Hamlet

Jennifer Bean is an assistant professor of comparative literature and cinema studies at the University of Washington, and a visiting professor at UC Berkeley this fall. She is currently completing a book titled Bodies in Shock: Gender, Genre, and the Cinema of Modernity, 1912–1924.

Asta Nielsen donned the breeches in front of and behind the camera, freed financially and artistically by running her own film company together with her husband, Sven Gade. This version of Hamlet is based on pre-Shakespearean Danish and German sources, and depicts the Prince of Denmark as a girl forcibly raised as a boy in order to succeed to the throne. Nielsen's performance in the title role is a marvel of expressiveness and restraint as she alternates between adolescent dreaminess and the very real pain of a woman obliged to disguise herself. Behind the pale mask of her androgynous face flash darkening eyes; she is bent on avenging not only her father's murder, but also her mother's gender-meddling. This splendid color restoration-based on the original German distribution print-premiered at this year's Berlin Film Festival.

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