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Hamlet (2009)

TV Movie  -   -  Drama  -  23 April 2010 (USA)
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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.



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Title: Hamlet (TV Movie 2009)

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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mariah Gale ...
Edward Bennett ...
Sam Alexander ...
Tom Davey ...
Mark Hadfield ...
Samuel Dutton ...
Dumbshow King
Jim Hooper ...
Dumbshow Queen / Priest
Reynaldo / Dumbshow Poisoner


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.

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23 April 2010 (USA)  »

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A filmed version of Doran's 2008 revival which was first performed on 24 July 2008 and also played in the West End in 2009. See more »


Version of The Rest Is Silence (1959) See more »

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Enjoyable production of Hamlet but not particularly well done for the screen
30 December 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Living as close as I do in Birmingham, I have gone done to Stratford-upon-Avon on four or five occasions to see various adaptations by the RSC but by the time I casually enquired about this production, tickets were long gone. The casting of the two big sci-fi names made this no surprise but it was a little annoying still when I later read the good reviews it got. Credit to the BBC then for not only bringing a filmed version of the production to the television but also doing it in primetime on Boxing Day. I can't remember the last time the BBC did such a thing but it is certainly befitting their remit to do this and hopefully it will not be the last time.

To the film itself though. Three hours long as it is, the time does move well because the source material is as good as it is. Moments of drama, comedy, tragedy and intensity all blend well together, with lots going on in the main and on the edges – in summary the plot is simple but there are lots of nuances to be had here and, in this regard, it does help that the cast have done this material in full many times on stage. Focusing on the production as a production rather than a film, there is much to appreciate. Normally I'm not a fan of contemporary or modern settings for Shakespeare but here it doesn't get in the way – it doesn't add much to be sure but nor does it irritate or get in the way as I have seen it do in other productions. The reflective black stage is retained from the theatre version and it does provide a suitably stark backdrop to allow the viewer to focus on the actors. All of this relates to the production but the biggest difference here is that this is being made for television rather than a theatre and this is no small change.

Others have commented on the loss of the physical audience as a point in space for the cast but in fairness one would have thought that the focal point of the camera would have actually made this easier – particularly given the way that the stage in Stratford this was on is surrounded by the audience on three sides. However it doesn't work like that because stage director Doran (who directs here) doesn't seem to make a decision to either shoot it as a stage play or to embrace the use of the camera. This manifests itself in a sort of halfway house where at times it does one or the other well but mostly it resides in the middle where it isn't comfortable with either. Thus while we have moments where the camera compliments the action by virtue of its movement or where it is, mostly it just stays out of the way, apart from the CCTV gimmick (which fortunately is quickly dropped as an idea). As such it makes for an odd television film and I do think that more could have been done to make it more than just a filmed version of the stage production (which is what the makers said they were trying to avoid the film being).

The cast are mostly impressive. I have seen more impacting Hamlets but Tennant does do well and demonstrates a lot more range than he has the chance to do on Doctor Who. Is he a great Hamlet? I'd have to say no but he does engage and do a good job nonetheless. Stewart adds gravitas to his characters and he delivers a very good Claudius – not too slippery and treacherous but enough so we can see it in his heart. Downie is very good as Queen Gertrude while Davies, Gale, De Jersey and indeed most of the supporting cast are equally good. The only slight downside is that the habit of using the same actor for multiple very minor characters is a little more obvious on the screen than on the stage and it does distract at times.

Overall this version of Hamlet deserves credit for being produced for prime time on a terrestrial channel and it does have much about it to appeal to viewers. As a production of Hamlet it is enjoyable and very well put together but it does not replace seeing it on the stage, since it doesn't do a particularly good job of moving from stage to the screen.

15 of 26 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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