Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: Hamlet

Looking on Netflix again, I happened to ran across this version of Hamlet starring Sir Laurence Olivier. I had only seen bits and pieces from the 1996 version of Hamlet and the 1990 version of Hamlet in English class when we were reading Hamlet. I'm not that big of a Shakespeare fan (I liked some of his plays, but I only liked them), but my dad had said that Laurence Olivier was one of the greatest actors, so I gave this version of Hamlet a try.

Laurence Olivier tells the story of "the tragedy of a man who couldn't make up his mind." After Hamlet's father, King Hamlet, dies, Hamlet's mother, Gertrude, remarries his brother, something which does not sit right with Hamlet. And when guards claim to see the ghost of King Hamlet, it goes to show the audience that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

There were only two actors that I recognized. Sir Laurence Olivier I know of because he is a well known actor (he was also in the 1940 Pride and Prejudice, but from the clips I've seen of it, I wasn't impressed). The other was Jean Simmons, who I've seen in Guys and Dolls and The Robe.

There are multiple ways of portraying Hamlet, particularly whether or not he really is crazy or just acting the entire time. I think Laurence Olivier portrayed the former. There were just times you could tell that Hamlet was just crazy.

Jean Simmons as Ophelia
Jean Simmons played Ophelia, Hamlet's love interest, well. Since Ophelia is supposed to be fairly young, there has to be an innocence about her, which Jean Simmons captured well.

Not much scenery to speak of. The whole movie is in black and white, so the set looks very dark. The dark setting would be fitting for Hamlet, since it is a tragedy and a very serious play.

The women's costumes were fine (but keep in mind, there are only two women in the whole play), the men's costumes, on the other hand, were nearly horrendous! If the costumes are historically accurate, then my opinion on this could just be that I don't like the costumes of the period, but I really didn't like the men's costumes. The shirts that the men wore were very puffy and excessively decorated: it was kind of loud and "out there".

Claudius, Hamlet's uncle, talking to Hamlet (seated). Hamlet's
mother, Gertrude, stands behind Hamlet.
Ouch! Since it's an older movie, some of the speaking roles can be really quiet and the music blaring! The music tended to be much more serious than uplifting (due to the nature of Hamlet).

Overall: 3/5
Hamlet is not my favorite play by Shakespeare (course I've only read five of Shakespeare's plays); I don't hate it, but it's not my favorite; just somewhere in the middle. The overall themes are very serious and not exactly uplifting (plus there are a lot of implications and mature language).

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my least favorite Hamlet adaptations. I disagree with Olivier's premise that it's about a man who can't make up his mind, which means I disagree with a lot of the choices made for the overall adaptation. I've really enjoyed Olivier in other movies, and Jean Simmons too, but not so much this. And yet, I have a 78rpm recording of selections of Olivier's Hamlet just because he does have a stunning voice.


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