21 October 2003 | kaaber-2
Best Hamlet I ever saw.
And I think I've seen the lot, from Olivier through Gibson to Branagh. If Scott Campbell misses perfection, it's by a hair. Apart from the fact that American English is better suited to Shakespeare (historically, I mean - the posh British King's English didn't arrive until 1710 when German George I came to the throne - and it's a crying shame that this version leaves out the best example of a pun that only works in American English, Hamlet's "tropically" - a pun on "trap") - I think that Campbell hits that delicate balance between being both someone we like and side with, and also an irritating, spoiled brat. It's an amazing job. Best performance I have ever seen. Hats off.
Among the few reservations (to the film, not to Campbell)is that the film lets the ghost interfere with Hamlet's assassination in the prayer scene. I believe the abortive murder here is entirely due to Hamlet's invalid subterfuge - his father would prefer to have his brother bumped off whenever. I don't think Ophelia should be present when Hamlet is exposed as her father's murderer.
However, two things make up for this in full: that we have a blood-soaked Hamlet making jokes about Polonius' death (which displays Hamlet as the self-absorbed brat Shakespeare intended him to be), and we expose Hamlet's final betrayal of his father when he signs the entire kingdom off to Norway (the ghost appears also in the final scene, looking very dismayed). Hamlet never avenges his father, not in Shakespeare, a fact that has been overlooked for 400 years, but this version suggests it.
But the best feature of the film is Scott's performance. I don't think anyone can take Hamlet, or Shakespeare for that matter, further in the direction of naturalistic acting. All stilted pronunciation and over-articulated syllables that we are frequently served are banished from this production; Scott could have spoken his lines on a bus, and no fellow passengers would suspect that they were Shakespeare. Scott's fast.talking, neurotic and endearingly gawky Dane is the best Hamlet I ever saw.