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The RSC puts a modern spin on Shakespeare's Hamlet in this filmed-for-television version of their stage production. The Prince of Denmark seeks vengeance after his father is murdered and his mother marries the murderer.
One could judge this two ways: first, as an original, self-contained film by Peter Brook; or second, as a production of Shakespeare's play.
While it's true that this is a handsome and well-acted production, I have to mark it down insofar as I think it gives the viewer a somewhat skewed idea of the play. Some of the cuts are actually quite drastic, particularly at the beginning of the play (it opens right into "O that this too too sullied flesh would melt...", and jumps right to Hamlet's meeting with the ghost), and while some of the lost dialog is replaced later on, it's often placed where it makes no sense (1. Polonius's and Ophelia's "Tender yourself more dearly".../"...All the holy vows of heaven" exchange takes place while Ophelia is telling her encounter in the sewing closet, when Polonius is supposed to be REPENTING his interference in Hamlet and Ophelia's romance; 2. The "Cast thy nighted color off...return not to Wittenberg" exchange comes AFTER Hamlet has spoken with the ghost, which changes the dynamic of Hamlet's barbs to Claudius entirely; and 3. "To be or not to be..." is dropped down in place of "How all occasions do inform against me...", when Hamlet's mood is inappropriate for it).
Mostly, though, the production bugs me in one specific way: it is done entirely humorlessly; Osric is gone, much of the graveyard scene is gone, and Polonius is played with all stately dignity. POLONIUS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A COMIC CHARACTER! The play, most especially the first half, is loaded with jokes which are designed to throw the audience off guard for the trauma and pathos of the climax. If the mood of the whole is played dark and brooding, you're losing much of the entertainment factor at which Shakespeare was a master. 'Hamlet' is a roller-coaster, not a subway train.
In sum, I'd say that Brook's 'Hamlet' is recommended for those who are familiar with the play and can see this as one man's vision, but is not recommended for those coming to the play for the first time.
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