It’s a mad, mad world

by Staff

It’s easy to put off watching a four-hour movie, especially if William Shakespeare wrote it. But Kenneth Branagh has brought together both these factors to make a new version of the Bard’s complex play “Hamlet.”

Following the text closely, Branagh directs the tale of a young prince who is clearly upset that his mother married his father’s brother. After Hamlet is visited by the ghost of his father, he realizes he must seek revenge for his father’s unjust murder. Not knowing what to do, he takes up an “antic disposition” stalling his plot as long as possible until the tragic ending.

Because this is an unabridged version, there are several subplots and characters that may confuse the unexperienced Shakespeare viewer. However, this is made up for by the grandeur of the set. The Castle of Elsinore is not dark and gloomy the way it is portrayed in Mel Gibson’s version. Instead it is filled with mirrors and checkered floors to give it a modern, majestic feel. Hamlet’s running through the corridors filled with mirrors helped audiences feel the frustration Hamlet was going through.

Not only are the sets breathtaking, but the actors each bring personality into the characters. Branagh seems to make Hamlet more intelligent and refined, while Kate Winslet truly captures Ophelia’s madness. Other cast members include Billy Crystal as the funny but introspective grave digger, Gerard Depardieu as Reynaldo, Charlton Heston as the Player King and Jack Lemmon as Marcellus.

While the actors all give exceptional performances, none is as well played and emotional as Nicholas Farrell’s portrayal of Horatio. Serving as Hamlet’s friend and confessor, much of what is lost in the play is recaptured through his action and speech.

All the beauty and reputation still can’t make a four-hour movie seem shorter than it is. The movie seems to drag in parts and sometimes the speeches make the mind wander to wristwatches.

These few minutes of boredom, however, are worth it for the tense play scene and final sword-fight.

Recent portrayals of Shakespeare’s work may have been modern and inventive, but in Branagh’s version of “Hamlet,” audiences can see one of the greatest stories ever written the way it was meant to be seen: uncut and filled with passion.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email