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Hamlet (1996)
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Customer Reviews:

  • Branagh does the best interpretation of Hamlet ever!
    This version of Hamlet offers the definitive version of Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech, making it very clear the prince is debating murder, not suicide as some have claimed. The cinematic sweep shows Mr. Branagh's astounding talents in yet another dimension, as director. Were I castaway on a remote island for life, this is one of the few films I'd want to take with me, to see over and over again. I'd actually pick this "Hamlet" over Branagh's other masterpiece, "Henry V." Viewers of this film owe it to themselves to watch another Branagh movie that should have swept the Academy Awards, "Dead Again." Dead Again...more info
  • Shakespeare the way it was meant to be exeperienced
    Before I go into the visual and interpretive masterpiece that is Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, let me begin by asserting my firm belief that Shakespeare was meant to be experienced, not merely poured over. While the language is obviously crucial to understanding the play as a whole, simply watching the emotional interactions and contemplations of this play can be just as powerful. If you don't have the opportunity to see a live performance of Hamlet (which would be the real tragedy) Branagh's adaptation is probably the next best way to experience Shakespeare's masterpiece. The majesty of the Edwardian set blends perfectly with the mysterious plot and shrouded characters and the visuals add life that viewers would expect of any performance.
    Branaugh's adaptation, the full text of the original play, is consistent with basic interpretations of the plays but plays down the idea of Hamlet as truly crazy. While Branagh certainly performs as a madman would, we clearly see it is little more than that, a performance-- something left to the interpretation of those who only read the text. While the play may be a little melodramatic at times (namely during all the soliloquies) and the final confrontation is overly dramatized (since when was a chandelier involved?), Branagh's Hamlet is definitely the best filmed adaptation of Shakespeare's memorable tragedy.
    Viewers will enjoy this film even if they haven't read the play and it is certainly coupled well with the text for those who have!
    ...more info
  • The most brilliant version of Hamlet ever produced
    I was overwhelmed by this production of Hamlet. Kenneth Branagh is wonderful and plays the part of Hamlet with such sensitivity and vitality - makes the unabridged lines accessible, even to people unused to Shakespeare. Kate Winslet is excellent. The whole cast and the scenes - especially the scenes - are staggeringly good. The only Hamlet on film, worth watching! Kenneth Branagh is a genius....more info
  • comparison
    not as good as olivier but interesting because the complete text is used,a little too much sawing the air and loud talk.w/u/...more info
  • So much praise...
    The juxtaposition of the late 19th century settings and Shakespearian English creates an air of a Broadway musical. For the first 15 minutes it seemed the actors would burst into some uncontrollable dancing and singing of silly verses. Hamlet's gesticulation, facial expression and manners (throwing his mother-queen in her bedroom like a ball) are more suitable for a hotdog vendor than a prince. Plenty of innovation such as a politically-correct multi-racial court and army. Aside from the aforementioned 19th century set, Ophelia's flashback of sex with Hamlet, nearly Siberian-deep snow (was it cheaper to rent the facilities in the winter?), pursuing the ghost across a battlefield, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern riding a locomotive - those are real gems. Lots of group fencing (some other Olympic sport or a football game would be very refreshing too). Ophelia in a straightjacket leaves no room for doubt - yes, she's insane. But the best one is the entire Norwegian army (dressed for the occasion in the Union Army uniforms, slightly faded) discretely approaching the palace and storming it while the unaware royals and unsuspecting courtiers enjoy a brawl complete with falls off a balcony and swinging chandeliers. And of course, Branagh lying in state is a great sight.

    He must be given credit for his strict adherence to the original text though.
    ...more info
  • Not appealing!
    Hamlet is not normally a movie I would even consider looking at, I just bought it to look at for a school project....more info
  • Great Adaptation
    This particular version of Hamlet on film is one of the best adaptations out there. True in all forms to the original dialog, the filmmaker takes very little creative license in recreating this theatrical masterpiece....more info
  • finally, usable Hamlet!
    The most powerful rendition of our beloved Hamlet and the most usable format for the classroom! Teaching three different classes and being able to cue up to the spot we left off sets the most organized tone! Anyone need copies of VHS versions?...more info
  • Best version of Hamlet
    Firstly thanks to Warner Home video for finally getting this onto DVD, only took 10 years.
    Ken Branagh has outdone himself in this production. Simply an Excellent adaption of Hamlet. Probably THE BEST EVER. Superb cast, Great sets and the musical score just puts in all together.
    If you liked Branagh's Henry V or Othello You have to see this...more info
  • Know when to step aside.
    Yes, this is one of Kenneth Branagh's productions of Shakespeare; and he typically saves the most interresting role for himself. He is a good actor, but in my opinion, the multi-emotional role of Hamlet is beyond his ability. When Hamlet is instructing the actors he hires for the play within the play, he begins to act, but then stops himself in deference to the troupe of real actors, headed by none other than Charlton Heston. Branagh should have taken a cue from Hamlet....more info
  • Beautiful, Lavish, Magnficent: a Must See-- five stars
    This is one of the greatest productions of Shakespeare I've ever seen, and I heartily recommend it to any student of Hamlet. I think seeing this breathtaking and magnificent film will greatly help high school students and college students who are approaching the play for the first time. Branagh is a genius and once again here he delivers Shakespeare's glorious lines in a way that makes them clear, and brings them to life with incalculable power. I know of no Shakespeare film that equals this film. I dream of what Branagh will do next. We need him to give us more of the Bard. ---- There is much else that could be said about this film. Every performance is wonderful, including that of Charlton Heston, and the sensitivity with which the play is interpreted is breathtaking. The spectacle alone is worth seeing. This is one of those feasts for the eyes and ears like Amadeus or Immortal Beloved. Or the Red Shoes. It is grand in the finest sense. It will be enjoyed and treasured as long as film is enjoyed and treasured. ...more info
  • Visually sumptous, a spellbinding cast, lovely soundtrack, but Branagh as Hamlet is dreadful
    I am a huge Shakespeare fan, and HAMLET is my favorite of the Bard's work. So, logically, as a Shakespeare buff and an English major, you would expect Branagh's HAMLET to be my favorite cinematic version of the tale. Well, you would be wrong: Franco Zefferelli's HAMLET starring Mel Gibson and Glenn Close is my favorite, not Branagh's, and I'll tell you why: Branagh may be an immensely talented director with ground-breaking visions for Shakespeare's work, but he is an over-the-top and dreadfully melodramatic actor whose performances on screen are absolutely terrible. On stage, his moody, sulking, emo and whiny Hamlet would work because stage acting requires a larger-than life performance because as an actor, you have to perform to the back balcony, but on film that sort of acting doesn't work - the two mediums are too vastly different. For an actor who is so technically trained, you think Branagh would know this, but, he either doesn't or his ego is so big he does whatever he pleases. Whatever the case, his performance as Hamlet is what soured this wonderful film for me. Besides Kenneth, the rest of the cast is excellent, especially Julie Christie as a touchingly poignant Gertrude, Derek Jacobi's deliciously vile Claudius (my favorite screen portrayal of the character), Richard Briers manages to make Polonius both a secondary villain and comic relief in the way that only an excellent actor can, and Billy Crystal's cameo as the gravedigger is wonderfully funny. While I don't fault Kate Winslet one bit, her Ophelia is especially weak and can be very trying on one's nerves, but I blame this more on the director's choice than I do the actress. Kate is amazingly talented and can definitely make even weakly-written roles come off as strong. I just wish Branagh would have let her do so here. Helena Bonham Carter's Ophelia is decidedly better, making her Ophelia strong, even rebellious in her maddness. Anyway, the look of the film, in the grand tradition of Branagh movies, is stunning. The costumes, the sets, esp. the interiors of Elsinore, are vivid and pulsing with life. In my opinion, if Branagh would sacrifice his ego and stay behind the camera and do what he does well (directing), all of his films would be not just good, but brilliant. Hopefully he will figure this out soon....more info
  • A Wretchedly Bad Hamlet
    My husband and I were thrilled when we learned that this Hamlet had come out on DVD. We're big fans of Branagh's version of Henry the Fifth, and we thought that an uncut Hamlet with a Branagh who had, surely, been maturing as an actor since his great performance in the earlier film would be an occasion not to be missed.

    It was a horrible disappointment. Branagh, the man who turned Henry the Fifth into a drama that ordinary people could watch as the gripping and complex historical drama that it is -- and who, rare among British-trained actors, actually spoke the part as though Henry were a man speaking to men -- does Hamlet largely as a Royal Academy rant with set piece rhythms and the sort of pentameter "recitation" that one gets from any college Shakespearean who knows the play as a cultural Sacred Cow.

    The key to Branagh's success in Henry V was that one could send one's children or neighbor to the movie certain that they'd UNDERSTAND EVERY WORD that Hal was saying. (The rest of the play was beautifully cast as well, and Branagh directed it in a way that made everyone's language come through crystal clear, as real speech being uttered in situations of real moment. Only the Pistol, who mugged and "acted" ceaselessly, was a pain in the neck.) We still remember telling friends who are not "literary" or "intellectual" to go to it -- that they'd enjoy it, as we said, just as a movie. Everyone thanked us afterward, sincerely and gratefully.

    That Branagh -- both the actor and the director -- has disappeared forever, apparently. The attempt to "cinematize" Hamlet, full of gimmicks and wide-pan shots to try to get across a notion of exterior space, is a total failure, so contrived and lame that it's embarrassing. The scene where, in the play, the ghost speaks from beneath the stage -- "old mole," "truepenny" -- is done outside, with ground cratering and smoking and belching like something from "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." The "sumptuous" interiors are straight Masterpiece Theater sets, meant to give American -- and, these days, British -- viewers a feeling of "culture." There are some heavy breathing sex scenes with Ophelia intercut to suggest that . . . what? That it's possible to intercut heavy breathing sex scenes in a film of Hamlet, one supposes. (This works totally contrary to the text, making nonsense of Laertes' warning to his sister. It's just dumb: "creative directing," heaven save us.)

    I don't suppose there's any way to persuade the 300+ reviewers who thought this was just the most wonderful production of Hamlet ever to give us our money back, and the DVD people clearly aren't going to do it, so we'll write it off as a loss. But it's with a terrible sense of betrayal by the people who were willing to gush about a Hamlet this bad.

    A footnote. Just to persuade ourselves that the world hadn't gone entirely mad, we got out the 1964 Richard Burton theatrical version and watched it right after consigning Branagh to the dustbin.

    The Burton version has all the terrible limitations of a play filmed in technologically primitive terms forty years ago. The sound quality is abysmal. The black-and-white photography of the minimal stage setting is ghostly and washed out, sort of like watching old silent films that have been remastered from deteriorated prints. The (American) audience, just thrilled to be at a performance of the Great English Dramatist William Shakespeare, has the unspeakable habit of APPLAUDING virtually every speech longer than four lines (!). Some members of the cast (Gertrude, Laertes) are painfully hard to watch.

    And yet, with all of that, Burton brings off a performance of Hamlet that brings chills even to those who know the play by heart and have seen scores of live performances. It's lucid, unpredictable, and controlled from within by a conception of Hamlet's character that, once its sense begins to dawn on you, shows you that it was always there in the words but that you'd never seen it as a possibility. In comparison, Branagh's Beach Boy performance -- meaning his bleached blond hair -- looks like that of a kid in a high school play. It is sad....more info
  • Branagh's Hamlet
    Our family has been reading and really, studying Shakespeare over the last few years. We have read Hamlet several times and seen several versions of Hamlet. Kenneth Branagh's is absolutely marvelous. The filming is wonderful and sumptuous. The sets and places they filmed are like poetry for the eyes. During the filming, they even got a snow storm which fit in with what they were doing. The actors are all wonderful. Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet is excellent and Kate Winslet as Ophelia is marvelous. This is the only Hamlet film that has the entire play. The only fault I find is the scene where Hamlet is seeking his father's ghost and is in some wooded place. To me, that part seems bizarre and created more to interest young people who are unable to be attracted to mere dialog, even if from Shakespeare. The DVD of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet is a steal at any price. ...more info
  • Lavish Production
    I have seen Olivier's and Gibson's renditions of Hamlet and each has much to recommend it, but this is my absolute favorite. I purchased the VHS as a used copy from the video store and carefully preserved it as I anxiously awaited the DVD release. The dvd tranfer looks great. I have a 36" Sony TV, but no high definition. The music is beautiful and suited to each act, the sets spectacular, and the main characters are excellent in their portrayals. I love the intense passion Branagh gives to his Hamlet, the period setting he uses, the fact that the entire play is included and his attention to detail. The only weakness for me is in the performance of a couple of the secondary characters....more info
  • Unbelievable ham-fest!!!
    I found this movie almost impossible to watch. To be sure, there are some incredible performances here, turned in by some legendary actors. But Branaugh manages to ruin the film with his obnoxious over-the-top ham acting. He is clearly held in thrall by his plummy vocal dexterity. Having said that, I must confess I hate just about all of Branaugh's movies, particularly the ones he directs himself. There is nothing subtle in his acting method. In this sense, he is very much a throwback to nineteenth century thespians like Henry Irving. Frankly, I find Branaugh's success baffling; a hundred years ago, his acting would have been very much au-curant, but in the post-Stanislavsky era, it's just way way WAY too much....more info
  • Not appealing!
    Hamlet is not normally a movie I would even consider looking at, I just bought it to look at for a school project....more info
  • Worth the wait
    I still remember sitting in a theater and seeing a preview for this movie the very first time -- my anticipation for a movie had never been piqued with the same frequency - in fact, I was unable to focus on the subsequent movie because I started looking forward to Branagh's Hamlet.

    I saw this in the theater a couple of times (one of the very few movies I have ever seen multiple times in the theater).

    When I got a DVD player, I wanted to add this to my collection, but I had to wait for many years. I even added this movie to the Contact me when it became available and I am so pleased that it finally came out.

    The good thing about waiting is that now I have a large screen, high definition TV that is much better suited for watching this fantastic production. So the wait was worth it....more info
  • Hamlet review
    Hamlet is very true to the Shakespearean play. There are only a few rearragements of the placement of the words. Very well done....more info
  • Hamlet's life is really expressed here
    I liked the guy who played Hamlet's Uncle and "father." Kenneth Branough was in to this character, he did a superb job, he makes it look easy, he's a natural. It was the proverbial "whole nine yards" here where the video was stunning and spectacular. You'll love this one....more info
  • Methinks Kenneth doth overact too much
    Im a huge fan of KB. He made shakespeare real, brought meaning to the dialog in a way that no other actor has or perhaps will. Henry V is the finest on screen portrayal of a any shakespearean play. I adored Hamlet, but I felt it was slightly OTT, vaudevillian and camp. However, I hate to be critical of a piece that reaches for perfection. Mel Gibson's Hamlet was in my opinion much better in terms of the complete piece (although KB's own portrayal is on a different level) and more compelling a movie. ...more info
  • Superb adaptation of Hamlet
    Kenneth Branagh has done a remarkable job with this version of Hamlet. The scenery and costumes are dazzling, the performances remarkable, and the play itself is fully intact--no odd cuts or editing here. And because of this, the film is four hours long.

    If you have the means, I suggest adding this to your Shakespeare library. Of all the Shakespeare films I have seen, this is my favorite. ...more info