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Hamlet Goes Business (1987)

Hamlet liikemaailmassa (original title)
A bizarre black-and-white film noir reworking of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'. After the death of his father, young Hamlet inherits a seat on the board of a company controlled by his uncle that ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Pirkka-Pekka Petelius ...
Esko Salminen ...
Elina Salo ...
Esko Nikkari ...
Kari Väänänen ...
Puntti Valtonen ...
Simo (as Hannu Valtonen)
Mari Rantasila ...
Turo Pajala ...
Aake Kalliala ...
Pentti Auer ...
Isä / Haamu
Vesa Mäkelä ...
Maija Leino
Pertti Sveholm


A bizarre black-and-white film noir reworking of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'. After the death of his father, young Hamlet inherits a seat on the board of a company controlled by his uncle that decides to move into the rubber duck market. But Hamlet is suspicious of the circumstances surrounding his father's death... Written by Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama | Romance


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Release Date:

21 August 1987 (Finland)  »

Also Known As:

Hamlet Goes Into Business  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Gertrud: [Hamlet is discussing with his mother] What I am going to say now is not just a whim. You'll understand if you just want to. I loved your father as much as you can demand a good wife to love a tyrant who never returns love, giving you as much passion as he gives to the winter tires of his car.
Hamlet: I ask you not to tarnish my father's memory.
Gertrud: I've been silent too long to gloss over the facts.
Gertrud: Then get to the point.
Gertrud: I'm going to marry Klaus. I love him.
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Version of The Rest Is Silence (1959) See more »


Symphony No. 6 in B minor/Sinfonia nro 6 h-molli op. 74
Composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
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User Reviews

Shakespeare re-cast as a 50's B-picture; one of my favourite films
29 May 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Hamlet Goes Business (1987) is a number of things. On the one hand, it's a piercing satire on industry and the corporate world of the 1980's dressed up as a spiralling melodrama; while on the other hand, it's an appropriation of the colourless, academic world of Shakespeare slapped around and recast as a lurid film-noir pastiche. For me, it's perhaps the first true masterpiece from Finish auteur Aki Kaurismäki; the one in which his typically unique style of deadpan humour, dry characterisations and idiosyncratic reference-points finally came together to create a unique and distinctive whole. Obviously, that isn't to say that his first three films, Crime and Punishment (1983), Calamari Union (1985) and Shadows in Paradise (1986) don't warrant serious critical attention, because they do; but rather, the subtle shades of character, drama, humour and self-reference that had been slowly developing over the course of those particular three films is finally refined and further developed with this delightful, absurdist joy.

The basic story of the film retains the set-up and characters familiar from Shakespeare's adaptation, though with a number of separate abstractions beyond those presented by the general updating of the characters and text. For example, rather than being the noble prince, Kaurismäki's Hamlet is a spoilt, oafish brat; more likely to be getting a hankering for a midnight feast and failing to score with his girlfriend Ofelia than prospering in the cut-throat world of business. In our introduction to the character, a nonplussed Hamlet literally stumbles across the body of his murdered father whilst precociously munching on a large slice of ham. Later in the film, as his step-father and mother conspire to take control of the business, a childlike Hamlet is placated in the boardroom by the addition of his own table with colouring books and felt-tip pens. As a work of satire, both on the idea of industry and on the nuts-and-bolts of Shakespeare's text, Kaurismäki is merciless. However, the film also impresses on a purely stylistic level; with the director adapting certain visual quirks and techniques familiar from post war B-cinema alongside his usual stylistic preoccupations to create one of the greatest pop-cinema pastiches since Godard's Pierrot le fou (1965).

As ever with the films of Kaurismäki, Hamlet works as a result of the perfect casting, with a fantastic performance from lead actor Pirkka-Pekka Petelius complimenting Kaurismäki's regular troop of supporting actors, here including Esko Salminen, Kati Outinen, Esko Nikkari, Turo Pajala and Matti Pellonpää. Petelius's Hamlet maintains that typically straight-faced approach shared by many of Kaurismäki's iconic characters, whilst also possessing something of a childlike innocence to set-up the mechanics for that blistering final act. I can certainly see why some viewers would find the more freely adapted elements of the film offensive on a historical level - with Hamlet here recast as a sulky teen bumbling into a conspiracy that he doesn't quite comprehend - but I think it's important to look beyond the presentation of the character found in the more recognisable elements of the Shakespearean piece to see the bold and imaginative use of satire and stark sense of humour that Kaurismäki brings to the project.

The final act of the film is incredibly funny and filled with imaginative and inventive elements that demonstrate what a fantastic and highly original filmmaker Kaurismäki is; with a film like Hamlet Goes Business, not to mention subsequent highlights like Ariel (1988), I Hired a Contract Killer (1991) and The Man Without a Past (2002) showing the range and talent of a sadly underrated artist very much the equal to the more widely acclaimed likes of Tarantino and the Coen Brothers. Here, Kaurismäki's film takes the pop references and retrogressive elements of the former and mixes it with the intelligence and humour of the latter to produce an exceptional film that is unique to his particular style and approach. Although the humour might prove to be a little too dry, or the style too eccentric to appeal to those with a broader cinematic taste, Hamlet Goes Business is really an absolute joy that is worth experiencing. A bold, irreverent, imaginative and impeccably acted satire, with great black and white cinematography, a jarring style and a great central performance from Petelius.

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