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William Shakespeare's tale of tragedy of murder and revenge in the royal halls of medieval Denmark. Claudius, brother to the King, conniving with the Queen, poisons the monarch and seizes the throne, taking the widowed Gertrude for his bride. Hamlet, son of the murdered King, mournful of his father's death and mother's hasty marriage, is confronted by the ghost of the late King who reveals the manner of his murder. Seeking revenge, Hamlet recreates the monstrous deed in a play with the help of some traveling actors to torment the conscience of the evil Claudius. In a visit with his mother, Hamlet expresses his anger and disappointment concerning her swiftly untimed marriage. Thinking a concealed spy in his mother's chamber to be the lurking Claudius, he mistakenly kills the meddling counselor, Polonius, father of Ophelia and Laertes. Claudius, on the pretext that Hamlet will be endangered by his subjects for the murder of Polonius, sends the prince to England. Written by
Because they wanted to aim at a wider public in Hamlet (1948) than they had in Henry V (1944), Sir Laurence Olivier and text adaptor Alan Dent modernized and/or clarified several obscure phrases in the play: "The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn" became "The cock, that is the herald to the morn", "recks not his own rede" became "minds not his own creed", "In the same figure, like the King that's dead" became "in the same figure, like the dead King Hamlet", and "It may be, very like" became "It may be, very likely", among others. See more »
So oft it chances in particular men / That through some vicious mole of nature in them, / By the o'ergrowth of some complexion / Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason, / Or by some habit grown too much; that these men - / Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect, / Their virtues else - be they as pure as grace, / Shall in the general censure take corruption / From that particular fault... This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.
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Opening credits prologue:
So oft it chances in particular men That through some vicious mole of nature in them, By the o'ergrowth of some complexion Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason, Or by some habit grown too much; that these men - Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect, Their virtues else - be they as pure as grace, Shall in the general censure take corruption From that particular fault. See more »
Memorable Acting by Olivier in Somewhat Slow-Paced Adaptation
This adaptation of "Hamlet" by Laurence Olivier (he both starred and directed) is a brooding, somewhat slow-moving, but also memorable version of Shakespeare's great play. Olivier's personal performance as the Danish prince is by far the strongest aspect of the picture.
Hamlet is one of the most complex and fascinating characters ever created, and no two great actors ever play him quite the same way. Olivier portrays him primarily as "a man who could not make up his mind", and his fine and often subtle acting brings to his role a deep understanding of his character's inner struggles and dilemmas, both moral and practical. He renders Hamlet's most famous lines in a distinctive way that reveal the many possible paths in Hamlet's future. It is a performance not to be forgotten.
If Olivier the actor is masterful, Olivier the director is good but not perfect. A great deal of Shakespeare's text was eliminated, getting the running time down to 2 1/2 hours, but even so there are times when the movie seems rather slow-moving, especially in the first hour or so. Most of the cuts involve interactions with the minor characters, and some of the original play's minor roles are cut completely out of the film. The result is to concentrate the emphasis even further on Hamlet himself and on his pessimistic meditations. While this enables Olivier's fine acting to become even more prominent, it does eliminate some very interesting portions of the story whose absence will be regretted by those viewers who love the play.
Olivier does add some good touches, though. He emphasizes the somber tone with numerous tracking shots of the castle's gloomy corridors and staircases. The filming of the famous sequence of events at the end is very good, and is much livelier than the rest.
While this is probably not the very best interpretation of the play "Hamlet", it is as good an interpretation of the character Hamlet as you will ever see. For that reason alone it is must viewing for any fan of Shakespeare or of Olivier.
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