Kenneth Branagh, as the director of the 1996 film version of Shakespeare's Hamlet, takes on not only the role of Hamlet and of director of the film, but also of auteur. In film criticism, an "auteur", which is French for "author", is a director who so dominates the filmmaking process, especially in adaptations, that it is appropriate to call the director the auteur of the motion picture. Thus, the auteur theory holds that the director is the primary person responsible for the creation of a motion picture and infuses it with his own distinctive, recognizable style. Auteur theorists are interested in how a director spins what he is given into a work of his own.
Hamlet, speaking in terms of the text, is not only the most performed of Shakespeare's works but is also the most filmed. Filmed versions of Hamlet have been made all over the world, including such places as Italy, India, Ghana, Brazil, Poland, and Japan. Because of this fact, each director of each of these filmed versions has a different idea of how the play should be recreated for the camera, both because of their cultural background and taboos and also because of the difference of genre. .
Hamlet critic Neil Taylor is quoted as saying, "In order to be marketable, it [the text] had to conform to cinematic conventions." Many actions or ideas that are possible in movies are not possible in a stage setting and vice versa, and the text being adapted is often void of direction for how the actors should be looking, feeling, moving, etcetera. This is where the director takes his place as the auteur. .
Of the many filmed versions of Shakespeare's Hamlet and the many printed versions of the text, the chosen are Kenneth Branagh's 1996 version and the Signet Classic version edited by Sylvan Barnet, respectively. Branagh is not only the director but is also the adapter and the star. This fact makes him a kind of super-auteur in that he is putting his mark on almost every level of the adaptation.