How do the endings in Kenneth Branagh's film version of Hamlet and Shakespeare's original Hamlet compare? How do Branagh's choices/interpretations of the ending impact your understanding of Hamlet? Does the ending support the view that Branagh has maintained the textual integrity of Shakespeare's Hamlet?
It can be said that the ending of Kenneth Branagh's film version of Hamlet is a very accurate representation of Shakespeare's original Hamlet.
Branagh made sure to include every detail in the extremely long final scene. Details include Hamlet's conversation with Horatio as he explains how he escaped and sealed the fates of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Branagh even included the seemingly out-of-place, comical conversation between Orsic, a courtier and character we have never met before, and Hamlet, as Orsic extends Laertes' challenge to a gentlemen's duel. The clownish role of Osric is both hilariously and brilliantly played by the late Robin Williams.
The one liberty Branagh takes is to show flash-present shots of young Fortinbras riding with his army to conquer Denmark. In Shakespeare's original, Fortinbras certainly is an essential character who enters toward the end of the scene and makes an insightful comment concerning the horrible fact that so many royals of the same house have all just killed each other:
This quarry cries on havoc. O proud Death,
What feast is toward in thine eternal cell
That thou so many princes at a shot
So bloodily hast struck?
Though Shakespeare of course could not have portrayed Fortinbras's entrance with his army on stage, Branagh's addition of capturing Fortinbras on film riding with his army serves to underscore an important theme in the play that can easily go overlooked: the devastating consequences of treachery. The late King Hamlet had battled Fortinbras's father in Norway and won some of Norway's land. The young Fortinbras is now on the war path to win Norway's land back. The image of Fortinbras riding just as all members of the royal court of Denmark are killing each other captures the bitter irony that Claudius's own treacherous actions served to destroy an entire royal court that Fortinbras now wins without even having had to put up a fight. The image of Fortinbras with his army helps to capture just how destructive treachery is.