New York, 2000. A specter in the guise of the newly-dead CEO of Denmark Corporation appears to Hamlet, tells of murder most foul, demands revenge, and identifies the killer as Claudius, the new head of Denmark, Hamlet's uncle and now step-father. Hamlet must determine if the ghost is truly his father, and if Claudius did the deed. To buy time, Hamlet feigns madness; to catch his uncle's conscience, he invites him to watch a film he's made that shows a tale of murder. Finally convinced of Claudius's guilt, Hamlet must avenge his father. Claudius now knows Hamlet is a threat and even uses Ophelia, Hamlet's love, in his own plots against the young man. Murder will out? Written by
A good film... but not necessarily good Shakespeare!
I consider myself a bit of a Shakespeare purist and so put off seeing this film for quite a while. I really wish I'd seen it sooner. All the other comments here about the mangling of the language, cutting of the script to an almost incomprehensible extent, the kind of grungey contrivedness of the whole thing etc etc, are all true, but at the same time the film has little glimmers of something more. The film must be one of the shortest Hamlets ever, and moves along at real speed. The cinematography is beautiful and the juxtaposing of modern images with the text (eg Hamlet's soliloquy being performed whilst he watches James Dean, the rebel without a cause) throws up (almost in spite of itself) some interesting ideas of how the director considers Hamlet. The modern feel works surprisingly well (although it *does* occassionally jar), and throws up a lot of the themes in Hamlet as being particularly relevant today.
The acting is all okay, with a few amazing exceptions -- Liev Schrieber as Laertes really stands out, and Julia Stiles is good too. Kyle Maclachlan makes a very sinister Claudius, and Ethan Hawke is okay, although I couldn't work out whether his Hamlet was pretending to be mad or really was, but this film really belongs to the supporting cast who are all pretty sound.
Good, if you're in the mood for it. If you can't bear the thought of anything being cut or "reinterpreted" in a hit-and-miss way then avoid like the plague!
8 stars (if you like this kind of new Shakespeare) 2 stars (if you believe Hamlet should be done formally, lengthily and in tights)
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