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May 04, 2006

Hamlet (Laurence Olivier, 1948) - 5

I've never disliked Shakespeare as much as with this rendition of Hamlet. I wanted to love it...but the production just wasn't as good as I think it could have been. I think that film gives a director the ability to make the set not appear as if it were a live action stage. Like I have written before, Shakespeare is somewhat difficult to do on film, and the directors interpretation of the movement and background in this film don't help contribute to the storytelling. This is one of Shakespeare's tragedies, but with more of an internal dilemma within the character of Hamlet, than a blood bath. Hamlet spends the film thinking about revenge on his uncle for killing his father and usurping the throne. This play has the famous "to be or not to be" speech which is really an intense section on the contemplation of suicide. This film is slow and long (I imagine that live it probably is as well, but in this case it is on the edge of boring) and the score was over dramatic, not pleasant to my ears either. I hope to see another version of this play (any recommended versions?). Despite my vote this film also won the 1949 Oscars for best picture and actor.


Evan said...

The Kenneth Branagh version from 1996 is very good. It uses the full text and is 4 hours long. Don't let the length scare you off though. It is one of the best Shakespeare on film adaptations in recent memory.

It isn't out on DVD yet, it constantly seems to be in production limbo. But any Blockbuster worth its salt should have a VHS copy.

Gideon Strauss said...

Our family also liked the Branagh, as well as the Mel Gibson. (Remember that while we Strausses are bardolaters, we are not stage-theatre-purists - we liked the Baz Luhrmann Romeo+Juliet ... . But nonetheless I did not like the Ethan Hawke Hamlet.