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Hamlet (II) (2000)

TV Movie  -   -  Drama  -  10 December 2000 (USA)
6.1
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Ratings: 6.1/10 from 206 users   Metascore: 67/100
Reviews: 15 user | 7 critic | 6 from Metacritic.com

The classic Shakespeare tragedy is revisioned in America at the turn of the 20th Century. Campbell Scott (Singles, The Spanish Prisoner) adapted, co-directed and stars in the title role ... See full summary »

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The classic Shakespeare tragedy is revisioned in America at the turn of the 20th Century. Campbell Scott (Singles, The Spanish Prisoner) adapted, co-directed and stars in the title role with Tony Award winner Blair Brown (Copenhagen) as his mother Gertrude. Written by Anonymous

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10 December 2000 (USA)  »

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Good Performances, Mixed Interpretation
2 May 2005 | by (sf) – See all my reviews

All interpretations are valid to some respect, I suppose, but some choices the director makes end up radically altering the flow of the play; and any choice that REQUIRES excising 'inconvenient' bits of the text must be considered an alteration of the playwright's intent, rather than an interpretation. A few comments:

1) Campbell Scott's portrayal was quite good; he played Hamlet quietly and intensely rather than explosively, which is fair enough. But the decision to underplay other characters came off less well. For instance, Claudius barely seemed upset at all during his "My offense is rank" soliloquy. THIS was a soul in torment? (But bland Claudii are a pet peeve of mine.) And Gertrude, in her closet, often seemed unperturbed that she'd just seen her son kill a man. And most of all, having Laertes give his "That drop of blood which is calm proclaims me bastard!" speech in a controlled, subdued manner is basically an oxymoron. On the other hand, keeping the emotional level low was effective in creating an atmosphere of tension and creepiness throughout, rather than one of high drama and spectacle.

2) Nonetheless, POLONIUS IS A COMIC CHARACTER!!! To play him straight, with unrelenting quiet dignity, changes the whole tone of the first half of the play. You're SUPPOSED to laugh through the first two acts, to set you up for the shift that comes in with "The Mousetrap" and culminates in Polonius's death. Polonius, like Mercutio in "Romeo and Juliet", is a representation of Comedy itself, and his death marks the point from which there's no escape from tragedy. I see nothing gained by stripping Polonius of his laughs, and much lost (including, if nothing else, our simple AFFECTION for the character).

3) Another pet peeve: I own 6 "Hamlets" on DVD, 4 of them substantially 'complete', and yet EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM cuts Hamlet's observation: "This is the imposthume of much wealth and peace, which inward breaks and gives no outward show why the man dies" (said upon seeing the forces of Norway headed for Poland). This line is VITAL, because it is Hamlet's value judgment on Fortinbras; this is the line that shows that Fortinbras is a yob. As Hamlet admires the Player's capacity for passion while recognizing the absurdity of his concern "for Hecuba", so does he admire Fortinbras' boldness while recognizing the absurdity of wasting 2,000 men and 20,000 ducats "for a straw." And if it's not made clear that Fortinbras is an absurdity, then the irony of Hamlet's turning-over of Denmark to him at the end of the play is lost... (end of rant)

On the whole, if you're familiar with 'Hamlet' already I would say that this might be an interesting addition to your viewing inventory, but I would NOT recommend it as your first encounter with the work.


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