Customer Review

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Visually sumptous, a spellbinding cast, lovely soundtrack, but Branagh as Hamlet is dreadful, August 12, 2008
This review is from: William Shakespeare's Hamlet (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
I am a huge Shakespeare fan, and HAMLET is my favorite of the Bard's work. So, logically, as a Shakespeare buff and an English major, you would expect Branagh's HAMLET to be my favorite cinematic version of the tale. Well, you would be wrong: Franco Zefferelli's HAMLET starring Mel Gibson and Glenn Close is my favorite, not Branagh's, and I'll tell you why: Branagh may be an immensely talented director with ground-breaking visions for Shakespeare's work, but he is an over-the-top and dreadfully melodramatic actor whose performances on screen are absolutely terrible. On stage, his moody, sulking, emo and whiny Hamlet would work because stage acting requires a larger-than life performance because as an actor, you have to perform to the back balcony, but on film that sort of acting doesn't work - the two mediums are too vastly different. For an actor who is so technically trained, you think Branagh would know this, but, he either doesn't or his ego is so big he does whatever he pleases. Whatever the case, his performance as Hamlet is what soured this wonderful film for me. Besides Kenneth, the rest of the cast is excellent, especially Julie Christie as a touchingly poignant Gertrude, Derek Jacobi's deliciously vile Claudius (my favorite screen portrayal of the character), Richard Briers manages to make Polonius both a secondary villain and comic relief in the way that only an excellent actor can, and Billy Crystal's cameo as the gravedigger is wonderfully funny. While I don't fault Kate Winslet one bit, her Ophelia is especially weak and can be very trying on one's nerves, but I blame this more on the director's choice than I do the actress. Kate is amazingly talented and can definitely make even weakly-written roles come off as strong. I just wish Branagh would have let her do so here. Helena Bonham Carter's Ophelia is decidedly better, making her Ophelia strong, even rebellious in her maddness. Anyway, the look of the film, in the grand tradition of Branagh movies, is stunning. The costumes, the sets, esp. the interiors of Elsinore, are vivid and pulsing with life. In my opinion, if Branagh would sacrifice his ego and stay behind the camera and do what he does well (directing), all of his films would be not just good, but brilliant. Hopefully he will figure this out soon.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 18, 2011 6:22:07 PM PDT
Wasn't it Shakespear's desire to leave some artistic license? Hamlet was after all insane. Don't be so harsh on Branagh. I think the portrayal was genius.

Posted on Jul 13, 2011 7:01:03 PM PDT
Andrew Adams says:
He's putting "an antic disposition on". I would say that KB acted the part most appropriately, and that you have done him a great injustice by asserting otherwise. If it were Jim Carrey playing the part, I might be able to agree with you. However, he was dramatic where it was called for, serious when appropriate, and woeful/emo at precisely the right moments.

Your reaction to his acting makes me wonder if you really understand the play very well. Maybe watch it again?

Posted on Jul 22, 2011 1:36:06 PM PDT
Let me get this straight -- you prefer Mel Gibson's Hamlet to Branagh's? Sulking and whiny defines Gibson's performance -- I thought Branagh had much more subtlety.
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