Ophelia is the latest feature from Australian director Claire McCarthy, and her first film in 7 years. Based on a novel by Lisa Klein, it tells the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, as seen from the perspective of Hamlet’s betrothed Ophelia.
Aesthetically, the film is gorgeous to behold. Whether the camera is panning through a forest or capturing a sword fight in the castle’s main hall, Denson Baker’s cinematography shimmers with a deep luminosity that lends Ophelia most of its heft. It feels, perhaps unsurprisingly, Shakespearean, despite the fact that the characters are speaking in spruced-up but definitely modern English. In a world of postmodernist irony and self-consuming criticism, it felt very refreshing to watch a movie wholeheartedly embrace the mystical and romantic elements that make Shakespeare so captivating.
The costumes are equally as luscious, with no expenses spared on dresses, wigs, suits of armour, and weaponry. Naomi Watts as Queen Gertrude dons an impressive headpiece for much of the film, and is almost unrecognisable in her secondary role as the witch Mechtild.
The film is full of strong performances, most notably from Clive Owen as Hamlet's treacherous uncle Claudius. Though it fails to reinvent the story of Hamlet, it does a good job of retelling it with an original flare. If you're a fan of costume dramas, you won't want to miss Ophelia.