WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S HAMLET

The Stage On The Silver Screen

Content -2
Quality
None Light Moderate Heavy
Language        
Violence        
Sex        
Nudity        

Release Date: December 01, 1996

Distributor: Castle Rock Entertainment

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Executive Producer:

Producer: David Barron

Writer: Kenneth Branagh

Address Comments To:

Castle Rock Entertainment
335 North Maple Drive, Suite 135
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
285-2300

Content:

(C, VV, SS, N, M) Mild Christian worldview of honorable family relationships but including revenge; no inappropriate language; intense sword fight, several poisonings, stabbing, & war; depicted sexual encounter & references to the same; natural nudity; casual drinking & drunkenness; poisoning & smoking; and revenge & paranoia.

Summary:

With lavish sets and costume design changing the setting from medieval to the 19th Century, Kenneth Branagh’s new film version of William Shakespeare’s HAMLET tells once more the tale of a son's revenge for the untimely death of his father at the hands of his father’s brother. Regrettably, Branagh has added his own modern touches including sex scenes and some graphic violence. The movie is more of a play than an entertaining picture.

Review:

William Shakespeare is a popular author in Hollywood. Recently, we have seen several renditions of his comedies and tragedies brought to the silver screen from Trevor Nunn's THE TWELTH NIGHT to Baz Luhrmann's modern ROMEO AND JULIETTE, but few compare to the new staging of HAMLET by Kenneth Branagh. No other actor, producer, writer, and director has done the preeminent Bard more justice and honor than Kenneth Branagh, and he pushes this theater production to epic proportions. With lavish sets and lush costume design changing the setting from medieval to the 19th Century, this tale of a son's revenge for the untimely death of his father at the hands of his father’s brother delves into humanity's fundamental questions of: What does it take to be an honorable man? An honorable king? An honorable father? An honorable son?

This story involves all levels of drama, including violence, intrigue, sex, and madness. The movie begins in the middle of a story. The King of Denmark has died and his brother is taking the throne and the Queen as his bride for the sake of the country. Two guards see an apparition coming in the night. The apparition is seemingly like that of the deceased King, so the guards callto Horatio and the son of the King, Hamlet, to confirm their visions. When Hamlet arrives, the apparition takes him away and demands that he put his father’s soul to rest for his "most horrible and foul murder." Alone, he is faced with the duty of exacting revenge for his father's death on his uncle, and the commission likely throws him into insanity.

The character of Hamlet is wrought with complexity and divisions. He is the height of Shakespeare's character sketches and is every thespian’s desired role in the theater. Kenneth Branagh played this role in the theater before he brought him to the screen. Although we learn most of the story through the story's dialogue, it is through Hamlet's many monologues that we discover the questions and themes that even Shakespeare did not dare to answer. With this production, Kenneth Branagh posits himself as the premier Shakespearean director, producer and actor. Whereas America has Mel Gibson who triumphed as Hollywood's Hamlet, Mother England has Kenneth Branagh for her more culminate Hamlet.

While Hamlet is left to reflect on his own father's unfair death and the work of retaining his father's honor, Polonius, father to Hamlet's friend and female interest, adds an interesting contrast as a father figure. In one situation, he offers his son the famous quotation, “to thine own self be true,” while in other scenes he plays as a bit of a fool who by his own trickery gets himself murdered by Hamlet. Polonius is the right arm of the current King as he was for the King before, and he holds a high place in the court. Much of the comedy in the film comes through Hamlet’s dialogues with Polonius.

Hamlet is also taxed with a love interest of his own, Ophelia. In the medieval setting, Ophelia embodied everything pure and somewhat simple; however, under Branagh's direction we see her as simple but less pure. In this revision of Ophelia, she is Hamlet's lover and is not as innocent, but still fragile. When she sees her father dead at the hands of her lost lover, she goes mad and ends her life by her hand or, arguable, by the evil of another's mischief.

As is Shakespeare's style, he reveals his plot through extravagant language and a play within a play. A group of thespians come to the palace to cheer Hamlet of his melancholy, but Hamlet decides to use these actors to prick the conscious of the king. Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh, actor and director) directs the play called “the Mousetrap” about a queen who promises sincere, eternal love to her king, and a brother who poisons his brother and king. The play deeply affects the King and Queen, and they feel Hamlet's mockery. In private the King confesses his sin, while Hamlet meets with his mother and he shows her how she is involved in his father’s dishonor.

After the death of Denmark's king, Polonius and Ophelia, Laertes, son of Polonuis and brother of Ophelia, call Hamlet to a duel to avenge his father and sister's death. Hamlet now honors his conviction, because he believes that Laertes’ revenge is true. However, the murderer King has plotted with Laertes for Hamlet's ruin by having him drink poison and be cut by Laertes sword dipped in poison. In traditional Shakespearean tragedy, everyone dies and the Denmark is handed over to her rivals.

With a strong adherence to the script, the movie has very few instances of immoral elements, but Kenneth Branagh has added his own modern touches including lascivious sex scenes and some mildly graphic violence. The movie is not like typical Hollywood fare, but reflects more of an enactment of a play than an entertaining picture. Branagh attempts to teach the lessons of Shakespeare by not leaving any thing out of the script, and even adding his own elements.

In Brief:

IN BRIEF:

With lavish sets and lush costume design changing the setting from medieval to the 19th Century, Kenneth Branagh’s new film version of William Shakespeare’s HAMLET tells once more the tale of a son's revenge for the untimely death of his father at the hands of his father’s brother. This story involves all levels of drama, including violence, intrigue, sex, and madness. The character of Hamlet is wrought with complexity and divisions. Hamlet is also taxed with a love interest of his own in Ophelia. In the medieval setting, Ophelia embodied everything pure and somewhat simple; however, under Branagh's direction we see her as simple but less pure. Now, she is Hamlet's lover and is not as innocent, but still fragile. When she sees her father dead at the hands of her lost lover, she goes mad and ends her life.

With a strong adherence to the script, the movie has very few instances of immoral elements, but Kenneth Branagh has added his own modern touches including lascivious sex scenes and some mildly graphic violence. The movie is not like typical Hollywood fare, but reflects more of an enactment of a play than an entertaining picture. Branagh attempts to teach the lessons of Shakespeare by not leaving any thing out of the script, and even adding his own elements.