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Hamlet

Err… is that noted Shakespearean actor Jack Lemmon?

It is!

Uh-oh.

Is that… snow?

This is not an auspicious start. Everything looks fake in a “bad movie” way, not in a theatre way.

Heh. I, Claudius is playing Claudius?

These scenes look so weird — they never move the camera when filming from this side, so I’m assuming it’s a composite shot of some kind? Looks really fake. But then they show the hall from another angle, and it’s indeed pretty big…

Mais oui.

It’s… it’s whatsisface!

er… Charlton Heston!

Perchance to rub.

I watched the Olivier Hamlet the other year, and he totally played Hamlet as if he really might be insane… which makes the plot make a whole lot more sense. Branagh never leaves us in doubt that he’s playing mad…

Which leaves the viewer (i.e., me) open to go “but… why… why doesn’t he…” etc etc, because surely his plan for revenge isn’t the optimal one, now is it?

But this version’s got one thing going for it: It’s got all the witty repartee (and Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern) that Olivier cut out of his version to get it down to two and a half hours.

Some of the scenes look so cheap! That’s the worst greenscreen ever!

And it’s got a substantial budget and all… and it totally bombed?

OK, it’s a bit wobbly, but there’s an impressive amount of dolly shots here — in a huge room with mirrors all over the place. It’s like they wanted to maximise the difficulty settings on the cinematography.

The performances are so … uneven. Jacobi and Christie give measured, subtle performances, while several of the others (including Branagh himself) are shouting out every line to the rafters.

Billy Crystal?

I guess.

Mork! Where’s Mindy!

Anyway, this Hamlet has stuff I can’t recall having seen before — I guess all the versions I’ve seen (and read) have been abridged? But these bits I can’t remember are fun! I mean, that shouldn’t come as a surprise, and I understand why they’re normally cut, but … that makes me enjoy this even more.

Because it is really enjoyable. Branagh makes a whole bunch of… odd choices… and the stunt casting of famous American actors is pretty distracting… but… Shakespeare shines through. That’s enough.

Hamlet. Kenneth Branagh. 1996.

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