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Hamlet (1990)

PG | | Drama | 18 January 1991 (USA)
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Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, finds out that his uncle Claudius killed his father to obtain the throne, and plans revenge.

Director:

Franco Zeffirelli

Writers:

William Shakespeare (play), Christopher De Vore (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Mel Gibson ... Hamlet
Glenn Close ... Gertrude
Alan Bates ... Claudius
Paul Scofield ... The Ghost
Ian Holm ... Polonius
Helena Bonham Carter ... Ophelia
Stephen Dillane ... Horatio
Nathaniel Parker ... Laertes
Sean Murray Sean Murray ... Guildenstern
Michael Maloney ... Rosencrantz
Trevor Peacock ... The Gravedigger
John McEnery ... Osric
Richard Warwick ... Bernardo
Christien Anholt ... Marcellus
Dave Duffy ... Francisco
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Storyline

Hamlet returns to Denmark when his father, the King, dies. His mother Gertrude has already married Hamlet's uncle Claudius, the new King. They urge Hamlet to marry his beloved Ophelia. But soon the ghost of Hamlet's father appears and tells Hamlet that he was murdered by Claudius and Gertrude. Hamlet must choose between passive acquiescence and the need for a vengeance which might lead to tragedy. Written by Reid Gagle

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The extraordinary adaptation of Shakespeare's classic tale of vengeance and tragedy.

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | UK | France

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 January 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Amlet See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$20,710,451
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

About Hamlet's famous "To be or not to be" monologue, many critics have complained for decades about the line: "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them?" The complaint is that Hamlet is mixing metaphors: Fortune (Fate) does not actually shoot arrows at people, and you can't use your swords against the sea. The assumption seems to be that Shakespeare was too tired, or too lazy, to fit metaphorical causes with metaphorical effects. Shakespeare (and therefore Hamlet) were too smart to be that sloppy in their speech. Hamlet is complaining that these forces (fate and the ocean) are precisely too abstract, too formless, too monstrous, and too inhuman for a human to use weapons against - arrows against a vague idea such as Fortune, or swords and knives against an ocean. You can't fight on those levels. Hamlet was grieving, but he was never stupid. See more »

Goofs

During the "confrontation" between Hamlet and Ophelia, the shadow of a camera can be seen on the floor behind Ophelia as Hamlet begins to circle her.. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Claudius: Hamlet! Think of us as of a father. For let the world take note: you are the most immediate to our throne. And with no less nobility of love than that which dearest father bears his son do I impart toward you.
See more »

Connections

Version of Hamlet (2002) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Very pleasing, if too restless, adaptation, with many splendid cinematic touches
7 December 2006 | by J. SpurlinSee all my reviews

What a joy this adaptation is! Its main virtues are a fine performance from Mel Gibson as Hamlet; a script that makes full use of the movie medium while giving Shakespeare sufficient scope to enrich and entertain us with his people and his words; two great performances from Alan Bates as Claudius and Paul Scofield as the Ghost; two good performances from Nathaniel Parker as Laertes and Glenn Close as Gertrude; and a fine music score from Ennio Morricone that anticipates and amplifies our emotions.

First, my criticisms. In directing his actors, Franco Zefferelli makes two big mistakes, one interesting and one painful. The interesting mistake: Ian Holm changes Polonius from a doddering old man to someone evil-minded and fully possessed of his wits. When this Polonius babbles about plays that are "pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral" he is being deliberately comic. One scene demonstrates the badness of this choice. We have no idea why this sharp-witted, not-very-old man is prating to the king and queen instead of coming to the point about Hamlet's madness. (Then again, Richard Briers gives us a smart Polonius in Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet," and there it worked.) The painful mistake: Helena Bonham-Carter changes Ophelia from a meek victim to a strong-willed, independent-minded young woman. The director and actress probably thought they were being good little feminists, but the idea is psychologically and dramatically disastrous. Bonham-Carter's Ophelia could never go mad. And even if she could, her crass new self is no longer sharply contrasted with a meek former self. This Ophelia seems fully capable of being earthy and vulgar even before she loses her mind. This blunts the effect of the mad scenes which in themselves are beautifully presented and played.

Now the praise. Gibson reads Shakespeare's words skillfully and is bettered in this regard only by Bates and Scofield; his readings convey the words' music and meaning: at long last I understand the line, "What should such fellows as I do crawling between earth and heaven." He also reveals one aspect of Hamlet that I see when I read the play. Hamlet is never more dangerous, or off-putting, than when he's clowning. The melancholy Hamlet attracts me and the joking Hamlet repels me. Gibson's Hamlet does the same.

Shakespeare never suffers from the artful cutting and rearrangement of his text. This script is especially clever. Among many nice surprises was hearing Hamlet deliver his "Get thee to a nunnery" speech to Ophelia as they sit in the audience before the play. Even better are the dozens of little touches that only a movie can provide. I loved how the camera showed Hamlet and Polonius spy on scenes that in most productions take place out of their sights. But the script and direction are also a shade too restless. The camera shots and the scenery change rapidly as characters dart from one place to another. Once or twice the movie should have paused and let us luxuriate in the language. The perfect opportunity would have been the "To be or not to be" speech; but Gibson and Zefferelli make it a scene of high drama. I craved the usual Hamlet who stops and tells us what he thinks because he wants to overhear himself.

The idea of Hamlet and Gertrude lusting for each other works surprisingly well. Most post-Freudian productions present this notion, but I don't think it's in the play. The interview in the bed chamber is Polonius' idea, not Hamlet's or Gertrude's. And even Hamlet's most piquant behavior, including his condemnation of his mother's sex life, is consistent with that of a son outraged by his mother's betrayal of his father; but it's inconsistent with that of a jealous son. Surely a jealous son wouldn't dither over killing Claudius. But the script shears off those inconsistencies, and the actors make it work. I could see it in Hamlet's eyes the moment he's alone with the ghost: "Oh, God, let it not find out that I want my mother."


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