed by Hamlet in the third act, after which things quickly go From Bad to Worse. Polonius is the first significant character to die (besides Hamlet's dad much earlier in the film) and he sure isn't the last.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Hamlet's reaction to Ophelia after he returns from university; they first met when he was fifteen and she was a child, but he doesn't really start to take notice of her until she's a young woman.
  • Sibling Murder: Claudius kills his brother so he can marry his sister-in-law and steal the throne from his nephew, thus setting off the main conflict of the film.
  • Sleeping Single: Queen Gertrude and King Hamlet. It was considered normal for a royal couple to have separate chambers in the time period, but it also highlights how devoid of passion their marriage is.
  • Slut-Shaming:
    • Ophelia is negatively judged and gossiped about due to Hamlet's blatant interest in her, as well as rumours she was seen cavorting about with a peasant boy actually Hamlet in disguise. Gertrude even calls Ophelia ungrateful for 'debasing' herself in such a way after she took her in (which is rather hypocritical, given the implication she had an affair with Claudius while still married to King Hamlet and married him not long after her first husband was buried).
    • Mechtild reveals to Ophelia that part of the reason she was branded a witch and forced to go into hiding was because she got pregnant out of wedlock.
  • Solitary Sorceress: Mechtild is said to be a witch and lives alone in a hovel in the woods, although she's technically a healer with a great knowledge of plants rather than possessing actual powers.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Implied. In the end, Ophelia is shown to have a young daughter, with the implication that she is her child with Hamlet, conceived on their wedding night.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Ophelia. In this version of the story, she fakes her death and escapes the carnage at the royal castle.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Ophelia is portrayed as such here. She is ladylike and compassionate, yet has a sharp wit, a rebellious streak and a love of learning. She knows how to read in a time when most women save for those in the higher classes couldn't, expresses an interest in learning about herbs and poisons even though it's linked with witchcraft, opposes an arranged marriage and also politely yet firmly argues against some of the sexism aimed at her and other women.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Ophelia and Hamlet. First it's her low birth and Hamlet leaving for university again that keeps them apart. Then it's all the other stuff going on at the increasingly dangerous and unstable Danish court. In the end, they have a chance to run away together, but Hamlet is unable to leave without getting revenge on Claudius and Ophelia has to leave without him, knowing he will die.
  • Starts with a Suicide: The film's opening scene depicts Ophelia's iconic drowning, as she narrates her intention to tell her story from her own perspective. It eventually turns out that her suicide is not as it appears...
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Polonius states on a few occasions that Ophelia strongly resembles her late mother in appearance and personality. Ophelia's own daughter looks quite a bit like her, with the same long red hair.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: After faking her death, Ophelia disguises herself as a servant boy with Gertrude's help in order to sneak back into the castle and try to dissuade Hamlet from his quest for vengeance. No one, not even her own brother, recognises her save for Hamlet, though admittedly everyone's pretty distracted at the time by the upcoming duel. Ophelia later stays in disguise to sneak out of the castle just before Fortinbras's army arrives.
  • Tagline: The film has two in particular:
    • "Hamlet through her eyes"
    • "Vengeance destroys love"
  • Tag Team Suicide: Played with. After her father is accidentally killed by Hamlet and he is subsequently sent away to England, what finally sends Ophelia into her Heroic BSoD is learning that Hamlet was supposedly murdered on the orders of Claudius (unaware that he actually escapes and secretly returns to Denmark). It looks as though this is what precipitates her drowning death... however, Ophelia then learns from Horatio that Hamlet is still alive, prompting her to fake her death to try and reunite with him. Upon digging her up, Horatio tells her that Hamlet has learnt of her 'death' and has been challenged to a Duel to the Death with her brother Laertes, with it being inferred that Hamlet feels he's got nothing left now but getting revenge on Claudius even at the cost of his own life. Ophelia tries to stop him and gets him to realise she's alive, but he still can't let go of his desire for vengeance. He dies, but Ophelia refuses to give into despair and escapes with her life.
  • That Came Out Wrong: A small example from the following exchange between Ophelia and Hamlet:
    Hamlet: How now, Ophelia.
    Ophelia: For a flash I thought you were a ghost.
    Hamlet: In school we dissected a corpse into his parts. There was no room for his ghost.
    Ophelia: I shall have to take your word for it, my lord. I know nothing of the parts of men. (she pauses, frowns and glances away)
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: In this version, Gertrude is the one who kills Claudius, her second husband. Considering by this point she'd found out he'd killed her first husband, caused the death of her only son and was the one who impregnated then abandoned and betrayed her own sister, her actions are pretty understandable.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: At the beginning of the film, Gertrude is a kind and maternal though clearly lonely woman, who dotes upon Ophelia and Hamlet. However, after King Hamlet dies and she marries Claudius, she becomes increasingly self-absorbed and judgemental, even slapping Ophelia for 'turning her son against her' when it's actually her own behaviour that has caused Hamlet to grow cold towards her. She does get better and regrets how she treated Ophelia and Hamlet, but sadly it comes a little too late.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Ophelia is briefly seen like this during her love scene with Hamlet.
  • Tragic Stillbirth: Mechtild reveals to Ophelia that when she was nineteen she fell pregnant with her lover's baby, who promised to marry her. However, her baby son died in her womb, which was the catalyst for the townsfolk turning on her and calling her a witch, while her lover dropped out of the picture. Mechtild escaped execution but was forced to live alone in the woods to avoid persecution. She makes it very clear to Ophelia that decades later, she still grieves for her stillborn son.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Though brief, the official trailer spoils that Hamlet and Ophelia secretly marry and consummate their relationship.
  • True Blue Femininity: Ophelia frequently wears blue clothing, symbolically linking her to the water element and contrasting with her red hair.
  • Uptown Girl: Gender-inverted. Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark, while Ophelia is lowborn but was elevated to one of Queen Gertrude's ladies-in-waiting, though people often look down on her for her background. Hamlet even mentions that his father would never approve of a marriage between them, upsetting Ophelia. After his father dies and Claudius is elected king, though, Hamlet decides he doesn't care anymore and marries Ophelia in secret.
  • Wham Line: When Mechtild tells Ophelia of her Dark and Troubled Past, Ophelia asks what became of her lover. Mechtild replies "He was very recently married", revealing that Claudius was her lover.
  • Wicked Stepfather: Claudius technically becomes this to his nephew Hamlet after marrying his mother.
  • Woman in White: Ophelia spends a lot of the third act clad in a flowing white gown with her long hair hanging loose, evoking one of the most the iconic images of the character.
  • Woman Scorned:
    • When Mechtild is told by Ophelia that Claudius, her former lover and the father of her stillborn son, was actually the one who orchestrated the townsfolk turning against her and branding her a witch, she is so incensed she goes to Fortinbras's army as they're camped in the woods and helps them get into the castle undetected, even marching with the army into the throne room to confront Claudius.
    • Gertrude slowly starts to turn against Claudius as she realises he killed her husband and was the man who betrayed her sister. After her son dies due to his machinations, she reaches breaking point and stabs him to death with Hamlet's sword.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Claudius. He manhandles Ophelia several times, including dragging her by the hair in the scene where he tries to figure out if she's the cause of Hamlet's 'craziness', holds a knife to her throat and reminds her of what happens to traitors. Although he didn't personally lay a finger on her, it also turns out he would've let a mob burn his lover Mechtild as a witch to get her out of the way.
  • You Killed My Father:
    • Hamlet swears vengeance against Claudius for killing his father once he realises he was murdered. He actually doesn't succeed in killing Claudius, but then Gertrude has the reaction of 'You Killed My Husband and Son!'
    • When Laertes finds out his father has been killed and Claudius is allegedly responsible (technically, it's indirectly his fault), Laertes raises an angry mob to storm Elsinore and demand justice. Upon learning that Hamlet killed Polonius (albeit unintentionally) he turns his animosity upon him instead.
  • You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost: Gertrude remarks this to Ophelia when she is startled by Claudius's sudden appearance in her chambers. Unbeknownst to her, Gertrude's words are literally true; Ophelia had thought she had seen a ghost clad in a black cloak on the battlements the night King Hamlet died, only to now recognise the 'ghost' as Claudius.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Claudius and Gertrude are quite flirty with each other while she's still married to Hamlet's father and they even kiss, but Gertrude breaks it off. However, Ophelia later sees her sneaking out of her chambers late at night, possibly to meet Claudius, though it's left ambiguous; after the king's death Hamlet asks Ophelia outright if his mother was unfaithful to his father, but Ophelia can't say for certain.


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