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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

HAMLET - THE MOVIE pt. 2 (the Return of Hamlet)

I'm only familiar with three film adaptations of William Shakespeare's Tragedy of Hamlet. Olivier's 1948 production, Zefferelli's 1990 effort, and Branagh's 1996 heap of shit.

Again, it's about management of language and length.

Olivier gets a passing grade on both accounts. He achieves this mostly through direction, as he's by far the best actor in the cast. He keeps the pace quick, which is the only way to do this stuff, and he trimmed the script deftly bringing it in at 155 minutes. The sets may seem drab, monolithic, and lifeless to the modern viewer, but I'm sure that was done to retain a 'stage' vibe, and to save money; I'm sure the budget was fairly drab.

I love Franco Zefferelli's Hamlet. Granted, I haven't seen in a good many years during which my view of Mel Gibson has been altered. I love the design, the location; I love Wallace Shawn's Polonius. The 'Holywood Actors' don't abuse the language. I hate it when actors think they have to add something to Bill's verse or prose. Every intention is either literally in the words, or dictated by the meter. There's nothing to add but posture. Franco wins the length battle as well, getting it down to 130 minutes. That's just over half of what an unedited production would run.

Like Ken Branagh's Hamlet. For all of Branagh's apparent love for Shakespeare, it's alarmingly clear that he loves Ken Branagh even more. This ostentatious attempt is laughable in how it fails at all levels. The design sucks. Why would you change the period, but not to the present. It's just confusing and awkward. Branagh's acting is as full of wind as the overbearing set design, and his cast seems lost at best, horribly miscast at worse.

If that wasn't enough, he did the whole book. The whole shebang, word for freaking word, and still managed to add lengthy shots of the scenery.

It comes off like a boast.

So, uh, there you have it I guess.

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