(David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, Penny Downie, Oliver Ford Davies, Mariah Gale, et al / DVD / NR / 2010 / BBC Home Video)
Overview: David Tennant and Patrick Stewart star in this critically acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s masterpiece from Britain’s renowned Royal Shakespeare Company.
DVD Verdict: I have no doubt that this updated rendition of Hamlet looks marvelous on stage. Unfortunatly the production of this film cannot seem to shake it's stage roots, making it a sometimes awkward experience.
This version of 'Hamlet' (as you probably know) updates the tale top modern day times with a bit of cold-war mentality mixed in. The use of 'black and white' security footage is a nice homage to old thrillers giving it a cold, isolated atmosphere and the feeling of paranoia between chracters comes off quite well throughout the story.
Unfortunatly the director decided to keep the camera stationary throughout most of it's scenes eliminating any personal connection you have with the setting and characters. The close-ups look great as do the more enclosed scenes (the bit on the stairs with Ophelia and Laertes was very well shot, as was the 'mouse-trap' performance scene) but with bigger sets the movie looks stagey and unauthentic (the opening with the ghost looks rediculous!).
The one consistanly good thing about this movie version of Hamlet is it's acting. David Tennant is VERY impressive as the title character (with not a hint of Dr. Who, even in Hamlet's more humerous scenes). With every motion, every expression perfectly in tune his performance is really something to see!
Patrick Stewart is equally good as Claudius (though I'd expect nothing less from the theater veteran). Mariah Gale plays a more laid-back, reserved Ophelia but I quite liked her performance (her break-down scenes are terrific!).
In fact the whole cast is perfectly in character and really do comendable jobs. It's really unfortunate the sometimes boring camera work (which I mentioned above) makes alot of the more emotional scenes look cheesy and awkward. Suprisingly though the characters addressing the camera didnt' bother me as much as I thought it would.
While I have mixed feelings about this TV production of Hamlet the performances and updating of this familir tale are absoluely stunning! I know I'll never get to see this version of Hamlet on stage which is really a shame because there's no doubt in my mind it would look terrific. Unfortunatly the sometimes boring camera work makes for a very uneven TV experience. [JB] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Commentary by Gregory Doran, Sebastian Grant, and Chris Seager
The Making of 'Hamlet'