1948, Movie, NR, 153 mins


At 155 minutes, this screen adaptation of Shakespeare's most celebrated play bears scars from deep cuts in the text. Hamlet swears to his father's ghost that he will wreak revenge for the man's murder by taking the life of Claudius, who is now married to Hamlet's mother, Gertrude. By cutting the text, Olivier has fashioned a tighter, albeit abridged, version of the famed play. One of its flaws is that, in directing, Olivier should have concentrated more on performances; he had apparently fallen in love with the camera and employed many visual tricks instead of sticking to the lines. However, Olivier always felt that each different Hamlet is an essay, subject to the individual's interpretation.

HENRY V had been done in color, and many wondered why Olivier chose black and white for HAMLET. His reasons were the mood of the piece and various technical problems that arose while doing deep-focus photography. Olivier dyed his hair blonde so no one would feel that it was him playing the melancholy Dane. Rather, he wanted them to feel that what they were seeing was Hamlet himself. What they got was a mannered, overrated performance in a film with a similarly inflated reputation. Jean Simmons goes properly mad as Ophelia, and a very youthful Anthony Quayle makes his debut in a speaking role. leave a comment

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Hamlet (BBC)
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