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Film / Ophelia

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"Doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love."

"You may think you know my story. Many have told it. It has long passed into history...into myth. I have seen more of heaven and hell than most people dream of. But I was always a willful girl, and followed my heart and spoke my mind. And it is high time I should tell you my story for myself."

A 2018note  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.

In medieval Denmark, young Ophelia is Queen Gertrude's favorite lady-in-waiting, but is regarded as an outsider at court for her common-born status and other perceived oddities. She struggles to fit in while the queen leans on her for emotional support, plagued by insecurities around her love life and self-image. In the midst of all this, Ophelia catches the eye of Gertrude's son, Prince Hamlet, and in spite of their difference in station a romance blossoms between them. However, the court is thrown into turmoil when the king dies unexpectedly and Hamlet's scheming uncle Claudius swiftly ascends the throne, also taking a besotted Gertrude as his wife. With Hamlet growing increasingly suspicious of Claudius and sinister forces closing in on them, Ophelia tries to stand by her beloved prince but begins to realize this may come at a terrible price.

The film 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.

If you're looking for the trope named after Ophelia, see here.

NOTE: Seeing as Hamlet is centuries old and in the Public Domain, and having at least a basic understanding of the plot is more-or-less required for this film, all spoilers exclusive to Hamlet are unmarked.

Ophelia contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: A downplayed example. Like Hamlet, it ends with the majority of the cast dying for vengeance and Fortinbras taking control of Denmark, although the circumstances of some characters' deaths are altered. However, in this version the title character fakes her suicide and starts a new life with her daughter (who is implied to be Hamlet's daughter too), so it ends on a happier note.
  • Adaptational Mundanity: Ophelia removes or tones down a lot of the supernatural elements from Hamlet.
    • Mechtild (a character exclusive to this adaptation) is said to be a witch, but doesn't appear to have any magical powers, simply being a healer with extensive knowledge of plants and poisons (some of which would appear to be witchcraft during the time period).
    • Hamlet mentions the rumors that people have sighted his late father's ghost, but the scenes where Hamlet actually sees the ghost himself are Adapted Out. Ophelia thinks she sees a ghost on the battlements the night the king dies, but it later turns out she saw Claudius in disguise, leading her to suspect him of murdering his brother. Notably, Hamlet doesn't realize his father was murdered by Claudius because his father's ghost tells him, but rather because Ophelia tells him of her suspicions after putting together the clues.
  • Adaptation Distillation: In Hamlet, Ophelia's descent into madness is spread out over a few scenes, while here it's combined into a single scene (discounting a brief montage of her going through a Heroic BSoD).
  • 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. 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.
    • In the play Ophelia and Claudius barely interact with each other and so have little in the way of a discernible relationship. Here, their relationship becomes firmly antagonistic by the second half on the film; Claudius sees her as a meddlesome threat to his power, while she views him with a mixture of fear and contempt for his evil actions and corrupting influence on others, especially those she loves.
  • Age Cut: Used early in the film; we see young Ophelia being dressed by Gertrude's ladies in waiting, and when she turns around she's grown up into Daisy Ridley, wearing an identical-looking dress.
  • Always Identical Twins: In this adaptation, Gertrude has a twin sister. They're identical to each other.
  • Anachronism Stew: The film appears to be set in the 1300s or possibly the early 1400s, yet Mechtild mentions she got snake venom "from the New World". The New World was the term used by Europeans to refer to North America, yet Europeans didn't begin exploring and settling in America until the very end of the 15th century (Christopher Columbus arrived there in 1492).note 
  • Anti-Climax: Defied. Having faked her death to save her own life but returned to Elsinore in disguise to save Hamlet, Ophelia pleads with her beloved to abandon his quest for vengeance and leave with her while they have a chance, stating "Not every story must end with a battle." Hamlet refuses and the story subsequently plays out much as it does in Shakespeare's tale, ending in a bloodbath that leaves nearly every named character dead.
  • Art Imitates Art:
    • The choice of scenery and particularly the way Ophelia is depicted appear to draw influence from John William Waterhouse's paintings of the character.
    • The opening scene of Ophelia drowning is reminiscent of John Everett Millais's famous painting of Ophelia.
    • The way the characters are positioned (in particular Claudius and Gertrude sitting on thrones above Ophelia and Hamlet, with Hamlet lying on a fur rug next to Ophelia so he can watch Claudius) and the reddish lighting in the Mousetrap scene is highly reminiscent of Edwin Austin Abbey's painting depicting the same scene.
  • 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.
  • Awful Truth:
    • Although it's expected the audience will already know this, Ophelia comes realize that Claudius poisoned his brother to become king and thus is far worse than anyone realized. She tells Hamlet of her suspicions, who finds a way to discern it's true and swears revenge.Gertrude herself starts to realize what a terrible person her husband is and that her son has been right all along, and becomes increasingly distressed, seeing as it was her love for him that enabled him to become king and likely gave him the idea of murdering his brother. It gets worse still when Ophelia tells Gertrude that Claudius was also the man who seduced amd abandoned her sister Mechtild all those years ago, driving her into exile.
    • Ophelia figures out and informs Mechtild that Claudius was the first one to spread rumors of her being a witch after she miscarried, taking advantage of the tragedy to be rid of Mechtild rather than be revealed as her lover. Mechtild initially denies it, but given how quickly she accepts it's true, it's implied she had already begun to suspect this but didn't want to believe it.
  • "Back to Camera" Pose: A teaser poster depicts Ophelia standing with her back to the viewer, looking out across a river and Elsinore Castle the latter is the primary setting of the film and the former is foreshadowing of Ophelia's watery fate. A theatrical poster depicts Ophelia standing away from the viewer, though with her face turned to show her in profile; this illustrates that Ophelia is stepping out of the background to have a more prominent role in this retelling.
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: The 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.
  • Bathtub Scene: Ophelia is shown bathing several times in the river (mostly with her shift on, though she's still viewed as naked to strangers). Gertrude is also bathed by her ladies-in-waiting while still wearing her shift (this was historically accurate).
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Danish royal family, with a sprinkling of Royally Screwed Up.
    • Hamlet Sr. seems to be a decent king but prioritizes his duty to the point of neglecting his wife and appears to be aware his brother has the hots for her. He and Claudius aren't too close and Hamlet Sr. has a low opinion of him even before he's murdered by his brother.
    • 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, has a love-hate relationship with Gertrude and is very disenchanted with life in general. It turns out that as a young woman she was Claudius' lover, who impregnated her and then abandoned her after she lost the baby; he then went on to marry her own twin sister despite claiming to love her, with both Gertrude and Claudius using Mechtild for their own needs while ignoring her feelings.
    • Based on an argument between Hamlet Sr. and Gertrude, the previous generation of the family had its issues too; the king suggests his mother cheated on her husband and that Claudius might actually be a product of an affair, which seems to have given him a rather dim view of women's fidelity and may be the root cause of the animosity between him and Claudius.
  • 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.
  • Black Vikings: The film is set in Denmark in the Middle Ages, yet a few of the courtiers are played by actors of color. Most notably, Horatio is portrayed by Devon Terrell, who has mixed ethnicity (his father is African-American and his mother is Anglo-Indian). Then again, most modern performances/adaptations of Shakespeare plays tend to have colorblind casting, so that may be the intention here.
  • Blue and Orange Contrast: Used on most of the film's posters; most of them depict red-haired Ophelia in a blue dress, in front of a blue background. Considering Ophelia herself wears blue a lot, she's practically a walking example of this.
  • Bookends: The film begins with Ophelia arriving at Elsinore dressed in tomboyish clothes, to the point she's initially mistaken as a young boy by some people. The film ends with Ophelia leaving Elsinore disguised as a young man.
  • Call-Back:
    • When Hamlet encounters Ophelia swimming early in the film and won't look away so she can get out, she remarks "There are two sides struggling in you. One is baser, one better." Near the end of the film, she repeats this line to him as she's trying to persuade him not to throw everything away to get revenge on Claudius.
    • At their wedding feast, Claudius affectionately tells Gertrude "let us eat", with Gertrude stepping around Hamlet following his tirade against the marriage to join her new husband. Later in the film, they're eating in the great hall when a now-insane Ophelia disrupts the feast. Claudius snaps at Gertrude to continue eating, but this time she angrily states "I am no longer hungry" and goes after Ophelia; the contrast is used to show how their relationship has shifted over the film.
  • Call-Forward: In the first act, Ophelia hides in an alcove concealed by a long curtain in Gertrude's chambers and overhears Gertrude and her husband arguing. Much later in the film, Polonius hides behind this same curtain and overhears an argument between Gertrude and her son, though anyone familiar with the play will know this ends badly for Polonius.
  • 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 paralyzed and appear dead. Ophelia recognises it as the same vial Claudius has in his cloak, causing her to realize 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, to which she replies that he'd better not do that to her. 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.
  • Child of Forbidden Love: Ophelia's daughter with Hamlet, as they were forced to keep their romance (then marriage) a secret because of her common-born status. Sadly, Hamlet never gets to see her.
  • 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.
  • Dances and Balls: There are a few of these held at court in the film, giving the costume designers a chance to show off their best work with all the fancy formal outfits. It's at one such event that Ophelia and Hamlet have their first kiss. At another, Hamlet stages a play about a king being murdered by his brother to steal his wife and throne, in the hopes of catching out Claudius.
  • Dance of Romance:
    • Gertrude and Claudius share a few dances during his seduction of her. Gertrude clearly wants to go dancing during court festivities but her husband isn't interested, so she's only too happy to oblige when Claudius asks her.
    • Early in their courtship, Hamlet specifically asks Ophelia to dance with him one day, though she replies "I'm afraid I dance like a goat". Later during a ball, Hamlet briefly does persuade Ophelia to dance with him and she enjoys it, only for Cristiana to muscle in. This prompts Ophelia to head outside nearly in tears. When Hamlet notices her leaving, though, he follows her.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Several examples, due to being set in medieval Denmark.
    • Polonius thinks he's being a bad father because he allowed Ophelia to do as she pleased provided it wasn't harming her, such as learning to read, and he failed to arrange a marriage for her. He says he didn't know how to raise a girl, so he raised his daughter more or less the same as his son and took her opinions into account.
    • Ophelia doesn't receive a formal education alongside her brother and isn't allowed into the library because she's a girl (and lowborn at that). When Horatio invites her into the library, she points out she's not allowed before going in anyway. Gertrude also expresses surprise she can read at all and the other ladies don't seem to believe she can, even sniggering about it.
    • Mechtild was accused of witchcraft because her child - conceived out of wedlock - was stillborn and she's an expert on plants and poisons.
    • Ophelia wanting to Marry for Love and the fact her father did is considered a novelty.
    • Ophelia and other characters react as if she's gone skinny dipping when she's encountered swimming in an ankle-length shift; see Our Nudity Is Different.
    • Ophelia and Hamlet can't be together openly or marry as she's a commoner.
  • 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.
  • Doomed by Canon: Just about all the main characters except for Ophelia herself, who ultimately survives in this version.
  • Duel to the Death: In the film's finale, Laertes duels Hamlet due to the latter killing his father, with no quarter. Hamlet kills Laertes, though he's killed himself as Laertes' sword blade was poisoned and he gets cut.
  • Elective Monarchy: In accordance with the historical setting, Danish kings are chosen by the nobles. Thus, rather than Hamlet succeeding his father, the nobles choose his uncle Claudius, something Hamlet's very unhappy with.
  • 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).
  • Everyone Has Standards: The Danish court is generally populated by gossipy, back-stabbing and self-centered nobles, who are loyal to their own ambitions more than anything else and look down on anyone who doesn't fit in. But they're all horrified when Claudius tries to have Ophelia dragged off and locked up like a criminal, after she appears to have gone mad from grief over her murdered father.
  • Faux Death:
    • While fleeing an angry mob come to burn her as a witch, Mechtild drank a potion containing snake venom that caused temporary paralysis and collapsed near the edge of the forest. She appeared dead to the mob, who dumped her 'corpse' in the woods, enabling Mechtild to drink the antidote once the effects began to wear off and go into hiding.
    • Ophelia fakes her drowning death by ingesting the same potion, taken from Mechtild's hovel. She looks dead to everyone save Horatio, who had figured out the truth and digs up her coffin after the funeral. In Ophelia's case, she took a little too much and needs Horatio to help her get to Mechtild in time to drink the antidote.
  • 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.
  • Forbidden Love: Ophelia and Hamlet's romance and later marriage is an example, as they aren't permitted to be together over her common-born status.
  • Garden of Love: Hamlet and Ophelia have a slightly awkward yet sweet moment in the castle garden early in their courtship, during which Hamlet takes a ribbon from her hair as a token.
  • 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.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: Immediately after Hamlet confronts the newly-crowned Claudius and his mother, the scene cuts to a close-up of some dogs feeding on rotting animal carcasses in a courtyard, as a visual representation of there being "something [...] rotten in the state of Denmark".
  • The Hecate Sisters: Ophelia, Gertrude and Mechtild resemble this both visually and in terms of their personal traits and relationships to each other.
    • Ophelia is the Maiden; she's the youngest of the trio by quite a few years, is virginal at first, and represents the rebellion and idealism of youth. She's directly compared to Artemis in one scene, a goddess often associated with the Maiden aspect of this trio. She also gets mentored by both Gertrude and Mechtild, to some degree.
    • Gertrude is the Mother; she's the mother of Hamlet and a maternal-figure to Ophelia, with her relationships with them playing a large role in her character arc. She's more experienced in matters of sex and romance than Ophelia, having been married for many years and developing a relationship with Claudius. That said, although she has her moments of motherly instinct, she's not exactly aging gracefully and still tries to cling to her youth (notably, she commissions a tapestry depicting her as Artemis, but an unwitting Hamlet says he thinks the goddess looks too old and would be better depicted as youthful). In the end, her maternal love for Ophelia and Hamlet takes precedence, though it's too late to mitigate some of the damage by this point. She does manage to help Ophelia (who is likely pregnant with her grandchild) escape to freedom and kills Claudius to avenge her son.
    • Mechtild is the Crone; she's technically the same age as Gertrude (being her twin sister), but looks older and more weathered. She generally comes off as more knowledgable than the other two women, and tends to be stern and cynical, though she occasionally shows a softer side. Her experience with romance and motherhood was brief and ended tragically long ago. She's also directly associated with witchcraft, even being called a witch a few times (the Crone is often linked to the goddess of witchcraft, Hecate).
  • Hotter and Sexier: Not a very severe example seeing as it's rated PG-13, but this iteration of Hamlet has more of an emphasis on romance and sensuality, including several make-out scenes between Ophelia and Hamlet. Even Claudius and Gertrude get a few make-out scenes too and it turns out that Gertrude likes to read the medieval equivalent of Mills and Boon in private (though nothing that explicit is mentioned). Also, while the original story is a bit ambiguous as to how far Ophelia and Hamlet's relationship went, in this case it's made very clear that they did have sex after secretly marrying. Ophelia even has their daughter after Hamlet has died.
  • Insane Equals Violent: The queen's ladies seem to believe this; they first start referring to Ophelia as being mad when she physically lashes out at Lady Cristiana, who had been taunting her over Hamlet's apparent death. Ophelia herself is not actually insane and is only violent when pushed to breaking point or in self-defence.
  • 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 Cristiana, Ophelia's main rival who later replaces her as the queen's favorite.
  • The Late Middle Ages: The film is set in this period, most likely the 14th century based upon the clothing, technology and Denmark still being an elective monarchy (several synopses state it takes place in the 14th century, though specific dates are never mentioned in the film itself). Science is starting to be in vogue again, with Hamlet, Horatio and Laertes all studying biology at university; however, Mechtild and Ophelia's foray into herbology is branded as witchcraft. Mechtild also makes mention of the "New World" although this appears to be an anachronism given Europeans didn't commonly use that term or start exploring the Americas again until the late 15th and early 16th centuries.
  • Legend Fades to Myth: Ophelia lampshades this trope in her opening narration, stating that the story of her life and involvement in the events of Hamlet have become legendary, but that she wants to the tell the story from her own perspective as some of the facts have been distorted or were previously unknown (just about everyone involved is either dead or sworn to secrecy for their own reasons).
  • 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 characterized here as a Plucky Girl) and it manages to end on a more uplifting note.
  • Living Is More than Surviving: Comes up when Ophelia and Polonius are arguing about her having an arranged marriage. Ophelia is horrified by the prospect while Polonius states she'll be seen as less of a threat by the king if she's married off. Polonius doesn't want to force a loveless marriage on Ophelia but says he's merely trying to survive, to which Ophelia replies "Survival isn't enough".
  • 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.
  • Lonely Funeral: Besides some monks serving as pallbearers and a priest to preside over the rites, the only mourners who show up at Polonius' funeral are his daughter Ophelia and her friend Horatio, who is mostly there to support Ophelia (Polonius' son Laertes would probably have attended but he's away at university when Polonius is killed). It's used to show how uncaring most of the court is about an 'up-jumped commoner' like Polonius being killed; not even Claudius could be bothered to show up despite Polonius having been a loyal advisor. It also serves to underline how alone and vulnerable Ophelia is.
  • Love Confession:
    • When Ophelia goes to meet Hamlet on the parapets despite their previous disagreements and affirms that he has her support after his father's death, he openly declares his love for her.
    • Although it's already fairly obvious at this point how she feels, Hamlet still asks Ophelia if she loves another while they're in the castle chapel together; appropriately he's hiding in the confessional. Ophelia confirms she "love[s] only [him]". Her verbal confirmation of her love for him prompts Hamlet to propose they marry.
  • 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 (which is unusual in that usually the younger woman is higher-ranking). It's 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 behavior although they make up to an extent near the end, after Gertrude realizes Claudius is the real villain.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Following a brief opening scene depicting Ophelia's death, the film flashes back to show young Ophelia arriving at Elsinore with Polonius and Laertes, meeting Gertrude and being appointed as a lady-in-waiting; it then skips ahead around a decade for the main part of the story.
  • Mistaken for Undead: On the night the king dies, Ophelia tries to follow Gertrude from her chambers up to the battlements. A black-cloaked figure looms out of the darkness at her, but when she turns back it has disappeared, leading her to ponder if it was a ghost; when Hamlet later tells her people have apparently seen his late father's ghost, Ophelia remarks she herself thought she saw such a thing. However, Ophelia later sees the same figure leaving Mechtild's hovel in the daylight. Later still, Ophelia sees Claudius removing an identical cloak and realizes it was him she saw on both occasions.
  • No Peripheral Vision: When Hamlet and Ophelia meet secretly on the battlements at night, a guard walks right past them without seeing them. In the next scene, Claudius walks right past Ophelia in the forest without seeing her. And later, after Ophelia cuts her hair, neither Claudius nor her own brother recognize her even when she stands right next to them and even speaks to them.
  • Not His Sled: Anyone familiar with Hamlet knows that Ophelia loses her mind from grief and drowns in a river shortly before the climax. The film's opening scene even depicts this. Except not quite. One of the biggest twists of the movie is that Ophelia actually fakes going mad and drowning, and ends up outliving everyone else. Also, in this adaptation Gertrude is the one who kills Claudius.
  • 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.
  • One-Woman Wail: Many of the film's tracks (composed by Steven Price) utilize this to create either an ethereal, mournful or joyful sound (or some combination of the three) depending on the mood of the corresponding scene.
  • 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.
  • Outdoor Bath Peeping: Shortly after arriving at Elsinore, Hamlet and Horatio decide to go fishing at a river outside the castle, not realizing it's also Ophelia's favorite bathing spot. The two men stumble across her as she's swimming in just her shift; Horatio and Ophelia are both embarrassed and Horatio tactfully suggests they leave, while Hamlet is instantly attracted to the "wondrous fish" and tries to coax her into climbing out. Ophelia refuses though she approaches the situation with good humor; when Horatio and Hamlet lose their balance and fall into the water, Ophelia takes the opportunity to run for her clothes.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: The final shot of the film pans up from Ophelia and her daughter walking across a hill to a flock of birds soaring across the sky, symbolizing that Ophelia has found freedom and happiness.
  • Period Piece: The film, like the original play, is set in Denmark in the Middle Ages, though the exact time period is vague (going by the clothing designs, it's most likely set in the 14th century).
  • 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. It also explores Gertrude's perspective, though to a much lesser degree.
  • 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.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Claudius smears poison onto the blade of Laertes' sword to insure he'll kill Hamlet in their duel (which would be considered blatant rule-breaking under standard dueling rules).
  • 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.
  • Prequel: A partial example. The first forty or so minutes is set before the beginning of Hamlet, covering what happened in the months leading up the king's death (including how Ophelia and Hamlet became a couple). It then segues into the events of the play.
  • 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.
  • Red Filter of Doom: Intentionally invoked in the play-within-a-play scene; the play is performed using the actors' silhouettes behind a lit screen. When the play reaches its murderous climax, a red filter is used to make the screen and surrounding room glow an eerie red. At this point, Claudius realizes that the play is recreating his own murder of his brother and flies into a panicked rage.
  • Related Differently in the Adaptation: An implied example. During an argument with Gertrude, Hamlet's father suggests that his brother Claudius isn't his father's son because their mother had an affair, which may make Claudius and Hamlet Sr. maternal half-brothers. There was never any indication of them being anything but full siblings in Hamlet; it never comes up again in this film so we don't know the truth.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Well, it is an adaptation of Hamlet.
    • Hamlet's desire for revenge against Claudius overshadows everything else in his life, including his relationship with Ophelia. Even when Ophelia reveals she's alive and offers him a chance to escape with her, he solemnly insists he is sworn to vengeance. In his case, it's combined with Honor Before Reason, as he feels honor-bound to avenge his murdered father.
    • Laertes allows himself to be manipulated by Claudius into seeking revenge against Hamlet, who killed his father (albeit by mistake) and drove his sister to suicide (or so everyone believes).
    • Mechtild wanting revenge on Claudius leads to her sister's death; she didn't consider the consequences of her actions upon Gertrude until it's too late.
  • Scenery Porn: The scenery, which includes meadows, forests, gardens and rivers, is filmed in loving detail and looks stunning.
  • Secret Relationship:
    • Unlike the play, it's shown here that Ophelia and Hamlet were romantically involved, but kept it secret due to her common-born status. This extended into a secret marriage as well, with Claudius trying to marry them off with other people after discovering it.
    • Mechtild kept her teenage love affair a closely-guarded secret, not even telling her own sister her lover's identity. The relationship itself was inevitably revealed when she became pregnant, but Mechtild still didn't reveal who the father was out of continued loyalty to him (despite him refusing to stand by her). When Gertrude learns Claudius was Mechtild's lover from Ophelia, she appears shocked and states she believed it was "any man but him".
  • Show Within a Show:
    • At one point, Ophelia reads part of an erotic romance book to Gertrude, about a lonely noble woman who "married for her fortune" and conducts an affair with a dashing gentleman. This reflects Gertrude's own unhappy marriage and her illicit relationship with Claudius...or at least that's how Gertrude views it. It's also implied to spark a sexual awakening in Ophelia, as soon after she becomes more interested in men and develops romantic feelings for the newly-returned, all-grown-up Hamlet.
    • Later in the film, Hamlet stages a short play for the court that tells the story of a king's brother seducing the queen and murdering his brother to take the throne, which re-creates the 'Mousetrap Play' from the original Hamlet. As in the original, Hamlet uses the play to gauge Claudius' reaction, as Hamlet suspects him as having committed the same crimes as his fictional counterpart.
  • Sibling Triangle:
    • Gertrude is married to King Hamlet and has some affection for him, but also begins developing feelings for Claudius, especially as her husband can be neglectful. Claudius is not too subtle in his attempts to seduce Gertrude, much to his brother's displeasure, although it's unclear if any of them truly love her. Claudius ends up murdering his brother to marry Gertrude, although she's unaware about the murder at least at first.
    • As it turns out, this also applies to Gertrude and her sister, who both fell in love with Claudius. Mechtild is extremely bitter and jealous when she learns Gertrude has married Claudius, who was once her lover. Gertrude later tells Ophelia that she had no idea Claudius and Mechtild had been romantically involved, although Mechtild appears to assume she did know and resents her for it. They don't get a chance to talk things over and properly reconcile before Gertrude dies. Claudius ends up manipulating and using both sisters for his own gain, and Ophelia states she doesn't think he ever loved either of them.
  • 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.
  • Somewhere, a Herpetologist Is Crying: Mechtild faked her death by drinking a few drops of snake venom, which caused temporary paralysis and Ophelia does the same, while Gertrude drinks a whole vial to commit suicide. The venom of some snakes can in fact cause paralysis, which can be potentially fatal. Trouble is, venom has to get directly into the bloodstream to be effective, such as via a bite; swallowing venom is usually harmless (though not recommended) unless you have cuts or ulcers in your mouth, throat or elsewhere in your digestive tract. Therefore, it's unlikely that drinking venom would cause paralysis or prove fatal.
  • 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...
  • Storming the Castle: In the climax, King Fortinbras of Norway and his army storm Elsinore Castle with Mechtild having helped guide them through the forest to get into the castle undetected. By the time they turn up, the king and the prince of Denmark are both already dead, and they make short work of the castle guards.
  • 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 realize 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)
  • Throne Room Throwdown: The climax largely takes place in the castle's throne room, where Hamlet and Laertes duel before the court, with Hamlet intending to finally kill Claudius. And then the invading Norwegian army bursts in and everyone starts fighting. Ophelia herself doesn't stick around the castle to watch the bloodbath, though it cuts between Ophelia's escape into the wilderness and the fighting at the castle.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Three characters are played by younger actors at the beginning of the film, due to the characters being significantly younger; fifteen-year-old Hamlet is played by Jack Cunningham-Nuttall, young Ophelia is played by Mia Quiney and young Laertes is played by Calum O'Rourke. In a flashback, nineteen-year-old Mechtild is played by Anna Rust.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Though brief, the official trailer spoils that Hamlet and Ophelia secretly marry and consummate their relationship.
  • Twice-Told Tale: The film is a retelling of Hamlet from Ophelia's perspective, although it also makes a number of changes to the plot and it generally makes more sense if the viewer is already familiar with the play's story; the opening scene actually features Ophelia's infamous drowning while she narrates that this story has been told many times and she wants to tell it from her own viewpoint.
  • Wham Line: When Mechtild tells Ophelia of her Dark and Troubled Past, Ophelia asks what became of her lover. Mechtild replies "He was quite recently married", revealing that Claudius was her lover.
  • 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 recognize the 'ghost' as Claudius.

"You may think you know my story. You've heard it ends in madness, hearts broken, blood spilled, a kingdom lost. That is a story. But it is not mine."