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  • I'd put off viewing this version of "Hamlet" for a long time, because I'd heard that they'd turned this most cerebral of plays into an "action movie", but I ended up quite liking it.

    I should begin by saying that I approve of ALL interpretations, because each choice reflects different possibilities all of which are supportable by the text; no one vision can encompass every potentiality inherent in the play. And the text per se, of course, will always exist in absolute form despite the number of hands that manipulate it.

    All productions (except Branagh's) cut certain elements as a sacrifice to tighter (though narrower) focus. And the use of film rather than stage allows (even necessitates) different types of dramatic development. Films unfold at a different pace than stage plays. Zefirelli's adaptations WORK as film-making, without detracting from (or unnecessarily supplementing) Shakespeare's language. For instance, the little "prologue" scene showing the internment of the dead king. It is original to the movie, and yet the dialogue is still from the play; it doesn't misrepresent anything about the characters in its new context. And perhaps most importantly, it "works" in the movie that the director is making. But on to the substantive comment...

    Mel Gibson was, in my opinion, too old to be Hamlet (making Glenn Close, by extension, too young to be Gertrude), but the issue of Hamlet's age has always been a problem. He's 30 in the text (this version leaves out that calculation), but that makes some of his relationships (with Ophelia, for instance) seem a little... immature. And yet if he's portrayed too young, his depth of thought is almost impossibly precocious. But I thought he was convincing nonetheless, particularly in expressing something that I've found central to my understanding of the play but I all too rarely see dealt with in Hamlet's portrayal, which is this:

    Hamlet IS quite mad. 'Tis true: 'tis true 'tis pity, and pity 'tis 'tis true. From his first meeting with the ghost onwards, he is profoundly disturbed. It is irony that he then puts an 'antic disposition' on, because he has in actuality gone quite 'round the bend.

    Mel Gibson not only gives the first convincing portrayal of Hamlet's "pretended" madness that I've seen, but he also shows us the desperation of the character in his quiet moments. Hamlet is not, as Olivier posited in his 1948 version, merely "a man who could not make up his mind." Gibson's Hamlet spends much of the film alternating between mania-induced impulsiveness and paralyzing inability to act. The Dane is not merely melancholy, he is certifiably manic-depressive. (Claudius, I believe, sees this.)

    Over all, I believe that this would be a good introduction to the story of Hamlet for those who otherwise would have had no contact with it, although as I said it can then be supplemented by other adaptations (and of course there's no substitute for, ultimately, reading the text).
  • Zeferelli, although cut some seemingly vital parts to the play, made it his own, and created a beautiful tribute to Shakespeare. I am sure if the Bard had a camera, he would have filmed and wrote the screenplay somewhat the same.

    Mel Gibson has portrayed Hamlet in the most true-to-human nature as anyone ever has. His brooding and depressing personality is realistic. Gibson doesn't allow the madness to overcome him. He is passionate, powerful and the epitome of the son who has gone through hell over his father's death and incestuous marriage of his mother. His performance brings tears to my eyes.

    Glenn Close is amazing; her motherly attitude and sincerity toward Hamlet is so much that one sometimes cannot feel anger towards her. Close gives life to Gertrude that no one has been able to before or after. She is a real character, with traits both despicable and kind.

    The other performances are astounding, especially when it comes to Helena Bonham-Carter's moment of lunacy in Ophelia. Her reaction to her father's death is so convincing and terribly sad that I cry at merely seeing her.

    The interpretation of the story is a perfect one that required surely a great amount of thought and reading of the very play. Zeferelli interprets it so well, that it flows like real life. Every aspect comes together to form a very real event.

    Zeferelli is a master filmmaker, and I highly suggest this film to anyone who has ever marveled at the human spirit portrayed through film, and literature as well.
  • This film was my first introduction to the story of Hamlet, and though condensed and simplified it did a magnificent job. I was only 11, but it made me fall madly in love with Hamlet. After reading it, it quickly became my favorite Shakespeare play. I love how clear and defined the film is, while still having the essence of Shakespeare's intent. The acting is so intense, yet believable. I love the interpretation of the era, and how the delivery of the lines made them so easy to grasp without losing the authenticity. The play is really long and repetitive, so I think this movie did a fantastic job of really getting the meat. In some other Shakespeare film adaptations I've seen the lines are stale and rehearsed, and it really shocks me that someone could accuse these actors of being out of touch with the dialog. I found it to be quite the opposite. So many of the scenes are just so juicy. They really capture the story's power and depth. Plus, I'm really into that period, so I found it difficult to get into Branagh's film, no matter how good it was, *and* I really can't stand to watch Kenneth Branaugh. He really irritates me because I feel like he uses this same set of annoying expressions for every couple phrases. Huge apologies to all those out there who worship him. It's just how I feel. This version is just more my cup of tea in so many ways.
  • On the surface, one might reasonably conclude that Mel Gibson and Glenn Close starring in Hamlet may be some kind of joke, a parody of the Shakespeare play, but there is no joke. This movie is for real and both Mr. Gibson and Ms. Close give commanding performances in their respective roles. This movie is proof that when given quality material under excellent direction, talented actors will flourish. The rest of the cast is stellar too, but this movie squarely revolves around the two lead characters and if their performances fail, then the whole movie fails. In recent years, Mel Gibson's reputation has taken hits, but there can be no denying that he is a gifted actor and in this movie presents a novel, dynamic interpretation of Hamlet that brings new life to the character, transforming a brooding young man into a man of action who takes charge and pays the price, wherein lays the tragedy. For Hamlet is a tragedy. However, unlike previous renditions of the play, which focus on the murky and somber, this rendition is lit up, the characters are active, Gertrude is young and beautiful, all of which make the ending even more provocative and powerful. This movie should have been nominated for an Academy Award in every major category; that it wasn't is perplexing. All in all, this movie represents another triumph for Franco Zefirrelli, once again who proves that Shakespeare can be produced for the screen, if you do it right.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    And vice versa.

    Hamlet is, to me, the greatest work in the English language. It dares us to look at the truth of our own mortality and at the same time consider right vs wrong.

    Branagh's choice was to present the entire play, Zefirelli chose to compress it for the screen. Each choice has its merits. I like Branagh's version too and I think it's a mistake to compare the 2 versions or add a comparison to Olivier either. Judge each on its own merits.

    Looking at this film, Mel Gibson is simply great. His Hamlet is obviously someone with a zest for life and a sense of humor who is completely stunned by the events at the opening of the film and thrown even more off kilter by his father's ghost. All I can say is, I love the way he plays it. The other players are excellent as well. I've never particularly liked Glenn Close's looks, but she's a great actress. Helena is my favorite Ophelia ever. And Alan Bates is superb.

    I've never quite accepted the theory that Hamlet can't make up his mind. Just reading the play one sees Hamlet go from a thirst for blood to messing around with a fencing match because Claudius placed a bet on it. How to explain this? What we are seeing is a bright, brilliant mind going through a nervous breakdown and then regaining sanity.

    You HAVE TO understand, too, that Hamlet can't just go stick a sword in his popular uncle and say his father's ghost told him to do it. Pay attention and it's clear that he needs more than just the word of the ghost and this limits his choices. After the visit from his father's ghost Hamlet seems to be not just feigning madness but literally out of his mind, he's not in control. Hamlet tells us that one reason not to commit suicide is that God has outlawed that choice. If Hamlet accepts that from God, how can he commit murder, even if his father's ghost tells him to? Hamlet's "antic disposition" at the Mousetrap is not an act. And Gibson's Hamlet really is off his rocker when he rails at his mother and accidentally kills Polonius. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are victims of this madness as well.

    The Hamlet who comes back from England isn't charging back to Denmark for revenge, is he? He hardly mentions it. To me, at this point Hamlet HAS made up his mind. He has resigned himself to the fact that he does not want to be a killer and he is going to take things a day at a time. Gibson plays it with this sense of resignation. He still has his intelligence and sense of humor, he's regained control of himself. He is swept into the duel with Laertes willy-nilly, there is no more strategy for killing the king. He's almost beginning to enjoy life again as the duel starts. He even tells Laertes that he was crazy when Polonius was killed and says it wasn't the real Hamlet who did that. It's not until Gertrude is poisoned and Laertes tells Hamlet he is doomed that he explodes with rage again and doubly kills Claudius. His father's murder isn't the reason for this act, it's rage at Claudius for the deaths of Getrude, Laertes, and Hamlet himself.

    Hamlet's fatal flaw isn't indecision, it's his humanity, intelligence, and his conscience. That's the human being that Shakespeare created and Gibson brings to life.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Mel Gibson's HAMLET is a perfectly acceptable 1990s retelling of the Shakespeare play, eclipsed only by Kenneth Branagh's lavish 4-hour epic version that was later put out in 1996. I had the pleasure of seeing the Branagh film at the cinema back in the day, and it's still one of my favourite Shakespeare adaptations. By comparison, this version feels a little glum and subdued, although it's still perfectly watchable.

    One of the things that stands out about this HAMLET is that it has a gloomy and grey look to it; the sort of film that makes you feel the chill while watching. It's set in a forbidding grey stone castle for the most part and feels a lot like both Polanski's MACBETH and IN THE NAME OF THE ROSE. Gibson is a good choice for lead and successfully captures the character's anguish and a descent into madness, while the supporting cast are all very good too with Alan Bates and Ian Holm particularly shining. The film has just the right running time and stages all of the big moments with relish, ending on a high note despite the tragedy of the situation.
  • hardnark29 October 2007
    Hamlet Movie Review

    The movie "Hamlet," released in January 18, 1991, shows director Franco Zeffirelli's selections of Shakespeare's original Hamlet and reflects one intriguing possibility of the text. There are various interpretations of each character and the story; however, no one vision can adequately encompass every perspective of the play. The text, of course, will always exist in permanent form and it is up to the individual's interpretation to make the story their own. Zeffirelli did a terrific job at directing such a complex story into a film easily understood by viewers.

    In most translations from books to movies, producers sacrifice certain elements to narrow the focus and make the film unique to his style. The use of film techniques, compared to the Victorian stage plays, allows different dramatic developments in the story. Thus, the movie unfolds at a different pace than stage play, creating a whole new dynamic between scene transitioning. Christopher de Vore's skill as a screenwriter accurately portrays the characters without detracting from Shakespeare's language. For example, the prologue in the beginning of the movie demonstrates the enthrallment of Hamlet Senior as a ghost. Retaining the originality to the dialogue in the text, the movie is still unique to the director's vision. Most importantly, the director's interpretation of the story works well in developing the depth of each character without creating a new twist in the story of "Hamlet." Although he cut some essential parts from the play, Zeffirelli employed his own style and created an amazing tribute to Shakespeare. He edited parts of the movie and rearranged it to create a story that would make sense to contemporary audiences. Through this, he gives in an apparent life to the play which moves well from beginning to end.

    Shakespeare's play is not at all about the story. The story is just the outer armor on which some life altering metaphoric structure is built around. For example, Hamlet Junior bellows, "Tis true: 'tis true 'tis pity, and pity 'tis true." From Hamlet Junior's first meeting with Hamlet Senior's ghost, he is profoundly disturbed and begins to question his mentality and judgment of reality. Ironically, he pretends to be crazy to conceal his true plans to kill his uncle Claudius. Zeffirelli has a fine sense of coloring in each scene with movement between light and dark, and good and evil. Zeffirelli focuses on the characters and allows them lead the storyline without compromising the text's originality.

    One complaint is that Mel Gibson seemed to be too old for the role of Hamlet, thereby making Glenn Close too young to be Gertrude. The issue of Hamlet's age has always been a problem. According to the text, he is supposed to be in his thirties; however, that makes some of his relationships with Ophelia, for instance, seem pedophiliac. Yet, if Hamlet is portrayed too young, the depth of his thought is almost impossible to imagine. I thought he was a good actor; particularly in reciting the Shakespearean lines is something I have found most important to my understanding of the story. His passion clearly portrays a son who has gone through madness over his father's death, contemplation of murdering his uncle, and the incestuous marriage of his mother. Gibson not only gives a convincing depiction of Hamlet's cloak of madness, but also shows us the desperation of the character in his quiet moments as Hamlet is not a man who could not make up his mind, but rather, one who riddled with uncertainty. Thus, Gibson spends much of the film alternating between mania-induced impulsiveness and paralyzing inability to function with sanity. Glenn Close is amazing as she portrays Gertrude as a real character, with traits both shameful and empathetic. Helena Bonham-Carter's performance is astounding as well, especially her moment of lunacy as Ophelia in reacting to the death of her father, Polonius. The cast of characters in this version of Hamlet was more than enough to bring Shakespeare's stage theater alive on screen.

    Overall, I believe that this is a good foundation to understanding the language of Hamlet further, and would be supplemented with the Shakespearean text. I commend Zeferelli as a master filmmaker for his directing skills. I would promote this acclaimed film to anyone who has ever marveled at Shakespearean language and would like to watch a film literature as well.
  • jcolyer122928 August 2005
    Mel Gibson explained how Hamlet was shot out of sequence. He lamented the film cut the 4 hour play in half and how it is more suited to the stage. He confessed it only "seemed" like he played Hamlet. But it was his portrayal of the confused Dane which made me respect him as an actor. I cared nothing for Mad Max or his previous work. Hamlet is a beautiful film. The grays and browns of the middle ages contrast nicely with the colorful Glenn Close as Gertrude. Hamlet was directed by Franco Zefferelli who did Romeo and Juliet 22 years earlier. I found this remarkable. We are told the themes of Hamlet are revenge, madness and procrastination. Its overwhelming concern is death in all its forms: murder, suicide and natural causes. "To be or not to be." In the graveyard, Hamlet contemplates the skull of a court jester he knew as a child. Shakespeare's greatest play asks life's biggest questions. Why must we die? What is the point of life if we must die? Is there life after death? Heaven? Hell? Biblical thinking pervades the play. There was little science in either mideval Denmark or Elizabethan England. Mel Gibson brought an energy to his role not seen before. His facial expressions show his mental state. Helena Bonham Carter renders a distracted Ophelia.
  • I have to admit I really like this film. Zefferelli is an unappreciated master: he knows how to stage a crowd (essential to his Romeo and Juliet), and move people; how to frame and light a sequence so it flows. He has a fine sense of color and its movement. Moreover, this Hamlet has the very best set, and also to my mind the best Gertrude.

    What he has done is focus on the story. He's chopped and dropped and rearranged to create a story that makes sense. It moves and moves well from beginning to end. But.

    But the problem is that Shakespeare's play is not at all about the story. That's just the skeleton on which some life altering metaphoric structure is built. Now all gone. You'll need Branagh for that, but his story doesn't flow effortlessly as this does.

    Result: If you want Hamlet, seek him elsewhere. If you want a similar, masterful piece of filmwork, look here. The language is fittingly conversational not stentorian, so that the players can manage it. Just as well.

    Ophelia is very pretty, and in her greatly reduced role does well. Her start-double take-astonishment-puzzlement after the play within the play is a moment which will last in your mind. This is an actress to watch.

    Trivia: The incidental Osric here is the wonderful Mercutio in Zefferelli's much earlier Romeo and Juliet around whom the whole play revolves. The First Player (incidental in this version) is the excellent Friar in the other (macho thug MTV) Romeo + Juliet around whom that whole version revolves. Curious.
  • Once again, I read reviews saying this is the worst portrayal of Hamlet in the history of cinema. Hey, I'm not a big fan of Mel Gibson, but this film makes the story and some of the language accessible. Personally, I would much prefer a more sophisticated adaptation, but I have had extensive Shakespeare studies in my education. This is Shakespeare for a more pedestrian audience (young people included) and what's wrong with that? I love classical music and theatre, but the snobbishness that some approach it with is a real turnoff. I believe that for certain individuals, they feel these things need to be protected so they can be the only ones to enjoy these things. I agree that Gibson is much too old to be playing the young prince and it is pretty sparse in language. But isn't it better to have a populace that knows the story and doesn't have to wade through a 60 line soliloquy, than to have them just ignore the whole thing. I showed this to some of my nigh grade students and heard very few complaints.
  • Mel Gibson, Glenn Close, Helena Bonham Carter make this a great version of Hamlet. The camerawork is very intimate- especially the scene where Hamlet confronts his mother in the bedroom. I could almost feel their breath, and when Hamlet holds the skull of Yorick. I wanted to check this one out because a new Hamlet with Ethan Hawke is coming out this summer. This was a very energetic version of Hamlet- I think I understood the Danes madness with Gibson's interpretation.
  • 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."
  • Hamlet (1990) stars Mel Gibson. The film was directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Mel Gibson ranks at the top of my list of unlikeable Hollywood stars. However, as as reviewer, I have to give him credit for doing a creditable job in the demanding role of Hamlet. Film Hamlets don't have to be skilled Shakespearean actors. The ability to murmur a soliloquy that can be heard in the back row of an auditorium isn't required in the movies. The director can order numerous takes until one turns out well. He can use close-ups--as Zeffirelli does--to make sure we understand the actor's emotions. I don't think Gibson would have managed the role onstage, but on the screen he carries it off.

    Glenn Close, as Gertrude, is excellent. This is especially evident in the bedroom ("closet") scene. She really does portray Gertrude's mixture of fear and shame in a convincing manner.

    However, in my opinion, acting honors go to Helena Bonham Carter as Ophelia. Bonham Carter's Ophelia is shy and innocent. She is flattered and frightened by Hamlet's professions of love, and she is crushed by his violent rejection. Most impressive is her portrayal of the mad scenes. She acts these so well that you actually are convinced that you are watching a young woman who has had a descent into mental illness.

    I've watched several Hamlets as part of a Shakespeare on film honors course. Each movie has it's strengths and weaknesses. This Hamlet deserves to be seen. Zeffirelli Is a brilliant director, Mel Gibson is a satisfactory Hamlet, and Helena Bonham Carter is the perfect Ophelia.

    I watched this movie on DVD, but it would do better in a theater. It's worth watching it in whatever format is available.
  • I have not been impressed with most film adaptations off of Shakespeare's work. The only three movies based off of Shakespeare's plays that I would watch are Kurosawa's Ran, the 1970 version of Romeo and Juliet, and this adaptation of Hamlet.

    Even though many of the lead cast members are American, they pull off their roles wonderfully. Like many people, I'm used to seeing Mel Gibson as the tough Mad Max and the humorous Sergeant Riggs, but he gives an intense performance as hamlet. He merely doesn't stick to the play's dialog, but his eyes burn with an intensity that makes me think of the depressed, cunning, and vengeful Hamlet that is in the play.

    Ian Holm is perfect as the Polonius that I imagined from the play, the mumbling, sneaky, and funny but wise old man that works for the deceitful and treacherous Claudius. Helena Bonham Carter is youthful and pretty as Hamlet's doomed lover Ophelia. I can't help but smile when her character goes insane for her nonsense singing reminds much of her marvelous work as Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd. Paul Schofield as the ghost of Hamlet's father is not only frightening but moving as a lost and doomed soul.

    But the thing I liked most about this movie was that it did not retract itself from the Shakespearean language of the play. This not only held true to the play but also made the film itself accurate to the time period.

    In addition, the set-decoration by two-time Oscar winner Dante Ferretti and costume design by Maurizio Millenotti is beautiful. The score by Ennio Morricone (as he always does) sets the mood and pulls me into the film's story. However, like the play, the movie was slow and at times tiresome. Nonetheless, this is a great adaptation of Hamlet that should not be forgotten. 9/10
  • I love this movie, Mel Gibson's performance was Oscar worthy by far one of his best next to Braveheart! I haven't seen very many versions of the classic Shakespeare's play, but two. But this one surpassed the other one by far ! This is my daughters take on this movie.I have seen every one of the older versions of this play.And I can honestly say that his performance is just as good,as the men that portrayed this crazy prince in the past.Mel really made me believe that he was a mad man.He me feel sorry for him and mad at the next.If Shakespeare were alive to see him,in this play he would of loved it as much as I did. Glen Close, was great in this movie;she truly made me think that she too had gone mad.
  • It is one of the joys of Shakespeare that there can be no definitive performances - no single performance can be ‘right', but some can be wrong, and this one is. There are at least two things about Hamlet which cannot be dispensed with: 1. His indecisiveness and inability to take any kind of action. For God's sake that is what makes the play last as long as it does. If you had Othello there instead of Hamlet, Claudius would be dead by the end of Act One. Any production has to try to explain why Hamlet delays, why he is incapable of action. 2. His sexual disgust. His total revulsion at the thought of what his mother and uncle get up to in bed fill him with an utter disgust for all things sexual and this means that any kind of relationship with Ophelia is impossible. At the slightest hint of sex, Hamlet throws up. So, what does Mel Gibson give us? Lusty action-man. You could not get further from the character of Hamlet if you tried. There are lots of ways Hamlet can be played, but this isn't one of them! What I don't understand is since they managed to get such good actors for the other parts - Claudius, Polonius and so on, why couldn't they find one to play Hamlet as well. Mark Rylance in the part would have made this a great film. This ‘Mel Gibson', whoever he is, completely let down the rest of the cast. And lets face it, Hamlet without the prince really doesn't work.
  • Mel Gibson and Franco Zeffirelli's adaptation of Hamlet has filled some of the gaps left by Shakespeare. This version of the classic story is thoroughly watchable. Gibson is perfect as Hamlet the Prince of Denmark, and he is well supported by Glenn Close (Gertrude), Alan Bates (Claudius), Ian Holm (Polonius) and Helena Bonham Carter (Ophelia). However, after already seeing Kenneth Branagh's 4-hour long version, I was left a little let down. Although this version was only 2 hours 20 minutes approximately, it was more boring in parts than Branagh's was. And no one can beat Kate Winslet as Ophelia, though Bonham Carter performed the lunatic scenes extremely well.

    The acting, as is aboveforementioned, is the highlight of this version. You can see the emotions boiling over on Gibson's face, and Close gives Gertrude's nature a remarkable realism as both a worried mother and a lustful lover. Bates is the best Claudius I have ever seen, and Holm displays in Polonius what makes him such a great actor.

    This Hamlet has an extremely good set design that complements the mood of each scene perfectly. The castle has a great look to it, both inside and outside.

    The costumes, particularly those worn by Close, are excellent. They really highlight the mood and temprament of her character perfectly. On top of this, all of the costumes worn by the players (actors in Hamlet's play) in colour and shape symbolise the message that Hamlet was trying to get across.

    Technically, this film is very well put together. The shots are each able to complement the action in that shot. Sound effects, especially in the ghost apparitions, as well as the lighting and juxtapositioning, set the moody feel of the film.

    Of course, one cannot escape comparing this to Branagh's masterpiece, though in its own right is is a great version of Shakespeare's play that, through its star power and easier-to-follow storyline, should attract the younger audiences that saw Baz Lurmann's 'Romeo + Juliet', '10 Things I Hate About You' and will possibly see the upcoming 'O'. ***1/2 out of *****.
  • This is by far the worst version of William Shakespeare's tragic masterpiece I have ever seen. It seems the filmmakers didn't actually read Shakespeare's text. No, they just took what they wanted from the Lawerence Olivier movie. The plot is out of order and slimmed down to its bare necessity, yet there is time for the non-canon Olivier created incest hint between Hamlet and Queen Gertrude. Could we have had the "Something rotten in the state of Denmark" bit instead? Casting is another issue. I understand that the far superior Branagh movie had its weak bits (Robin Williams and Charlton Heston come to mind), but this one has very few good moments. I do like Laertes and Polonius, but the rest of the cast is stale. Mel Gibson's creepy stubble is irritating, and one often wonders if he has any idea what he is saying. Many of the actors seem to have just memorized the part--they know less about what is being said than sophomores in high school.

    If you want a version of Hamlet, check out Kenneth Branagh's or even Lawerence Olivier. To be frank, even Disney's Hamlet is better.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I really loved this film version of "Hamlet." Yes, Mel Gibson was on the old side to play Hamlet, but as one poster said, Hamlet's age is a little difficult to figure out in the best of times. It was a challenge for Gibson to take on this film, and he was up to the challenge. Glenn Close made an excellent Gertrude. The entire cast was wonderful.

    The scene that will always stay with me is the one between Hamlet and his father's ghost. I'm not sure what there was about it, but I saw it on the big screen, and it was so breathtaking to me, I thought my heart would stop. It was just one of those moments, what can I say - but it was a beautiful scene. The other scene I loved was the mother-son business between Hamlet and his mother - as the years go on, that scene goes a little further with the affection each time. I found it, in the hands of such fine actors, fascinating.

    One thing that struck me big time was that, when Gertrude went to drink the poison toward the end, a lot of the audience was screaming at her not to drink it. I commented to my friend later, what a bunch of plebeians, they don't know the story of HAMLET? (On the TV show "Odd Couple," after Felix's sinus surgery, he couldn't see, and Oscar read him Hamlet. Tired of it, Oscar ends with, "And they live happily ever after." Felix says, "Nobody lives happily in Hamlet. Nobody lives.") But I realized what a great compliment that was to the film, that people who perhaps ordinarily wouldn't go to see a movie version of a Shakespearian play went to see this, perhaps because of Gibson, and got into it.
  • Well, to each his own, but I thought Gibson's Hamlet was the most god-awful rendition I had ever witnessed... as subtly nuanced as a paper bag, and as inspired as a telemarketing call. The only reason I watched the movie through to the end was that I held out hope that either it would get better or become unintentionally funny. No luck.

    No disrespect for the supporting cast or for Zefferelli's staging, but nothing can make up for the bungling of the main character. I have seen Hamlet well-portrayed as an African prince, as an animated lion, as a rough-and-tumble warrior, as a romantic poet, etc. etc. etc. . But IMHO this portrayal was just a plentiful lack of wit together with most weak hams.
  • Hamlet - Possibly the greatest play of all time and Zeffirelli and DeVore butchered it into an incoherent and unmoving series of events with flat characters who act without any apparent motivations. For example, Horatio (in the play) is the model of friendship and yet, we have no sense of that relationship between him and Hamlet. And what of poor Ophelia? Why did she go insane? Who Knows? She shows no true feelings for Hamlet except annoyance and fear. Her father treats her like a dog. She seems to love her brother, Laertes, and he is safe in France so what's there to go mad about? Polonius is just a jerk and there is no indication of his political motives and fawning manipulations. The Ghost is a weepy shadow of his former self and conveys none of the anger or horror of his own murder.

    So here you have weak, flat and uninteresting characters in a script that can only be described as a jumbled perversion of the original. ("Get thee to a nunnery" during the play?!?!) One is forced to laugh in many places where laughter is not intended ("Meet it is I set it down..."), but it is a bitter laugh at best. Unbelievable. I must find great fault in the direction, also. How Zeffirelli can misuse such accomplished actors as Ian Holm and Paul Scofield is beyond me. Also Michael Maloney (who was able to read a line with honest conviction of his character despite the director) was so appallingly underused that one could only feel sorry for him. This is exactly the type of Shakespeare that you were exposed to in high school. You remember those days. Long, mind-numbing readings of Romeo and Juliet followed by that horrible Olivia Hussey film? It was enough to make you hate the Bard. Rent Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet. It is infinitely superior to Zeffirelli's. Branagh's passion for the play is more than evident and his skill in bringing it to the screen is unsurpassed. Branagh exemplifies why Shakespeare's work has survived so long. Zeffirelli illustrates why high school kids see it as an endurance trial.
  • I saw this film as I love the play and I do like Franco Zeffirelli(especially for his opera films like La Traviata). While this 1990 film is far from terrible, it is the weakest for me of the three Hamlet films I've seen- I loved Branagh's and especially Olivier's- and possibly Zeffirelli's weakest Shakespeare adaptation also. It does have some undeniably good points, it is very well made with very evocative scenery, beautiful atmospheric lighting, sumptuous costuming and cinematography that is moody yet shimmering. The music is haunting and the sound effects really enhance the mood. The script is condensed, but still is very powerful and moving when needed. Ian Holm is a very effective Polonious, the character is creepier than one would expect but it proved to be an interesting touch. Mel Gibson was better than expected, initially it does scream disaster but actually he is charismatic and delivers his lines with meaning. He is perhaps too old for the role(but understandably as other reviewers have pointed out) and Branagh and Olivier conveyed Hamlet's tragedy more convincingly but coming from a non-fan of Gibson this is not a bad performance at all. The acting honours go to Glenn Close, whose Gertrude is beautifully elegant, expressive and sincere. On the other hand, while it is a long play with much complexity and so forth(therefore a slow unfolding pace is necessary) there are some scenes that do come about as too drawn-out and laborious. Zeffirelli I do like for his sumptuous style and how directs actors(and singers), but he does bring forth ideas that are interesting in hindsight but don't do very well in terms of the motivations of the characters, Orphelia and Claudius in particular really suffer from this, and like his Jane Eyre it does get pedestrian in places. Two performances don't work. Alan Bates did have potential to, he is a great actor and has done creepy and evil very well before in The Shout for example. But, not helped by the fact that the scenes make Claudius the character he is are severely reduced, consequently Bates is never evil enough. The worst offender though is Helena Bonham Carter, she has given very good performances(A Room with a View, Sweeney Tood and Howards End) before and like Bates seemed ideal for the role. The reasons why she wasn't is largely again to do with Zeffirelli, the idea to not have Orphelia poignant and meek and instead have her as the complete opposite, strong-willed and almost headstrong was a big mistake, undermining her lunacy scenes. Whereas they should be moving, this change to the character is partly why Bonham Carter's performance feels wildly overacted. On the whole, didn't really work from my perspective but it is not a bad film. 6/10 Bethany Cox
  • Admittedly, the only reason I watched this film -- since it's been about a decade since it was released -- was because of Ian Holm; I was intrigued to see his portrayal of my second-favorite character in this play. At any rate, this film is as gritty as anything the Old Zeff has produced since "Jesus of Nazareth." But some of the best parts of the play have been left out. I understand the directing/editing choices, but I don't think that it really does justice to the play. Perhaps I'm too much a purist. I would have to direct people (who have read this far) toward Branagh's version, if it weren't that I despise his tendency toward over-dramatization. All the same, he plays a better Hamlet than Gibson. But then, weren't we all waiting for Gibson to prove himself as an actor? Now, all he's done is to prove that he wants to make films in extinct languages.

    ...Perhaps the only Shakespearean-worthy acting here is Scofield as The Ghost.
  • erosmarogy30 December 2005
    "To be or not to be..." is no longer the question. Now, it is to see or not to see Franco Zefferelli's 1990 Version of Hamlet.

    Shakespeare wrote this infamous play during his third period, more commonly known as his dark period. He could never have imagined how popular this play was to become.

    True to the period it was written in Hamlet is a dark, or tragic play. It follows one mans journey from normalcy to insanity because of the unfaithfulness of his incestuous mother after his father's murder. In this remake of the classic Franco Zefferelli turns a morose and somewhat confusing play into a vibrant, clear and dare I say, upbeat production that everyone should watch.

    I was a bit hesitant at first to watch the movie because Mel Gibson was playing the lead of Hamlet. I did not think that he'd be believable in that role, but he really proved me wrong. His interpretation of the character gave me an understanding of the plot that I didn't have after merely reading the play and watching the Kenneth Branagh version of the play. To say that his film cleared up a few things would certainly be an understatement. He played the role perfectly.

    Another wonderful actor who must be mentioned is Helena Bonham-Carter as Ophelia. She gave the term crazy a whole new definition. A character that goes over the hill in the midst of the film must be able to forget about everyone else and only play on his or her reason of instant insanity. She does this so well that by the end one doesn't know where Ophelia ends and Helena begins.

    The film did have a few shortcomings such as the director's choice of season and his butchering of the play. Yet, it's true that sacrifices must be made for the benefit of the contemporary audience. No one in today's day and age would like to sit through a complete, uncut, three-hour version of Hamlet. Therefore Zefferelli's actions can be forgiven and even, thanked. His choice of season though, remains an issue. Had he done it in winter, there would be added symbolism that was not seen in the movie. Other than that, Zefferelli made good choices from the actors to the music to the choreography of the duels.

    In an overall view of Franco Zefferelli's 1990 version of Hamlet starring Mel Gibson, it was phenomenal. It had all of the qualities of a modern day hit with none of the redundant story lines. To call this film a must-see isn't giving it enough credit.
  • I love the play of Hamlet thats why I don't like this movie. For one thing they cut out almost half of the text including some of the most important moments in the play.

    With the exception of Glenn Close and Ian Holm the performances are quite simply sub-par especially in the case of Helena Bohnam Carter as Ophelia.

    The film seems to be an attempt at complimenting the Lawrence Oliver version of 1948. Both deal completely with the psychological while omitting the political and they both go with the Freuden theory of the Oedipal complex. This was most apparent when they showed Hamlet thrusting at Gertrude in her bed. The problem with this interpretation is that in order to support it you must disregard everything you know about the culture of the renaissance.

    They also cut out the Act 4 Scene 4 soliloquy, granted about 90% of the Hamlet films do but this simply shows a misunderstanding of the text. That soliloquy is the second turning point, the moment where Hamlet realizes his duty and becomes a man, and the entire fifth act seems like a mindless contradiction without it.

    If you want to see a film of Hamlet from someone who actually understands the play I suggest Kenneth Branagh's film.
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