Thursday, June 16, 2016

Hamlet (1996)

Hamlet starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh attempts to turn the Shakespeare theatrical play into a grand spectacle of cinema. Branagh's spiritual predecessor, Laurence Olivier's own adaptation took an intimate, though still cinematic, approach that pared the material down to its most basic elements. Branagh's version does the exact opposite adapting the play in its entirety in the style of a Hollywood CinemaScope epic of the 50's and 60's. This is in the sense of the grand scope that Branagh gives to the story. This is in every sense from the massive rather magnificent sets, the sumptuous costumes, the sweeping score, as well as keeping the Fortinbras subplot which forces a less intimate perspective on the events of the play. Branagh's approach to the material succeeds in his aim, but is also rather fitting to Branagh's personal approach to the part of Hamlet. Now this is not to say this approach is without pitfalls as seen with Branagh taking a note from the Michael Todd Around the World in Eighty Days rule book, which is to fill the smaller parts with recognizable stars. A few of these are distracting or downright bad, Jack Lemmon, Robin Williams and Gerard Depardieu, but I'll admit the strength of the rest, Charlton Heston in particular, more than makes up for it. Branagh choices succeed here and the complete play does add to the story particularly in regards to the character development of King Cladius and Polonius. It is an adaptation with a clear vision and Branagh successfully uses that to craft a powerful and rather memorable version of the often adapted work.

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