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Hamlet (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD] 
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Director and star Kenneth Branagh brings another Shakespearean adaptation to the screen. Hamlet (Branagh), Prince of Denmark, vows revenge when informed by the ghost of his murdered father (Brian Blessed) that the present king Claudius (Derek Jacobi) was responsible. Spurning the romantic advances of his sweetheart Ophelia (Kate Winslet), Hamlet attempts to open the eyes of his mother Gertrude (Julie Christie), whom Claudius has now wed. However, Hamlet's procrastination when it comes to killing Claudius costs more lives.
It's the greatest work of literature, but nobody had ever filmed Hamlet uncut--until Kenneth Branagh went about the task for his lavish 1996 production. The result is a sumptuous, star-studded version that scores a palpable hit on its avowed goal: to make the text as clear and urgent as possible. Branagh himself plays the melancholy son of the Danish court, caught in a famous muddle about whether to seek revenge against his royal father's presumed slayer... the man who now sits on the throne and shares the bed of Hamlet's mother. (Or, as the song "That's Entertainment" summarizes the plot: "A ghost and a prince meet / And everyone winds up mincemeat.") As a director, Branagh (who shot the movie in 70 mm.) uses the vast, cold interiors of a vaguely 19th-century manor to gorgeous effect; the story might scurry down this hallway, into that back chamber, or sprawl out into the enormous main room. With its endless collection of mirrors, the place is as big and empty as Citizen Kane's Xanadu.That all works. What doesn't work is Branagh's tendency to over-direct the big dramatic moments. He indulges in quick cutting and flashbacks as though to fend off the audience's objections to the four-hour running time, and the style sometimes looks like wasted energy. The experienced Shakespearians in the cast come off nicely. Derek Jacobi's Claudius, Richard Briers' Polonius, and Michael Maloney's Laertes are just terrific. Julie Christie is a suitably attractive Gertrude, and Kate Winslet makes the most of Ophelia's mad scenes. Branagh's habit of folding in unexpected American performers is on the mark, too: Billy Crystal is surprisingly good as the Gravedigger, Robin Williams predictably camps up Osric, and Charlton Heston is an inspired choice as the grandiloquent Player King. The biggest irony here is that Branagh himself is not quite spot-on as Hamlet. Of course he speaks the lines beautifully, but Branagh's screen personality radiates certainty and clarity of vision. There's little of the doubt that might make him Hamlet-esque. Still, tremendous credit for fending off slings and arrows to get the movie made. --Robert Horton See all Product description
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The location shots are spectacular.
The cast is amazing, full of all sorts of unexpected people (Ken Dodd pops up at one point) and Kenneth Branagh is a most engaging Hamlet, very watchable.
I love Branagh's version of Hamlet. I have appreciated every choice he has made. I have also seen the Zeffirell version of the play and they are so different...although both brilliant.
Branagh's kind of "shines" more.A friend thought this altered the mood of the play a little but I don't agree. I think it allows the audience to gain a new perspective, especially on Hamlet. As for my favourite scenes, I particularly like the ones that involve Ophelia.
I recommend the film to everybody.
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