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Hamlet [Blu-ray Book]

4.5 out of 5 stars 781 customer reviews

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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.

Special Features

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Product Details

  • Actors: Kenneth Branagh, Julie Christie, Billy Crystal, Gerard Depardieu, Charlton Heston
  • Directors: Kenneth Branagh
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Blu-ray, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG-13
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: August 17, 2010
  • Run Time: 242 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (781 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000Q7ZNDG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,126 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Hamlet [Blu-ray Book]" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Barry C. Chow on 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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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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By A Customer on 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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Format: VHS Tape
This is one monumental piece of filmmaking. To the dectractors, for whom it was probably too long for their MTV attention spans, I can only say, go back to Britney Spears and save your comments for something you know something about. I'm sorry, but these responses really get me ticked in this instance. This is the "full" text, as written. Every word is a gem. Every scene is necessary for a full apprecition and understanding of Shakespeare's scope and genius. I didn't detect a dull moment or a lapse in directorial love and care for the duration of the film. Even Robin Williams, who I find annoying of late, was perfectly cast. The cameos, supporting roles, and stars all shone equally. This film is a triumph on Branagh's part, even better than his masterful Henry V. He's followed in Olivier's footsteps and even superseded him in many respects. I didn't for a moment doubt any of his choices, either as actor or director. For me, this is the definitive Shakespeare recording of the modern era. Enough said.
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