Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hamlet - DVD

By:  William Shakespeare
Rated 5++
From:  Beth

Thank you so much Beth for loaning this marvelous version of Hamlet Starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart.  Although Kenneth Brannaugh's version has long been my favorite this one is, I think equally as good.  It's a far crazier  Hamlet than I have seen before and I loved the way the modern clothes and weapons were juxtaposed with 14th century armor and settings, not to mention 17th century English.  Such a crazy blend but for me it all worked beautifully.

Oliver Ford Davis played a fabulous Polonius.  I personally thought he reached out and snatched at least two scenes from Patrick Stewart who played Uncle Claudius.  Snatching scenes from Stewart is not an easy thing to do. In fact, he even stood toe-to-toe with Tennant in one scene while Hamlet was being over the top manic. Hamlet's Mother Gertrude was played beautifully in all her Royal Shallowness by Penny Downie  and  Mariah Gale did a very creditable job of Ophelia.  However, to my mind there is not another actress on the planet who can touch Kate Winslet with a ten foot pole when it comes to Ophelia.

Selfishly I hope that David Tennant keeps his talented fingers off Henry V and lets Kenneth Brannaugh reign supreme on that stage.

It's to director Gregory Doran's incredible credit that his staging of that most familiar of English-language plays, Shakespeare's Hamlet, should be completely reinvigorated by a modern interpretation of the tragedy as a true psychological thriller. This Hamlet, filmed in 2009, presents the inner torment of the Danish prince Hamlet as a believable, relatable controlled explosion of emotions, each more unmanageable than the last. Besides the director, the casting is also brilliant, including the Scottish actor David Tennant (Doctor Who) as Hamlet and Patrick Stewart as Hamlet's uncle Claudius and the ghost of Hamlet's father--who, Hamlet becomes convinced, was killed by Claudius. The direction is brisk, and the acting is first rate. Tennant plays a heartbreaking Hamlet, whose paranoia and weird inner reflections are given a modern spin by the lush, shiny mirrorlike surfaces in the palace, as well as by small but excellent details, like a closed-circuit camera system. And Stewart is menacing but completely collected as Claudius, and unnerving as his brother's ghost. Other strong performances are contributed by Penny Downie as Hamlet's mother, Gertrude; Mariah Gale as Ophelia (who's not quite up to par with the rest of the cast, until she goes mad; then boy does she ever go mad); and Oliver Ford Davies as Polonius. But it's Tennant as the mad prince who is riveting in Hamlet. His "To be or not to be, that is the question" soliloquy--perhaps the best-known speech in English theater--is delivered in a hushed, anguished, all-too-believable manner--occasionally addressing the camera, which is fixed close on Tennant's face. The DVD also includes a must-see documentary on making Hamlet, which includes great interviews with director Doran, cast members and the art directors, set designers and others who give this Hamlet a fresh, polished sheen--while keeping the ages-old tragedy of Shakespeare's words and the explosion of needless death close to the original. The impact is unforgettable; this Hamlet is a terrific achievement. --A.T. Hurley
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