I'm not sure I should admit that age 37 I've never really seen Hamlet before. I never read it in high school or university. Never saw it on stage before. And the only time I've sen it as a movie was when Mel Gibson was trying to prove a point about his acting chops and Glenn Close was playing his mother, although they were barely a few years apart in age.
But I've just finished watching Kenneth Branagh's version of Hamlet. It was a spur of the moment pick-up when I was back home during the summer because I had read so many positive things about his adaptation. I don't think it did well at the box office, but then again, it's more than four hours long. That's kind of pushing the endurance of your average film goer. Then again, this is the unabridged Hamlet. If I understand, every single scene from the play is here. No cuts for time or the smallness of the audience's bladder. Here it is, in all its glory.
I'm not going to review Hamlet. That would be very much folly as people a lot smarter than I have written at length about the play. For that matter, here's Roger Ebert reviewing the movie. And I agree with just about everything he said. I think much of what kept me away for the play was that it was supposedly so complex, so very dreary and that Hamlet was a whinny git. And really, who wants to spend hours watching a whinny git, be it either on stage or at a movie theatre.
And yet watching this, Branagh doesn't play Hamlet as git. There is vitality, passion and anger. There is surprising humour scattered throughout. And the look of the movie is astonishing. It's beautiful to look at, even if I confess to not always completely understanding what the actors are saying. This isn't a dumbed down Hamlet. Keep up if you can. If you can't, well, lord knows there are enough articles written about Hamlet over the years. Go find one, watch the movie and hit pause when you get confused.
I'll likely watch it again in a few months time, if for no other reason then I'm dying to hear Branagh's commentary, which I imagine will be fascinating. I also have to watch a couple of other related movies. I bought Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead a couple of weeks ago, but wouldn't watch it until I finished with Hamlet first. I remember loving it when it was released back in the early 90s. I also remembering seeing my friend Jaap star in a production of it at MUN, along with Aiden Flynn, that remains some of the most fun I've ever had at a play. It's a nice companion piece to this, I think.
And since I'm apparently on a Branagh kick, I'll have to rewatch Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing. Henry V is awesome. Ado is pretty good, although watching Keanu Reeves and Michael Keaton trying to do Shakespeare is a touch painful.
Cathy's going to go mad, I suspect. I think she got burnt out on Shakespeare studying English at MUN and here I am, wanting to watch hours of it on TV.