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Hamlet [Blu-ray Book] (1996)

Kenneth Branagh , Julie Christie , Kenneth Branagh  |  PG-13 |  Blu-ray
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (594 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Kenneth Branagh, Julie Christie, Billy Crystal, Gerard Depardieu, Charlton Heston
  • Directors: Kenneth Branagh
  • Format: AC-3, Blu-ray, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: Spanish, English, French
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: August 17, 2010
  • Run Time: 242 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (594 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000Q7ZNDG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,938 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Hamlet [Blu-ray Book]" on IMDb

Special Features

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Editorial Reviews

"Hamlet has the kind of power, energy and excitement that movies can truly exploit," actor/director Kenneth Branagh says. In this first full-text film of William Shakespeare's play – shot on 65mm film and exhibited in Panavision Super 70, power surges through every scene. The timeless tale of murder, corruption and revenge is reset in a lavish 19th-century world, using sprawling Blenheim Palace as Elsinore and staging much of the action in mirrored, gold-filled interiors. A landmark cast (Julie Christie, Kate Winslet, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Charlton Heston and more), the excitement of the Bard's words and an energetic filmmaking style lift the story from its often shadowy ambience to fully-lit pageantry and rage.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
456 of 483 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not to be missed February 26, 2003
Format:VHS Tape
Part of the genius of Branagh's interpretation of Hamlet is in the use of the techniques of the cinema to enhance the production. Branagh has not condensed the acts like some mass market soup, as was done in Olivier's 1948 Oscar-winning production, or in, say, Zeffirelli's 1989 Hamlet lite starring Mel Gibson (both excellent, though, within their scope), but has kept every word while directing our understanding so that even those only casually familiar with the play might follow the intent and purpose with discernment. Recall that for Shakespeare--the ultimate actor's playwright who wrote with precious few stage directions--interpretation was left to the direction and the actors, an open invitation that Branagh rightly accepts.

The use of flashback scenes of things implied, such as the amorous union of Ophelia and her Lord Hamlet abed, or of a vast expanse of snow darkened with distant soldiers to represent the threat of Fortinbras' army from without, and especially the vivid remembrance in the mind's eye of the new king's dastardly deed of murder most foul, helps us all to more keenly appreciate just what it is that torments Hamlet's soul. I also liked the intense closeups. How they would have bemused and delighted an Elizabethan audience.

Branagh's ambitious Hamlet is also one of the most accessible and entertaining, yet without the faintest hint of any dumbing down or abbreviation. A play is to divert, to entertain, to allow us to identify with others whose trials and tribulations are so like our own. And so first the playwright seeks to engage his audience, and only then, by happenstance and indirection, to inspire and to inform. Shakespeare did this unconsciously, we might say.
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209 of 220 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Baring Hamlet's Soul October 11, 2004
Format:DVD
There is a moment at the start of this film when Hamlet, until then holding himself rigidly erect through sheer force of will, seizes a moment of privacy and literally deflates with exhaustion and despair. In itself, this perfect gesture would mark Branagh's portrayal a masterful work. But what follows raises his performance to the sublime: He embarks on the "O that this too too sullied flesh would melt, /Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew..." soliloquy not with Burton's anger, Olivier's melancholy or Gibson's bitterness, but with an exhalation that embodies the emotion most genuine given the circumstances: overwhelming grief. This is a perfect note, and what follows shows an understanding of the play's mental and emotional landscape that puts other portrayals to shame.

I have seen many performances of Hamlet, but I have never seen one as perfectly pitched as this. Branagh's Hamlet is strong, resourceful, thoughtful and restrained. Branagh purposely rejects the psychological poses that other actors find so hard to resist. After all, Hamlet and Richard III are the two Shakespearean plays that afford actors the most range. It's hard playing the Dane on a leash when one can go wild with existential abandon and not only dodge the charge of overacting, but actually attribute such excess to the character. There are few meatier roles in the repertoire that simultaneously offer the actor such depth on the one hand and such leeway on the other.

For me, such moderation exemplifies Branagh's devotion to Shakespeare. It must have been tempting for a man of his talents to show off. But to forego such gestures, to offer in its stead restraint, is to put service before self.

For, of course, Hamlet is restrained. His very life depends on it.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth It December 28, 1999
Format:VHS Tape
Phenominal acting by Kenneth Branagh makes this film both entertaining and a fine addition to anyone's library, be they a Shakespeare afficionado or simply looking to enjoy a good film. This is a refreshing switch from the stereotypically stale rap such a wonderful playwright is encumbered with. While it does take some time to watch, this is not necessarily a bad thing. As a result, there are always new things to discover with susequent viewings. Admittedly, the language itself is a barrier at first. For me, it is much more difficult to comprehend without the text before me. But, once realization dawns, I would say it is well worth the wait. Currently, my favorite part is when Hamlet tells his uncle to go to hell on the first tape. The delivery is subtle enough to elude most on the first pass, myself included. While this is not a line unique to this film, as the text exists in others, it is a high point for me. Kenneth Branagh makes the film, though. Accolades are also due equally noteworthy actor Charleton Heston for a brief but inspiring appearance. I am eagerly awaiting this title to emerge on DVD, as I hope many others are too. Perhaps a public outcry would prompt the distributor to arrange its (hopefully forthcoming) release.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is there a better screen adaptation? September 28, 2003
Format:VHS Tape
I've seen several different screen adaptations of Shakespeare's Hamlet, and I can unequivocally state that Branagh's is my favorite. From start to finish, this four hour film stunned me with incredible acting, beautiful sets, and creative cinematography. However, the film didn't exactly match my original interpretation of the play.
Probably the greatest thing that disappointed me in the film was the play within the play. No matter how much I enjoyed the acting, I didn't like the interpretation that Branagh chose. After several readings of Hamlet, I still can't understand why Branagh chose to have Hamlet yell so much during the play. I suppose on one hand it reinforces the idea of Hamlet going mad, but it also seems to degrade the cunning that went into planning the play and the trap for Claudius. I always imagined that scene to be a little more subtle, working its way into the mind of Claudius and creating doubt...not screaming "bloody murder" the way Branagh seems to portray it. If I was directing this film, I would probably have Hamlet talk under his breath a little more and possibly brood in his seat, watching every move that Claudius makes. Luckily, this is probably the most major thing that confused and disappointed me about this film version (besides Rosencrantz and Guildenstern riding in on the little train).
Other than the play within the play, I think I agree with almost everything Branagh does, but a few of his choices stand out more than others for me. The thing that I liked the most about Branagh's version is Ophelia's falling into madness. I thought the way Ophelia carried on in the large, mirrored room was fantastic. The flowers being a construct of a deranged mind and her method of getting right into the face of Claudius was great!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Hamlet is To Be!
I loved Kenneth Branaugh's depiction of Hamlet and many of my students did as well. I teach at risk students who were not, in the least, enthusiastic about the idea of spending... Read more
Published 10 days ago by Mryan
5.0 out of 5 stars Hamlet has heart
Hamlet is a little long but definitely enjoyable if you're into the whole Shakespeare thing. I only bought this because I had a test on it tho but I still appreciated it for what... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Kyle Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Shakespeare for crying out loud
recommend this to anybody with taste. it's Shakespeare for crying out loud. long, has an all star cast. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Roger Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie to watch - classic Shakespeare!
Wonderful adaptation of a classic play. Long, but worth the time as it stays so true to a Shakespearian presentation.
Published 15 days ago by CHill
3.0 out of 5 stars didn't hold my interest
Too long -too slow! Too boring! Didn't hold my interest.
After two hours I realized this was a 4 hour movie and didn't watch the second half. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Ocean lover
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
An absolutely brilliant screen adaptation. Branagh is spectacular as writer, director, and star. We can't know what Shakespeare would've intended, but I have to believe that this... Read more
Published 22 days ago by Keisha
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
A bit over the top; I would have Polonius a bit more foppish and dandy, but this version is the s***. Read more
Published 24 days ago by publica domain
5.0 out of 5 stars Branagh's Hamlet Shines
Far and away, the best filmed version of "Hamlet" that you'll ever find. Branagh truly shines when taking on Shakespeare, and his, perhaps, risky endeavor to portray one of... Read more
Published 27 days ago by Lawnsinger
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply breathtaking
This is my all time favorite adaptation of the classic play; Hamlet.
It follows the script word by word, and displays it into such powerful imagery that I remember feeling... Read more
Published 28 days ago by Christopher
1.0 out of 5 stars Hard to follow
Could not understand what was being said or what was going on. It is portrayed exactly as the Shakespearean play is written.
Published 28 days ago by Eric
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Best Screenplay nomination????
Ebert's excellent answer: "A screenplay is something more than dialog. Consider, for example, that Alan Parker got a screenplay credit for "Evita," even though virtually every word in the movie was in the form of a Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber lyric. Screenplays also cover... Read more
Jan 22, 2008 by koko the talking gorilla |  See all 6 posts
No HD DVD/Blu-ray for now
I have been waiting and sending letters and e-mails for a decade for the DVD of this Hamlet--so long, in fact, that the DVD medium itself has been surpassed! By the time a Blu-ray or HD version would arrive...
Sep 2, 2007 by Crabby Guy |  See all 5 posts
Any news on release date?
According to kenbranagh.com,
February 27, 2007
A vigilant Hamlet fan caught this exciting chat that happened with Warner Bros. executives George Feltenstein,
George Parker, and Ronnee Sass last night on the Home Theater Forum.
chat. last night.

<DougH> YO - Any news on Branagh's... Read more
Apr 4, 2007 by Paul D. Schumacher |  See all 4 posts
Book On Blu-Ray Only?!!!
Strange question. Maybe there is not enough of the question to give a proper answer.

However Blu-ray as been the de facto standard for years. It is no miracle drug and soon my in itself become obsolete. So if you are making a product what format would you use?
May 26, 2013 by bernie |  See all 2 posts
WHEN did this come to DVD???
It's really no mystery. If you look at the info in the Amazon listing you'l see that the DVD was realeased in August 2007.
Apr 7, 2008 by Mark Hite |  See all 2 posts
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