Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Movie Review: Hamlet

I intended to wait until I watched the last hour of the DVD, but my other prepared posts need pictures. So.... um, here.

I am a fan boy.

When I heard that Doctor Who and Captain Picard were performing Hamlet together I considered getting tickets to England. I had to see this. I'm not the only one. I heard Stewart say that he thought this would be the most viewed version of Hamlet ever.

David Tennant was performing with a real skull [link] that was left to the Royal Shakespeare Company with the hope that it be used in a play. Some previous Hamlets would rehearse with it, but nobody ever performed with it. Not until Doctor Who took it up.

Sir Patrick Stewart expressed an interest to Tennant in making an appearance in an episode of Doctor Who. Word is that it's gonna happen. Not sure when.

My raves for this version of Hamlet have nothing to do with other roles played by these actors. I've seen more than my share of Hamlet. I've read the book, seen the play a few times, and watched it performed by Mel Gibson (1990) and Kenneth Branagh (1996). But never have I seen it performed half as clearly as with Tennant as Hamlet and Stewart as uncle and ghost.

In this version the dialog is understandable. They don't rattle through the text as fast as can be uttered. No pretentious attempts at Ren Fest accents. They speak. They pause. They emote. They emphasize the right words. The dialog doesn't seem 400+ years out of date. OK, so maybe 80 years or so out of date. Still, not bad for Shakespeare.

For this production they've modernized it... sort of. The dialog is the same. The setting is still a castle in Denmark. The attire is modern. They'd fit in at any meeting of the UN except for the swords they carry. The castle has surveillance cameras which are used for some shots. My favorite bit is where Hamlet's managed to get a room to himself. He's shooed off Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (or is it Guildenstern and Rosencrantz?). He looks around, pulls down a surveillance camera, smashes it on the ground, and says "NOW I am alone."

Credit also to Oliver Ford Davies for his Polonius. You've seen him play the Governor of Naboo in the Star Wars prequils. He makes Polonius into an old man prone to absentminded babbling that often made me chuckle.

Really, though. If you haven't seen this version of Hamlet yet you need to find 3 hours or so and go to Great Performances and watch it there. [link]

It's also available on DVD, which is how I've got it.

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