The Moorish general Othello is manipulated into thinking that his new wife Desdemona has been carrying on an affair with his lieutenant Michael Cassio when in reality it is all part of the scheme of a bitter ensign named Iago.
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.
Hamlet, son of the king of Denmark, is summoned home for his father's funeral and his mother's wedding to his uncle. In a supernatural episode, he discovers that his uncle, whom he hates anyway, murdered his father. In an incredibly convoluted plot--the most complicated and most interesting in all literature--he manages to (impossible to put this in exact order) feign (or perhaps not to feign) madness, murder the "prime minister," love and then unlove an innocent whom he drives to madness, plot and then unplot against the uncle, direct a play within a play, successfully conspire against the lives of two well-meaning friends, and finally take his revenge on the uncle, but only at the cost of almost every life on stage, including his own and his mother's. Written by
John Brosseau <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When Laertes is shouting at Claudius on his return it is shot from two angles. From Claudius' view Laertes' sword is pressing against his neck and he pushes on it as he speaks, but from Laertes' view his sword is not touching and he waves it slightly as he speaks. See more »
Branagh claims to present the only complete, uncut movie version of Hamlet, and his version is indeed much longer than anyone else's. However, it is not, as Branagh would have us believe, Hamlet as Shakespeare intended it to be. The "complete text" of Hamlet is really an amalgamation of three extant texts, and there is no evidence to suggest that these texts were ever performed together in their entirety in Shakespeare's day. While we don't know how long these plays were when originally performed--though the prologue of Romeo and Juliet mentions "the two hour's traffic of our stage"--we can be fairly certain that Shakespeare's company never indulged themselves as
Indulgence is the name of the game in Branagh's Hamlet. What else could explain the movie's excessive length, its lavish opulence, and its absurd number of torso shots? Why else would Branagh ask Gerard Depardieu, one of the greatest living French actors, to speak only five lines of text (none of them memorable)? Why else would he get Judi Dench to play a role that doesn't even appear in Shakespeare's text? Why (mis-)cast Jack Lemmon in a role that would have been played more effectively by a much younger actor? Though certainly a great actor and a fine director, Branagh's self-indulgence threatens to overwhelm this movie at every turn. Perhaps the problem stems from his desire to make the definitive version of a text so endlessly resonant that it resists any definitive version.
That said, there is much to praise in this movie. Branagh's Hamlet is aggressive, moody, brilliant, robust--more appealing than Olivier's brooding dreamer. The larger roles are all played admirably, particularly Jacobi's charismatic Claudius. Finally, there are some scenes in the film that are as great as anything Branagh has ever done. The "To be or not to be" soliloquy, set in a hall of two-way mirrors with Claudius and Polonius lying in wait behind one, approaches cinematic genius.
9 of 12 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?