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The Macksey Journal

Abstract

Most film adaptations of Hamlet focus on the emotional distress of the titular character. One notable to exception to this is Akira Kurosawa's film, The Bad Sleep Well. In this adaptation of Hamlet, Kurosawa amplifies the hints of a Marxist viewpoint in Shakespeare's original play into a film with a systemic anti-capitalist worldview. This version of the story replaces the state government of Denmark with the corporate business sector of Japan. This change of setting allows Kurosawa to examine not only the corruption that stems from hegemonic incompetence that Shakespeare comments on, but also, a more finely-tuned critique of the imbalances that are imposed on society through the perpetuation of the capitalist marketplace. While Shakespeare displays an empathy for the working class in Hamlet, he ultimately upholds the hierarchies that oppress them. Kurosawa is able to transpose Shakespeare's empathy into a broader structural critique that seeks to abolish the unequal hierarchies imposed by capitalism and imbue the working class with a revolutionary potential.

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