Sunday, September 9, 2007


I have a small confession to make: I have never actually read Hamlet. I had intended to a couple years ago, but whilst perusing Act I Scene I I got distracted by something shiny and never got around to finishing it. This is part of the reason why I was so interested in seeing Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation, now on DVD uncut for the first time. It’s widely heralded as one of the best Shakespearean films of all time, so it seemed like a good way to familiarize myself with the story.

Let’s get it out of the way here: this is a very, very lengthy film. Hamlet was Shakespeare’s longest play, and Branagh’s method of dealing with this length was to film everything and trust that he could entice an intelligent enough audience that would keep from being bored. As a result, the film is four hours long, though for the most part it moves amazingly swiftly. This is largely due to the impressive array of actors held together by the lynchpin that is Branagh’s performance in the title role, spitting out most of his lines as though he hoped to stab everyone else with his words. It should then come as little surprise that the only part of the film that does drag is when Hamlet leaves for England and we are bereft of his presence for a good half hour, though his continued beautiful directing helps to make up for the loss.

While I still would have to say Macbeth remains my favorite Shakespearean play (a shocking admission, given the nature of this blog), this film definitely resides at the same level as Polanski’s Macbeth, which up to now had been my favorite Shakespearean film. You owe it to yourself to seek this film out. I personally am now eagerly awaiting the release of his adaptation of As You Like It, Shakespeare’s much-ignored comedy that I rather love.

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