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Mel Gibson leads an all-star cast in William Shakespeare's greatest tragedy, the story of Danish prince Hamlet. Hamlet (Academy Award winner Gibson--Braveheart, Lethal Weapon films) returns home to learn that his father, the King, has recently died and his mother, Gertrude (Glenn Close--The Stepford Wives, Fatal Attraction), has already married his uncle, Claudius (Alan Bates--Gosford Park). Suffering from shock and grief, the young prince is visited by the ghost of his father (Paul Scofield--Quiz Show), who claims that he was murdered by Claudius and who demands vengeance. Now, Hamlet must decide whether this tale told by an apparition is true--and whether he should exact the vengeance his father demands . . . realizing that his actions may destroy the woman he loves, Ophelia (Helena Bonham Carter--Corpse Bride, Howards End), his family and the kingdom he is due to inherit.]]>
Top Customer Reviews
As my by-line indicates, I am a former high school teacher. Without exception, this is the version of Hamlet that is a class-room favorite. (I show 2 others: Branaugh (2nd place) and the film starring Ethan Hawke (everyone hates it).) It is accessible to younger viewers and is just a beautiful film all around.
The filming, camera work and sets are impeccable. One is instantly transported into the world these characters inhabit. As to the script, it IS heavily edited; however, most of what is omitted (see note below) is "shown" to the audience through visual media. This isn't a "filmed version of the play"; it is a film based on the play. In that framework, it is quite well done. I particularly like the beginning scenes that make Hamlet's description of his mother - "Like Niobe, all tears" - come to life.
The acting, to my thinking, is superb. The emphasis here is on Hamlet's relationship to his mother, Gertrude. That comes through quite clearly. Gibson's Hamlet comes across as a soldier - a man of action - who agonizes over the eternal consequences of his acts. He is believable in the role, masterful in some ways. Likewise the supporting cast. Helena Bonham-Carter and Glenn Close provide particularly vibrant portrayals of their characters.
So, why not 5 stars? Without the "Fortinbras" subplot, some of the urgency in the play seems missing. While definitely a secondary story-line, it provides a framework that adds tension to the play as a whole as the war is waged both outside the castle walls and within.
Overall, this production gets an A. Very accessible. Very easily understood. And haunting in its own way.
The reason I did not use Olivier's Hamlet is that while it's a good film with great acting - it's a very bad Hamlet. Freud was very much in vogue at the time and Olivier distorted the movie to put overtones of the Oedipus Complex into it. Also the Claudius in this film is obnoxious and there is no reason for Gertrude to marry him or for Hamlet to delay so long.
One of the important points of this play is the struggle between the two "mighty opposites" of Hamlet and Claudius. They have to be seen as equals. The best Claudius I have seen is Derek Jacobi in Branaugh's Hamlet (also my favorite version of Hamlet).
For a short version of the play, I would definately recommend this Hamlet over the Olivier version.
Another point for viewers to note, in Shakespeare's time, a ghost could either be good or evil. Hamlet has doubts about the truth of the ghost's statement until the mousetrap play proves the allegations. At this time Hamlet assumes the ghost is a good, but sometimes an evil spirit can be telling the truth. It is up to the viewer to decide if the ghost is from heaven or from hell.
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