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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Convincing Russian evidence of Shakespear's universality, 17 Nov 2011
By 
S. Graham David (Italy) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hamlet [DVD] [1964] (DVD)
The most obvious and immediate comparison here is with the Olivier Hamlet of 1948, both proving singularly atmospheric with excellent black-and-white photography and music - by William Walton for the British film, by Shostakovich for the Russian version. Obviously, the British film has the advantage of original dialogue spoken in English and an exemplary protagonist, while in the Russian film we follow Shakespeare's original dialogue in the subtitles. Nevertheless, the Russian film has certain advantages, too. Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are entirely missing from Olivier's film, which is a loss in terms not only of drama but also of the fundamental theme of control and the attempt to manipulate an individual's innermost being - a theme the Russians respond to as deeply as the Elizabethans must have felt it. The Russian film finds room not only for all the major characters, but also for the most essential of Hamlet's speeches redolent with a sense of existential disgust. In other words, the sense of what "Hamlet" is about (pardon the simplification) comes through eloquently and compellingly in this Russian film, which is also extremely dramatic thanks to the superb photography and powerful soundtrack, while the actors seem to have taken to heart Hamlet's warning against overacting. In short, both black and white Hamlets are films to have and to return to, by far surpassing any of the more recent versions I have seen.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Haunting Russian Interpretation, 7 Nov 2007
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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Detailed and impressive sets in haunting black and white are a feature of both Kozintsev's Shakespeare films. Here, Elsinore is perched sublimely above the ocean's breakers, providing a fiercely naturalistic background to scenes of hypocritical charm and bonhomie involving family and court at the heart of Denmark. Critics have drawn attention to how the director has populated the scenes with lurkers and scribes to represent the feel of a police state.

Bad points? Well, the subtitles are annoying. The English is a translation of Boris Pasternak's period retranslation into Russian of Shakespeare's original words. The result can be farcical in places. Also, the camerawork can be a little unsteady at times.

But don't let these small issues put you off experiencing this haunting Russian interpretation of Hamlet.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST HAMLET EVER!, 20 Jan 2013
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The best Hamlet EVER!As an actress and director myself, with a specialty on Shakespeare, I admire both Smoktunivski's acting-I think he was the best ever by far-human dignity, a prince, simplicity, We can read all the role in his eyes, A prince philosopher deeply human. And the directing of Kozintsev was superb even in the small details acting at the subconscience of the public.For example : Beautiful birds in a cage and then Ophelia appears, later Ophelia appears again in an iron dress like a cage. The dogs and then the guardians-human dogs guarding Claudius. A crane bird all alone-which is unusual, they go on groups-searching all around in circles and then Hamlet has returned from the pirates and Ophelia is dead in the water. The great gate of the castle opening and falling just as in a prison, Hamlet goes out to die in the fresh clean air (because "something is rotten inside the prison-castle-country-world-etc..So many things if you have some theatre knowledge..True masterpiece. All theatrical people must study.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine film, in a good DVD transfer, 15 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Hamlet [DVD] [1964] (DVD)
This has to be one of the top ten Shakespeare films, eloquent visually and aurally, with some unforgettable images. Shostakovich's score is marvellous. The black-and-white widescreen format, as in the same director's 'King Lear', seems entirely appropriate, and I add this review only to note that this is a good quality transfer of sound and image, and seems to be the equal of the earlier two-disc Russian DVD version. (On both there is a moment or two of what seems like distorted orchestral sound as Hamlet runs up a flight of steps after his arrival in Elsinore.) The subtitles do as much as one can expect in a subtitled film, and use Shakespeare's words rather than simply re-translating Pasternak's version. Very highly recommended!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this movie is unforgettable, 5 Jun 2012
By 
Richard J. Brzostek (New England, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hamlet [DVD] [1964] (DVD)
Grigori Kozintsev's rendition of Shakespeare's Hamlet is quite remarkable. Although at first it may seem a little odd watching this great work of Shakespeare in Russian, one quickly forgets this fact as the story draws its viewers in. The settings and costumes have an amazing visual impact because they look so authentic. The castle is monstrous and foreboding. The grounds outside of the castle invoke much of the same feelings as one side faces the ocean with waves that lap up on the shore littered with massive boulders. On the opposite side, an old graveyard provides Hamlet with the perfect setting to ponder "to be, or not to be."

As you may know, Hamlet is a story about the Danish prince Hamlet that takes revenge on his uncle for killing his father. Hamlet's mother remarries his uncle much to Hamlet's disliking. Unquestionably, it is a sad story with a twisted side. Revenge, murder and death never seem to go away, so there is something timeless about this tale. We may feel sympathetic toward Hamlet at first, but as the story progresses, we see the whole situation is such a mess that there are no easy answers or solutions to the quagmire Hamlet finds himself in. No other word but tragedy describes this story.

The black and white images in this movie are unforgettable. I am sure others would agree that the actors are just as exceptional. In a way, the images being devoid of colour add some extra level of grimness to the overall feeling of the movie. I would say this film is one of those that works amazingly well in black and white, but wouldn't have as much power if it were in colour. If you are into Shakespearian cinema, this Russian version of Hamlet is worth checking out.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A superb Hamlet, 16 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Hamlet [DVD] [1964] (DVD)
This film is a really good version of Hamlet. Superb monochrome, good performances, great mise-en scene. Warning: the film is uncut but it is a heavily cut version of the play. This should not put you off.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The finest of all Hamlets., 14 Jan 2014
This review is from: Hamlet [DVD] [1964] (DVD)
Very few films of Shakespeare plays can compare to this. Innokenty Smoktunovsky's Hamlet is an astounding portrayal. Never has the unforgettable doomed monologue above a wave-thundered shore been more powerfully wrought. Ophelia's sad beauty is poetic in her flowery chamber.In the stunning black & white photography, the cold candled darkness of Elsinore is tempered with exquisite interiors as beautiful as any Russian palace.The film recreates with a refinement of aristocratic manners an atmosphere of arrogant eloquence, electric danger,tapestried luxury, closeness to risky death with terrifying dramatic contrasts. It mirrored a country where politics were extremely risky at the time and in which love of Shakespeare was exemplified in ballets such as the Bolshoi`s 1956 Romeo and Juliet, probably the most magnificent Shakespeare production ever staged in England. The astonishment that ricocheted round the West on seeing these wonders was most of all exemplified in the dazzling personality of Rudolf Nureyev when he burst upon an astounded world in 1962. The impact of such superb artistic imports from the USSR confounded and bewildered opinion that an ignorant & brutal culture ruled behind the Iron Curtain and has been almost forgotten by many.

The passionately intense acting is on a level of refinement of voice and manner rarely found nowadays . From Claudius to the players,from Gertrude to the gravedigger,aristocratic condescension of manner is contrasted with robust characterisation. The music is by Shostakovich. The swordsmanship is brilliant .The superb costumes are certainly authentic reproductions researched by scholars of eminence .

Grigory Kozintsev's production is suffused throughout with utmost love of the play and its great author and shows off the cream of Russia's most brilliant actors & beautiful people in an unrivalled dramatic setting. The film is a work of genius and more than almost any other, perfectly recreates this greatest of plays on screen. It is essential viewing for any lover of Shakespeare.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and magnificent, 12 Dec 2013
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David A. Edwards (Glasgow) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hamlet [DVD] [1964] (DVD)
This DVD presents the film in letter-box 16:9, rather than anamorphic 4:3, which is a serious flaw, and knocks a star off.

The film is a superb version of the play; the score of Shostakovich is one of the jewels. The appearance of the ghost is overwhelming, using a simple slow-motion effect combined with music that is terrifying, oppressive and creepy by turns.

I find Olivier's film a bit dull and worthy; and Branagh's, although splendid in many ways, is seriously undermined by the fact that every star in the business wanted to be in it. When Jack Lemmon plays "2nd soldier" and is almost too old to lift a rifle, something is risible in the state of Denmark. To my surprise, and confounding all my prejudices, I much preferred Mel Gibson's Hamlet, directed by Zefirelli.

But this Russian Hamlet is surely the greatest filmed version so far.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Boris Leonidovich Pasternak - Writer (1941 Russian translation), 21 July 2013
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hamlet [DVD] [1964] (DVD)
This is a Shakespeare play about the prince of Denmark and tragedy surrounding the family. Many people want to say the prince Hamlet is indecision yet he outmaneuvers just about everyone and had depth of vision. Now watch as he discovers who killed the king and how he attempts to get his revenge.

If I did not know the story and characters by heart I would have been lost. The subtitles I watched were in English. However they were a mixture of contemporary and Elizabethan. "How now is a rat?" Unfortunately I know no Russian except for a little bit picked up from this movie, so I could not rely on listing to the words and match to the subtitles as I can in German or Spanish. I know that is my problem not the films. But it did distract from the experience. The only thing that makes the score of any value is because it is by Dmitri Shostakovich.

The outside visuals are impressive and the costumes are not out of place. Even in Russian the actors are not squeaky like the David Tennant version in 2010 or ridiculous looking like Ethan Hawke 2000, or missing Rosencrantz. However we are missing the epilog.

This is worth the viewing and you may come away with a new thought or two.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Best Hamlets Dad on screen., 2 July 2013
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Ian A. Powell - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hamlet [DVD] [1964] (DVD)
Check out utube for some clips. It's really held up well. As with all the Bards film, you're either a completist, or studying, or...it depends which one you were first exposed to. As a kid, it was always Olivier's Hamlet and Well's Macbeth. But Stewarts was good. And Kurosawa's two movies are masterpieces. This, for me, isn't quite as good. But Kozintsev clearly was a heavy hitter who meant this as a Serious work.
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Hamlet [DVD] [1964]
Hamlet [DVD] [1964] by Grigori Kozintsev (DVD - 2011)
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