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Discovering Hamlet 1990


A unique, behind-the-scenes look at Shakespeare's great play. In 1988, rising star Kenneth Branagh played the Prince of Denmark for the first time. His guide through four weeks of rehearsals at England's Birmingham Repertory Theatre: famed actor Derek Jacobi, "the best Hamlet of his generation" (New York Times). Watch what happens from the first dress rehearsal to the tension-filled opening night. Narrated by Patrick Stewart.

Kenneth Branagh, Richard Clifford
52 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Documentary
Director Mark Olshaker
Starring Kenneth Branagh, Richard Clifford
Supporting actors Richard Easton, Derek Jacobi, Edward Jewesbury, David Parfitt, Patrick Stewart, Sophie Thompson, Jay Villiers, Jimmy Yuill, Dearbhla Molloy
Studio Acorn Media
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

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Format: VHS Tape
For anyone interested in a behind the scenes look at how a play proceeds through production this video is for you. The Birmingham Repertory Theater is the setting for this production directed by Derek Jacobi with Kenneth Branagh taking the lead as Hamlet. Narration is provided by Patrick Stewart to guide viewers through the production process. Interspersed between scenes of the rehearsals are interviews with the various actors discussing their characters. I would have like a longer interview with the director, Derek Jacobi, discussing his vision of Hamlet but all in all this is quite a good video.
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Format: DVD
A team of renown Hamlets providing educational behind-the-opening-night reality of stage preparation. Excellence for that use. I have years of experience as set designer/construction/crew with community theater. This is an honest look, but on a professional level, the very best of Hamlet professionalism. It's Derek Jacobi's (Cadfael-a must view) 1st directing and Kenneth Branagh's (Henry V, Hamlet) first Hamlet acting, although he went on to win awards with his Directing/Lead/Writer of a DVD version of Hamlet-1996. What better teachers of Shakespeare? Try "Playing Shakespeare" on DVD for one.

This is a must for serious acting students. Footage is gleaned from 30+ hrs of footage made during the 4 weeks of prep for Hamlet. From the raw 1st read, through rehearsals & tech rehearsals, up to opening night prep; it's an in-depth behind-the-curtain look at theater never seen by most patrons. It's honest, it's with preparatory flaws, but yet it's 'grease-paint' excitement. Illuminating educational theater. A lesson, 1st time on DVD, for acting want-to-be's (or not to-be's). Sorry! :-)

There are other stars like Sophie (Emma's sis)Thompson. Narration is provided by Patrick Stewart. Performed in Birmingham, this pre-show footage gives a lot of tips and fun looks at building up to perfection in theater. Even a sword fight. All in 53 minutes. If that's not enough, there is huge elaboration on this with the first-time-seen 3+ hours of bonus. Subtitles included for the feature.
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Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
Nothing is so interesting as the actual process of creation leading to a final product, in this instance, the performance of Hamlet. With Discovering Hamlet, a documentary featuring a production staged at the Birmingham Rep Theatre Company and directed by the fine stage and film actor, Derek Jacobi, the performance highlights young Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet. Knowing that Branagh too would stage is own stunning full-length production of Hamlet on film, observing how the actor matured from this early performance is a unique opportunity for comparison with his latter work also with Jacobi in the role of Claudius.
Following Jacobi as he shapes actor's performances and staging for the play, this video is privy to insight from technical staff as well. Narrated by Patrick Stewart and featuring actors who graced stage and films familiar to audiences, the construction of Shakespeare's tragedy is worthy of several viewings. While Jacobi differs from the more traditional interpretation of Hamlet's "To Be or Not to Be" soliloquy as a speech between Hamlet and Ophelia, the complex staging is Jacobi's own and unfortunately not alotted more time. Although brief in length, the production is filmed from first rehersal to opening night jitters. A new documentry could be titled "Critiquing Branagh" whose performances are faulted today, but in this setting, the actor is still fresh and vunerable to his director's insights to the lead actor's faults.
An excellent opportunity for students of film and performance studies to see process, it is worth purchase if only to have a record of one of Branagh's early stage performances before he became a film star. It would be interesting to haveJacobi's production restaged based on this film for another perspective on the never dull Shakespearean masterpiece of The Tragedy of Hamlet.
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Format: DVD
In 1996, Kenneth Branagh gave us the screen's first complete Hamlet, uncut and as Shakespeare wrote it. The actor had some solid warm-ups, with cinematic portrayals of Iago (Othello, 1995), Benedict (Much Ado about Nothing,1993) and Henry V (1989).
Then Hamlet came along, a landmark in bringing the Bard to the big screen.
Yet this wasn't Branagh's first brush with the melancholy Great Dane.
In 1988, Branagh's theatre company, The Renaissance, had hired Derek Jacobi (dubbed "the best Hamlet of his generation" by The New York Times), to make his directorial debut with this timeless classic in which Branagh starred. We are lucky enough that filmmakers Mark Olshaker and Larry Klein were there from the first reading to the rehearsals to opening night, lucky that Patrick Stewart agreed to narrate and luckier still to have Acorn Media Group's Athena finally release Discovering Hamlet on DVD . . . with enough bonuses to bring a smile to the unhappy Prince's face.
There are lengthy cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and wonderful interviews with Jacobi, at once elfin, informative and fascinating as he discusses the trials and tribulations of live performances. Including a twelve page viewer's guide and a history of Hamlets through the ages, this two-disc treasure illustrates the path taken as the torch is passed from generation to generation of brilliant actors playing arguably the greatest part in the English language. From Bard-O-Philes to gross amateurs, Discovering Hamlet belongs on everyone's shelf of great DVDs about great theatre.
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