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Grigori Kozintsev's Hamlet (1964)

Innokenti Smoktunovsky , Mikhail Nazvanov , Grigori Kozintsev  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Innokenti Smoktunovsky, Mikhail Nazvanov, Elze Radzinya, Yuri Tolubeyev, Anastasiya Vertinskaya
  • Directors: Grigori Kozintsev
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Russian (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Facets
  • DVD Release Date: October 31, 2006
  • Run Time: 140 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000HEWENA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #173,693 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Grigori Kozintsev's Hamlet" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Cine-Notes booklet

Editorial Reviews

Considered by many the finest screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s greatest work, Grigori Kozintsev’s HAMLET is a spare, haunting interpretation based on a translation by novelist Boris Pasternak. The malevolence afoot in the state of Denmark is magnificently captured by the foreboding black and white cinematography and the dark, dramatic score by composer Dmitri Shostakovich. In addition, acclaimed Russian actors Innokenti Smoktunovsky and Anastasia Vertinskaya offer stellar, award-winning performances. Kozintsev, a peer of Eisenstein’s who worked well into the 1960s, was a master of cinematic technique who finally achieved recognition at the end of his career for his stunning interpretations of Shakespeare. Leading film historian Richard Dyer wrote in the Boston Globe: "Paradoxically, the two most powerful films of Shakespeare plays [HAMLET and KING LEAR] were made not in Great Britain but in the Soviet Union."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Hamlet November 23, 2007
By MK
Format:DVD
I do not say this lightly. The visual language is unforgettable: the crashing waves, the jagged cliffs, the colossal menacing castle, and amidst it the supreme elegance of Hamlet. Kozintsev is a master of black-and-white. This film has to be in black-and-white. The shades of gray need to be there: the alternately glittering and raging grays of the waves, the mysterious grays of the rock, the deadening gray of the castle, and the slender figure of Hamlet in stark black-and-white contrasted against them. The score by Shostakovitch is shatteringly intense, and it too has to be this way.

Innokenti Smoktunovski was considered one of the greatest actors in the Soviet Union, and it is easy to see why. His voice is awesome. He moves stupendously. At one level, it is attractive and sexy. At another level, it visualizes the fragility, dignity, and beauty of a human being. The scene of Hamlet dying by the sea--a lone figure leaning languidly against the rock--is one of the most haunting images in film.

Directors and actors too often do `Hamlet' clearly in relation to other `Hamlets', so much so that it can become a bit of a pissing contest--who can do a more fiery or provocative (or popular) version. This Hamlet is free from such baggage. Its authors start from first principles. They focus on creating a work of art in the medium of film. They use the possibilities of film, but the medium never drives the message. Everything--the sets, the close-ups, the camera angles--is there only for artistic expression.

A great work of art is deeply transformative, and this film is.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By far the best screen adaptation. September 10, 2007
By MMM
Format:DVD
From the first scenes, implicitly conveying the fact of the royal death, and Claudius' monolog, split between a herald reading a decree at a town square, courtiers repeating "in equal scale weighing delight and dole" and foreign ambassadors echoing them in their respective languages, and finally the king himself addressing his advisors - you know you are watching a work of a master. Of the three most popular screen adaptations, the classic Olivier's, the roaring Mel Gibson's and the Kenneth Branagh's parody, none is even close to this one. The excellent set and costumes, great acting, outstanding dark, gothic-like black-and-white camera work, Shostakovich's music - everything tells of a masterpiece. Of course, limitations of a screen play are obvious - lots of great lines omitted, added scenes (such as Hamlet on his way to England forging the king's letter, which was borrowed later by Tom Stoppard for his Rozenkrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead) - but it's the ultimate screen play nonetheless.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why buy this...? July 14, 2007
Format:DVD
I just recently picked up this DVD from my local public library, and for once I was glad I did. If you purchase one of these, you'll be stuck with this banal, generic ad that plays at the beginning. ("Ever feel like you're in a Jim Jarmusch picture?") Also, I noticed that this version uses fewer subtitles than the European DVD, and some of Shakespeare's best lines are thrown out. But the film itself cannot be faulted for anything. It puts similar attempts at adaptation by Branagh, Zeffirelli, Olivier, and even Welles to shame. This is the only Shakespeare film I've seen where I can point to any scene and say, "THAT's the way it happens in the play"--especially the disinterment of Yorick's skull. See it if you haven't, but be sure you've read the play first, because for all its strengths. this is no substitute for the text of Old Bill.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This review is about the Ruscico vs. Mr. Bongo dvd transfers of Kozintsev's "Gamlet" (or "Hamlet" in the English spelling). There is also a disc available from Facets which I have not seen (very expensive and many used copies available... so, perhaps not a good transfer? Unknown).

I purchased the Ruscico 2-disc version when it first came out but there were some unpleasant problems:
1. The film is on two discs and requires us to get up in the middle of the movie and put on the second disc. A minor annoyance. (There may be a single disc transfer from Ruscico but I have not seen it.)
2. The video quality is not as good as I would like: a distracting halo surrounds many objects caused by very excessive sharpening filters. It's quite annoying! Also, the color timing makes the black and white somewhat sepia toned. That's ok, not very annoying; some people might like it.
3. The English subtitles are not Shakespeare's original text! They are a translation from the Russian text back into English. The translation is fine but it is definitely not Shakespeare's language. As I read along, I found myself trying to figure out the original text that the subtitles came from. This must be what it is like to read Shakespeare in translation! Well, that's useful, actually, but also annoying after a while. Give us the original Shakespeare, please!

Given the problems with the Ruscico disc, I decided to buy the Mr. Bongo version.
1. The whole movie is on one disc. No need to interrupt the viewing to put on a second disc.
2. Color timing is the normal black and white that we all know. I did not detect a halo around objects. Good! There are two problems, however.
First, this is a PAL encoded disc, region free.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great film!
Wonderful sets, great costumes, artistic cinematography, and a top musical score. I highly recommend this production, even if in Russian with subtitles.
Published 17 months ago by w. Oliver
5.0 out of 5 stars Visually striking and perceptively acted adaptation
Gamlet (1964)

Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy - Hamlet
Mikhail Nazvanov - Claudius
Elza Radzina- Szolkonis - Gertrude
Anastasiya Vertinskaya- Ophelia
Yuri... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Alexander Arsov
5.0 out of 5 stars this movie is unforgettable
Grigori Kozintsev's rendition of Shakespeare's Hamlet is quite remarkable. Although at first it may seem a little odd watching this great work of Shakespeare in Russian, one... Read more
Published on June 5, 2012 by Richard J. Brzostek
4.0 out of 5 stars Boris Leonidovich Pasternak - Writer (1941 Russian translation)
This is a Shakespeare play about the prince of Denmark and tragedy surrounding the family. Many people want to say the prince Hamlet is indecision yet he outmaneuvers just about... Read more
Published on November 18, 2011 by bernie
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Production, exceptially for Shakespeare afficiandos
Gamlet is a 140 minutes, black-and-white film. Music played frequently throughout film and sets the mood of the scene. Many of Gamlet's soliloquies are voiceovers. Read more
Published on November 8, 2010 by Andrew Raker
4.0 out of 5 stars Even without sound, the best
I saw this film 25+ years ago WITHOUT sound because a minor flood had shorted out the system at the theater. Read more
Published on May 1, 2010 by ggagnon
5.0 out of 5 stars Visually, the best Hamlet on film
I agree with the gist of the other five-star reviews here, so I'll point out two criticisms.

First, after having watched Shakespeare in a foreign language, it has become... Read more
Published on April 25, 2009 by Kirk Petersen
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Splendid! I think this is the best Hamlet which I've have ever seen either in theather or in cinema. Excellent camera work and tremendous play of the actors. Read more
Published on February 26, 2009 by Aurimas Juozaitis
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical metaphor or political parable?
This production is an adaptation. The text has been modified. The director is trying all he can to visualize as much of the text as possible. Read more
Published on December 31, 2008 by Jacques COULARDEAU
5.0 out of 5 stars Shaterringly Good Shakespeare
This is from the era when film was still a piece of plastic to be manipulated into the universe of the story. Read more
Published on June 23, 2008 by Stephen L. Broker
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