Toronto Silent Film Festival presents
Extraordinary Women in Film: HAMLET (1921)
Canadian Restoration Premiere!
“I am not a man and I’m not allowed to be a woman! I am a toy that is not supposed to have a heart”
Women had been portraying Hamlet on screen or the stage for years, but this was certainly the first time a complete re-examination of the character had taken place. The Prince of Denmark becomes a Princess—one forced to conceal her true sex since birth for political reasons.
Asta Nielsen was a superstar in her day, beloved by critics and audiences across Europe and she used her status to stay in control of the direction of the film-forming her own company, hiring the directors, fronting the money, and overseeing production.
In delving further into Hamlet’s psyche as someone who has been forced into an unnatural role as a male since birth in order to preserve the political and societal status quo, Nielsen pushes the boundaries for gender identity in society and the pressures to conform to a false gender identification.
Nielsen’s austere, androgynous male impersonation goes well beyond drag for sensationalism, foretelling such gender fluid films from Queen Christina to The Crying Game and Boys Don’t Cry. It’s a formidable performance from Nielsen; riveting and completely convincing from the instant she comes on screen. Fully Shakespearean in complexity and scope, this radical Hamlet is ripe for rediscovery by a contemporary audience.
Live piano accompaniment by Jordan Klapman
Film Courtesy of: Deutsches Filminstitut Co-presented by: Goethe-Institut, Toronto
None Currently Scheduled