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"You may think you know my story. Many have told it. It has long passed into history...into myth. I was always a willful girl and always spoke my mind. It is high time I told you my story for myself."
Ophelia
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A 2019note  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.

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


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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.
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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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 rumor in the first place to hide his relationship with Mechtild and would've let the mob burn 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Doting Parent: Gertrude towards Hamlet, which Claudius tends to mock him for.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hand-Hiding Sleeves: Gertrude, Ophelia and many of the other ladies often wear gowns with floor-length sleeves.
  • 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 Do.
  • 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 favorite.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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)
  • 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 very 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.

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