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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.
It's not a bad rendition but there are a few problems. It suffers mainly from a strong Ophelia and a weak Horatio. Ophelia, as played by Helena Bonham Carter, is played too strong to believe she would go mad and kill herself. Nowhere, in the movie, is there any indication she is ruled by her father, brother and whomever else would try. She herself, as written, is a weak person and needs to be played weakly.
Horatio, as Shakespeare wrote him, is the only one Hamlet trusts. Yet, nearly 75% of his lines are cut and he spends the majority of the movie looking concerned but standing around doing nothing.
The pacing really stumbles until about halfway into the movie. The best part is the dueling sequence. The rest of the time, the pacing doesn't quite make it.
I was also disappointed the "From this time forth, my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth" soliloquy was cut. It, along with the "To be or not to be" speech are two of the most important moments of Hamlet's progression.
Gibson delivered the "To be or not to be" soliloquy extremely well, fortunately. His Hamlet is most believable after he sees the ghost.
However, if you have not seen this version, be prepared for one thing: the director suffers from what I call the "Olivier Complex." Just because Olivier played Hamlet with an Oedipus complex doesn't mean he was right. When Hamlet confronts his mother in her closet, it is an extremely annoying scene in the movie. Much better to portray him as a son who loves his mother as a MOTHER, not as a lover.
Otherwise, the scenery is gorgeous, the costuming was nice, other than Glenn Close's operatic braids--I kept expecting her to break out in a Wagner opera--and the rest of the casting is quite good. Ian Holm plays an excellent Polonius.
All in all, it wasn't bad. It wasn't great but it wasn't bad.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Simplified, but a lot of good cutting (comparison: see Branagh). Helena Bonham Carter may be the best Ophelia I've ever seen, and the late great Scofield as one of the greatest... Read morePublished 29 days ago by Mr. Richard K. Weems
A superb rendering of Shakespeare's "Hamlet." I watched it with a friend, & we'd read Isaac Asimov's remarks & then watch part of the play & continued through the whole... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Robin Yeamans
This is by far the best version of this play I have seen. Mel Gibson does not simply portray lunacy in Hamlet, he exudes it.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
there are some really good performances here, but Paul Scofield reminds us of just what good lines The Ghost gets. Read morePublished 3 months ago by sixhundredpoundsofsin
Outstanding performances that make the story more accessible to the unfamiliar.Published 4 months ago by MsCheese
Probably one of the best Hamlet movies. Great performances all around!!!Published 4 months ago by Richard J. Bork Jr.
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