Movie Monday (Hamlet)

Monday, February 07, 2011

Hamlet is one of the best plays Shakespeare has ever written.  That's just my opinion, but I truly love Hamlet most of all. 
Sure, it is a let down at the end.  Shakespeare could have had them walk away into the sunset, but Shakespeare has a tendency to have everyone die.  So I guess that's not really a shocker. 

Hamlet is one of my favorite plays ever and when we were forced in class to read it (for me that would be reread #8), I didn't even groan like the rest of my students.  I'm not trying to sound smart or stuck up or anything; I just can't contain myself when it comes to Hamlet.  So after a day or so going through Act I, while continually stopping for us, students, to analyze the words- our English teacher, the most coolest teacher on the planet, stopped us right there and said that she was sick of reading it.  She wanted to show us Hamlet, and, sure, she showed us Hamlet- she showed us a masterpiece.
I felt like I was missing something from my Hamlet fandom.  Kenneth Branagh's version of Hamlet was the missing piece to my fascination .  Now before I get started on how great this film is- just to clue you in, if you haven't read Hamlet:
Hamlet is about revenge.  King Hamlet dies and everyone is left seeing his ghost.  The King tells Hamlet, his son (not to be confused with the first Hamlet), that he was murdered by Hamlet's uncle.  The uncle is now King- Hamlet has enough reason to hate him already for taking his Crown and his mother, but now Hamlet learns, also, Uncle Claudius has taken his father's life as well.  Hamlet seeks revenge.  He purposely acts crazy, but really he's totally on to Claudius' evil-ness.  In a fit of "craziness," Hamlet stabs his girlfriend's father (thinking it was Claudius)... girlfriend kills herself- oh, well, I think everyone knows how it ends after that.
Kenneth Branagh is a freakin' genius.  Apparently, he is widely known for bringing Shakespeare's work to life (with Much Ado About Nothing, and Henry V).  But nothing stands out to the masterpiece of Hamlet.  This is the first-ever full version of Shakespeare play and it doesn't disappoint.
It begins with the soldiers seeing the ghost.  Now, the ghost is no Casper, but the effects could have been better.  But I may be a bit harsh, considering the movie was released in 1996.
When Hamlet is introduced for the first time, it sets the scene perfectly.  Shakespeare's play opens (in that scene) with Claudius' marriage.  Hamlet (played by Kenneth Branagh) is clothed all in black, in mourning clothes for his father, while he attends his uncle's wedding with his mother.  He does that long, awesome monologue about how he can't believe his mom is sleeping with his uncle, when his dad (King Hamlet) hasn't been dead for very long.  Confetti adorns the floor and the meaning behind everything Branagh wanted you to catch is just so cool to behold.  (That has to be one of the best parts of the movie, in my point of view.  It just has this awesome feeling to it...).
Branagh interpreted Shakespeare's Hamlet in such a way that ten year olds could watch it and still understand what's going on even with the language.  Branagh's interpretation of his role was brilliantly done.  He took the role of Hamlet and created it into something funny, something great- surely something that should have won an award, in my book.  

Kenneth is not the only one who brilliantly pulled Shakespeare off.  Wonderful acting went to Uncle Claudius (Derek Jacobi), Queen Gertrude (Julie Christie), Ophelia (Kate Winslet), and Horatio (Nicholas Farrell).  Smaller roles- who definitely should not be left out, because they were fabulous as well:  Rosencrantz (Timothy Spall), a soldier (Robin Williams), player king (Charlton Heston), and the first grave digger (Billy Crystal).  I mean, look at all those famous names. 
If you are hesitant about watching this film, because it's Shakespeare, or because this movie is really long- don't be because if you didn't like Hamlet before, after watching this movie, you're going to be in love with this play almost as much as I am.

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