Hamlet (2009)

Hamlet (2009) – So I’ve probably read Hamlet maybe a half-dozen times. I’ve never seen a stage production but this is probably the fourth or fifth film version I have seen of it (favorite is still Franco Zeffirelli’s 1990 version). It’s from the Royal Shakespeare Company and features the same cast as the acclaimed stage production. I usually spend a good paragraph on a summary but it’s Hamlet; you know the plot. Depressed Danish prince seeks vengeance for his father who was murdered by his uncle in order to marry his mother. Done. David Tennant plays the titular melancholy Dane. He goes for some odd choices. Hamlet is a character who is putting up a façade of madness and some actors tend to go a little over-the-top with this. I don’t know if I’d characterize Tennant as being particularly over-the-top, but he makes a lot of choices that I feel would play a lot better on stage to an audience than on film. Some of the other actors amend themselves to the medium a little better, but overall it feels very stagey and hardly like a film at all. Plus the three hour runtime drags somewhat. Kenneth Branagh’s ambitious totally-uncut four hour version from 1996 had a myriad of problems with it but it never dragged. The standout performance of this goes to Patrick Stewart who plays the dual role of Hamlet’s murderous uncle Claudius and the Ghost of Hamlet’s father. [Mostly irrelevant to the quality of the movie but I am curious about one detail: if Hamlet Sr. and Claudius are twins then would the guards in the beginning be so shocked to see him roaming the castle? I mean if the LIVING king looked exactly like the DEAD king and I saw one walking about at night… I would just kind of assume it was the living one, you know?] Stewart is great in both roles, particularly Claudius (the significantly larger of the two). He brings menace and gravitas and everything the role calls for. Anyway, I was not overly impressed with this “film,” made for the BBC, but it is worth checking out for Shakespeare buffs. I really just wish I could have seen this production on stage in a theater as it was intended to be seen.

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