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  • All interpretations are valid to some respect, I suppose, but some choices the director makes end up radically altering the flow of the play; and any choice that REQUIRES excising 'inconvenient' bits of the text must be considered an alteration of the playwright's intent, rather than an interpretation. A few comments:

    1) Campbell Scott's portrayal was quite good; he played Hamlet quietly and intensely rather than explosively, which is fair enough. But the decision to underplay other characters came off less well. For instance, Claudius barely seemed upset at all during his "My offense is rank" soliloquy. THIS was a soul in torment? (But bland Claudii are a pet peeve of mine.) And Gertrude, in her closet, often seemed unperturbed that she'd just seen her son kill a man. And most of all, having Laertes give his "That drop of blood which is calm proclaims me bastard!" speech in a controlled, subdued manner is basically an oxymoron. On the other hand, keeping the emotional level low was effective in creating an atmosphere of tension and creepiness throughout, rather than one of high drama and spectacle.

    2) Nonetheless, POLONIUS IS A COMIC CHARACTER!!! To play him straight, with unrelenting quiet dignity, changes the whole tone of the first half of the play. You're SUPPOSED to laugh through the first two acts, to set you up for the shift that comes in with "The Mousetrap" and culminates in Polonius's death. Polonius, like Mercutio in "Romeo and Juliet", is a representation of Comedy itself, and his death marks the point from which there's no escape from tragedy. I see nothing gained by stripping Polonius of his laughs, and much lost (including, if nothing else, our simple AFFECTION for the character).

    3) Another pet peeve: I own 6 "Hamlets" on DVD, 4 of them substantially 'complete', and yet EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM cuts Hamlet's observation: "This is the imposthume of much wealth and peace, which inward breaks and gives no outward show why the man dies" (said upon seeing the forces of Norway headed for Poland). This line is VITAL, because it is Hamlet's value judgment on Fortinbras; this is the line that shows that Fortinbras is a yob. As Hamlet admires the Player's capacity for passion while recognizing the absurdity of his concern "for Hecuba", so does he admire Fortinbras' boldness while recognizing the absurdity of wasting 2,000 men and 20,000 ducats "for a straw." And if it's not made clear that Fortinbras is an absurdity, then the irony of Hamlet's turning-over of Denmark to him at the end of the play is lost... (end of rant)

    On the whole, if you're familiar with 'Hamlet' already I would say that this might be an interesting addition to your viewing inventory, but I would NOT recommend it as your first encounter with the work.
  • I collect Hamlets. My premise is it doesn't have to be an uncut "eternity" version to get a good score. This is the best Hamlet I have on my shelf. At 3 hrs (vs the uncut 4), it's just right - not much lost, & a whole lot better than the 2 hr versions.

    Campbell Scott plays Hamlet as a man teetering on the brink of insanity. The amazing thing is that he does this in a generally quiet way. He doesn't depend on yelling or racing around to form the character.

    Bar none, I have never seen a better Horatio than John Benjamin Hickey. Author Kurt Vonnegut referred to Horatio as a "sane & decent man," & that's exactly how Hickey plays him. He's loyal but softly outspoken, a wonderful contrast to Rosencrantz & Guildenstern. Watch him in the last few moments of his Prince's life as he gently rocks Hamlet in his arms.

    This version avoided two of my pet peeves: Ophelia is not jail bait & Gertrude really was old enough to be Hamlet's mother. It makes me crazy when a 30 year old Hamlet has a 15 yr old Ophelia & a 35 yr old Mom! All in all, this one of the best composite casts I've seen. The approach is definitely different from versions that are more physical (Mel Gibson) or "faithful" to the Bard (Nicol Williamson), but when I first saw this I fell in love with everything except the annoying piano score. There are bits of action unique to this production that will make you catch your breath. I won't give you the details; don't want to ruin the surprises.

    Enjoy!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Campbell Scott deserves an award for his acting and directing in this adaptation. I've never seen an actor who so emphasized Hamlet's youth and youthful insecurities. SPOILERS...For instance, in one of the first scenes, Claudius strongarms the young prince, who looks weak and vulnerable next to his experienced uncle, by ripping off his mourning band and aggressively embracing him. Then, at the end of one soliloquy, when Hamlet is screaming "Vengeance!" he tries to rip his uncle's portrait from the wall, only to have it fall on him.

    Yet Scott does not render the tragic hero absurd by stopping here. Instead, his Hamlet achieves a hard-won victory over the awkwardness and self-doubt of youth. This victory is beautifully portrayed in the confrontation scene between Hamlet and Gertrude. Gertrude tries to cow her son into filial submission by slapping his face, not once but twice. Scott's acting at this point really captures Hamlet's struggle to assert his manhood, and in the end he wins the struggle. The Hamlet of the last scenes differs very much from his earlier appearances. By the time he examines Yorick's skull, he has grown the beginnings of a beard and comes off wiser and stronger. By contrast, Claudius grows weaker, until Hamlet exerts complete mastery over him. (By the way, I have no idea what "kaaber-2" means when he suggests that Hamlet never avenges his father in this movie. In fact, he repeatedly slashes Claudius with a poisoned sword, impales him with same, and then pours a poison drink down his throat. Looked like revenge to me.)

    Another complexity that Scott explores is whether Hamlet's insanity is at all genuine. Scott plays a Hamlet who, on account of his supernatural encounter, is actually on the verge of insanity, not simply "mad in craft."

    Unfortunately, the supporting cast in this movie is weak. I found Ophelia totally unconvincing, particularly in the mad scenes, where she looks quite sane aside from having tangled hair. The rest of the characters are merely passable, and Jamey Sheridan can't hold a candle to Derek Jacobi's Claudius in Branagh's film. Also, the jazzy music, though one gets used to it, adds little or nothing, and the movie could have been improved by a more appropriate score.
  • I have seen several different versions of "Hamlet" with various actors playing the title role, but Campbell Scott's portrayal is one of the best, revealing Hamlet's thoughts and emotions as if the viewer were inside his mind. Hamlet's decline into madness was justified (rather than simply "going insane" because the script ordered insanity) by the midnight vision of the ghost, and his flirtation with suicide was logical yet gripping. Perhaps the highest praise I can bestow is that, even though I was familiar with the play, I understood the inner motivations of the main characters in a fresh new way. Bravo!
  • In Shakespeare's play, not only Hamlet has more than one side. But here, the supporting characters are one-dimensionalized. Polonius, who a generation ago was often played as too silly, is played as too dignified; his speech seems not to wander but to march triumphantly on thin air. Claudius misses the chance in the prayer scene to show a private self appreciably unlike his public self. And Ophelia does the mad scene without any development or continuity of feeling. It's a good contrast to Hamlet's madness-- he's possessed; she's, as it were, dispossessed-- but that's all it is; neither she nor anyone else really counterbalances Campbell Scott's Hamlet. It's a good, energetic, intelligent but lonely performance.
  • Usually, Americans playing Shakespeare make a hash of the language - see "Much Ado About Nothing" with Keanu Reeve and Robert Sean Leonard for unassailable proof. In this version of "Hamlet", though, Campbell Scott's unassuming, straightforward delivery of some of Shakespeare's most challenging lines is almost flawless. It is not that the American accent is unsuited to dealing with Elizabethan English, it seems, but the tradition of allowing the language to speak for itself is usually lacking with American actors. They seem to need to imbue everything with their own idea of what the character's emotional state should be, which the language, if it is powerful enough, should be able to do all by itself. As a result of seeing this version of "Hamlet", I have had to rethink completely my prejudices about Americans playing Shakespeare.
  • 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.
  • I have watched many versions of Hamlet. Some good and some bad. But this is the first Hamlet where I practically understand all of Hamlet's soliloques! Campbell Scott's performance as Hamlet really won me over. He plays Hamlet as a sensitive young man trying to come to grips with his father's untimely death and his mother's hasty marriage to his uncle. When this Hamlet sees the ghost of his father, he pretty much goes mad. And I mean, not just playing mad, but going mad.

    There is something in the way that Campbell Scott saids his lines that makes me totally understand what Hamlet is feeling. Often times, I don't understand everything that Hamlet saids, but this time, I understood practically everything!

    The rest of the cast is very good, especially Blair Brown who plays the queen.

    I've watched this movie two times because I was fascinated by Campbell Scott's great performance. This was one of the few movie rentals that I've enjoyed in a long time.

    Anyone who likes Shakespeare's work will love this version.
  • Vincentiu19 January 2007
    I saw this film at first for the ordinary curiosity. Campell Scott is a good actor and his director work can create a conclusive message about an artistic vision and answer for the Hamlet definition. The final impression- a decorous movie and a subtle adaptation.

    A delicate miniature with beautiful reflection. Or a spring butterfly. Accuracy, sensitivity, minuteness, theater experience, respect for play and nice flavor. Result of noble ambition and 29 days. But only a honest film and this fact is not a error of director or actors, fruit of clichés but element of special dross. Hamlet has many masks for a spectator. It is a Laurence Olivier's Hamlet,a Ion Caramitru's Hamlet, a Ethan Hawke's Hamlet, a Mel Gibson's Hamlet and many others Hamlets. They are parts of a huge image- in same time, illusion and reality- not of a acting manner or acting school/stile/conception but of the definition of reader/public.

    Two elements of this Hamlet are relevant: Roscoe Lee Browne in beautiful Polonius skin and barefooted prince. It is enough for a TV version who must offers only a poor suggestion about a Hamlet vision, a personal question to the daily anxiety. And the form of a Sunday afternoon film is the best.
  • Hamlet set in the pre-Civil War American South (more or less). Claudius, looks vaguely like a recent US president and talks with an Arkansas drawl. Polonius and Ophelia are Black; Polonius is the mansion's major-domo. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern dress, look, and talk like a couple of Mafiosi. The Ghost is a hoot. Hamlet, who speaks with a Midwestern accent, tends to mumble a bit

    The text is straight Shakespeare--not a scene or even a line seems to be missing.

    The strange thing about this pastiche is that it's engaging and actually works.
  • winner5516 July 2006
    6/10
    Scott
    This film has a lot of problems. It looks made for TV; it is overlong; the transposition to of the plot to 19th century America makes no sense. But the real weakness of the film is Cambell Scott.

    The popularization of Freudian psychoanalysis has made it very easy to read Hamlet as neurotic; and very easy, too, to read his relationship with his mother as "Oedipal" fixation. Consequently, some readings of Hamlet have the whole play revolve around the question of whether Hamlet is mad, or just neurotic (and with good reason to be upset at his Step-dad).

    All this should only remind us that Freudianism is a terrible trivialization of human personality.

    If the reader really needs a one-sentence reduction of Hamlet it is this: Both Hamlet's father and his uncle-stepfather are barbarian bullies from Hell, and Hamlet is trying very hard not to be.

    Notice that Mom of Denmark doesn't really show up in this equation. Nor does the avoidance of Hell seem to be an overly neurotic concern (certainly not for an Elizabethan).

    Scott gives us a 20th century post-Freudian Hamlet. Of course the complex morality of the piece gets entirely lost.

    Everybody here tries hard, but it's just not convincing.
  • I have seen a few Shakespeare plays and read some of his comedies in high school, but shamefully never have actually read Hamlet. I had this version of the movie with Campbell Scott and had started to watch it several times and fell asleep. Finally one afternoon when I was more awake, I put the movie in again, with the subtitles on, and quickly found myself completely absorbed in the story, but mainly in Campbell Scott's performance, the screen play, and editing of the film. I felt the screen play itself conveyed the movie clearly, especially considering I really knew nothing of the story, but the the flow of the play, the camera view points and scene content made it very easy to understand. I attribute this to the editing as well, with the segues and general lack of lag on any character or scene making the story interesting and quick moving. Above and beyond all of this though, I thought the actors, using such proper inflection, truly conveyed the meaning of the dialogue. I felt that Campbell Scott's performance was particularly compelling and I hung on each word, delighting in the inflection on each word or phrase, which in itself often drove the humor to fruition in those lines meant to be humorous. After having watched the film, twice, I was then inspired to read the play. I think now I will read more of the plays and seek out the films as well. I hope everyone enjoys this version of Hamlet as much as I did. Thank you.
  • My mother found this movie in a discount bin at Wal-Mart and, knowing I'm an English major, sent it to me from Maine to Arkansas. I picked it up in my mailbox and brought it with me to my Shakespeare class. My professor got a kick out of it, 'cause Shakespeare is his concentration and he'd never heard of this adaptation. He made fun of it a bit, calling it my "Hallmark Hamlet." We all teased the innocent movie for a while and I tucked it away while we went on discussing King Lear.

    Well, I didn't have a TV or VCR in the dorms, so I tucked it away for a while; I knew full well that there was no way my girlfriend was going to let me use her VCR (which I had actually leant to her) to watch a Shakespeare film other than A Midsummer Night's Dream. But when I finally did get my own place and took my VCR back, the first thing I did was put in my Hallmark Hamlet and press play.

    At first I couldn't help but make fun of the campy acting, but the more I watched, the more I bought the lines they spoke. There is something very odd about this adaptation which I haven't found in any other Shakespeare movies: the acting is totally phony and yet paradoxically believable at the same time. The expressions on the actors faces along with the varying tones in their speech (except a dreadful Laertes) really spoonfeeds the viewer the material without dumbing down the language.

    Most people will admit, I think, that Shakespeare was never really a plot man. Most of his plots were actually driven by some goofy storylines. It was his dialogue that made him the legend that he is. Most Shakespeare films I've seen are so interested in making the acting as fluent and realistic as possible that they neglect the actual lines. They fly through verse after verse the way we would in modern conversation without giving the language time to marinate in our gooey gray matter. Campbell Scott's Hamlet really does slow everything down to a pace that actually allows meditation on the lines.

    Other comments about the movie--the anachronisms (spelling?) work well and I loved Hamilton's Ophelia. When she sings her little lunatic song, it really breaks your heart. They really shouldn't have cut as many of her lines as they did. Oh, but I've got to say the second Ghost scene was more annoying than intense. I didn't really understand why the ghost would want to put his son through the pain he himself suffered, and the high pitched ringing drove me insane. That said, the idea of having the hand come up from below when they were swearing the oath, that was just cool. But anyway, I need to get back to my book. I was hoping to finish The Life and Death of King John acts 1 and 2 by the time my girlfriend got home. Later!
  • One of the better version of Hamlet I ever seen despite some weak performances. Scott Campbell did a moving job as the doom Danish prince. His portrayal convey the question whether or not Hamlet was really mad or just putting on an "antic disposition". Lisa Gay Hamilton did a passing job as Ophelia. Her madness scene was done with quiet sensitivity yet anger lies beneath the surface, but what came before was pure blandness. Roscoe Lee Browne played Polonius, not as a rambling baffoon, but as a pompous arrogant, and it worked well. Jamey Sheridan played Claudia with cool calculation, and a few times let his emotion comes through, but the praying scene left me cold. Blair Brown as Gertrude did a fine job, but she seem to held back. The confrontation scene between Hamlet and his mother could of been done with more emotion from Blair Brown herself. Other good performances came from John Benjamin Hinkley as the loyal and dependable Horatio, and Michael Imperioli and Marcus Giamatti as uptight snobbish Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The only real weakness came from Roger Guenveur Smith as Laertes. He emotion, his tone of voice just didn't change from beginning to the end, despite a few not so convincing outburst.

    I like how this movie rearrange the scene like having the "fish monger" comes after the famous "To Be or Not To Be". I like how the Ghost had Hamlet feel the effect of the poison, how the ghost reach out from the sandy ground and grab the sword when Hamlet had Horatio and Marcellus swore to secrecy, and how the Ghost held Polonius' body up causing Gertrude to scream before reminding Hamlet of his promise.

    Campbell is the best Hamlet I've seen, just above Branagh. But Branagh's version was better.
  • This was a fine production. Since I have admired Ms Brown's work,since I met her in 1983 on the Kennedy miniseries . It was difficult for me to totally engage myself into the production the first time I viewed it. She was magnificent as always. I hope to work with her again.