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Hamlet (2009) (BBC) (DVD)
It's to director Gregory Doran's incredible credit that his staging of that most familiar of English-language plays, Shakespeare's Hamlet, should be completely reinvigorated by a modern interpretation of the tragedy as a true psychological thriller. This Hamlet, filmed in 2009, presents the inner torment of the Danish prince Hamlet as a believable, relatable controlled explosion of emotions, each more unmanageable than the last. Besides the director, the casting is also brilliant, including the Scottish actor David Tennant (Doctor Who) as Hamlet and Patrick Stewart as Hamlet's uncle Claudius and the ghost of Hamlet's father--who, Hamlet becomes convinced, was killed by Claudius. The direction is brisk, and the acting is first rate. Tennant plays a heartbreaking Hamlet, whose paranoia and weird inner reflections are given a modern spin by the lush, shiny mirrorlike surfaces in the palace, as well as by small but excellent details, like a closed-circuit camera system. And Stewart is menacing but completely collected as Claudius, and unnerving as his brother's ghost. Other strong performances are contributed by Penny Downie as Hamlet's mother, Gertrude; Mariah Gale as Ophelia (who's not quite up to par with the rest of the cast, until she goes mad; then boy does she ever go mad); and Oliver Ford Davies as Polonius. But it's Tennant as the mad prince who is riveting in Hamlet. His "To be or not to be, that is the question" soliloquy--perhaps the best-known speech in English theater--is delivered in a hushed, anguished, all-too-believable manner--occasionally addressing the camera, which is fixed close on Tennant's face. The DVD also includes a must-see documentary on making Hamlet, which includes great interviews with director Doran, cast members and the art directors, set designers and others who give this Hamlet a fresh, polished sheen--while keeping the ages-old tragedy of Shakespeare's words and the explosion of needless death close to the original. The impact is unforgettable; this Hamlet is a terrific achievement. --A.T. HurleySee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Prince Hamlet of Denmark (Tennant) is understandably upset when, only a short time after his father's death, his mother Gertrude (Penny Downie) marries his uncle Claudius (Stewart). But when Hamlet encounters the tormented ghost of his father (Stewart again), he learns that his dad was murdered by his uncle -- but he's plagued by indecision, since he's unsure if the spirit was truly his dad.
Hamlet's behavior becomes more bizarre and erratic -- he dumps his girlfriend Ophelia (Mariah Gale), arranges a play that mimics real life a little too closely, and generally acts like a loon (yodeling with a fake crown?). But when an argument with his mother ends in tragedy, Hamlet's fate is sealed as Claudius begins plotting to get rid of him too...
"Hamlet" is one of those plays that only really comes out two ways -- either you have a passionate, intense tragedy full of very human characters, or you have two boring hours of some whiny guy talking to himself. Having suffered through the latter in the past, it makes me appreciate a well-done performance all the more -- and this "Hamlet" is full of energy, vitality and wit.
A lot of that comes from Tennant, who is simply brilliant as Hamlet -- loads of energy, and a weird edge to his "madness" (example: freaking out Polonius by pulling a weird face).Read more ›
Now, having watched this I must say I am hugely impressed. He does not act Hamlet. He is Hamlet. In fact he has a certain quirkiness that lends itself to Hamlet's feigned madness. Even though we know he is putting on an antic disposition, because he says so, yet we don't know if he has crossed the line from feigned madness to real madness. We do have good reason to wonder given the extremity of what happens.
If you're like me, as you watch this version the fresh insights come dripping fast. What struck me particularly were the parallels between Hamlet, Ophelia, and Laertes, all of whom have experienced the same event, the murder of the father. Hamlet responds by pretending madness but being passive and indecisive, considering suicide as in being and non being, Ophelia responds with real madness and actual suicide, and Laertes responds in a more active way by decisively challenging Hamlet to avenge the death of both his father and his sister.
The queen falls under the witchcraft and wits of Claudius gifts, with witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,-- O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power to seduce our seeming virtuous queen. Apparently, this is a rather pointed reference to Archbishop W(h)itgift, who with his Machiavellian tactics seduced the ear of Queen Elizabeth. In any event this reference was removed from the original 1603 quarto, reappearing in the 1604 quarto, after Whitgift, and Elizabeth's death.
I loved this modernised version of Hamlet, with the original language, with the closed circuit tv's, reinforcing the idea that Hamlet was being constantly watchied by double dealing courtiers.Read more ›
The performance seemed to me to fall off somewhat in the second half, largely because of cuts — the Act IV soliloquy is butchered into meaninglessness, for example (though it can be argued that it's redundant anyway), and the episode on the ship to England is cut completely, which is astonishing — but also because of a certain slackening of the tension in the performances.
But overall, this is extremely worthwhile. If you only watch one performance, try to make it this one; it’s one of the most revelatory Shakespeare productions I’ve seen.
Most recent customer reviews
By far the most nuanced and moving performance of Hamlet I have ever had the pleasure of seeing performed.Published 7 months ago by Terin
Love it. Having watched Lawrence Olivier, Derek Jacobi, and Kenneth Branagh starring as Hamlet, I must say this is my favorite version. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Anna O
One of the best versions of Hamlet out there. Approachable and modern yet very classically Shakespeare.Published 13 months ago by Poetry Coder
I had the opportunity to see this production live in Stratford (UK). I was so happy to find it on Amazon. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Laura Strangway
David Tennant is a brilliant actor when it comes to Shakespeare. He brings so much emotion to this performance. The rest of the cast is equally brilliant. Read morePublished 21 months ago by sun
David Tennant? Patrick Stewart? Doing Hamlet?? Why yes, this IS the sci-fi lovers Shakespeare. Previous roles aside the actors do this great classic justice, and that says it all.Published 21 months ago by Alexandra
This contemporary version of "Hamlet" is different, yet it captures the very essence of the actual play. Read morePublished on Oct. 4 2013 by Sonja Rois
with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart. The Doctor and Captain Picard. Seriously. What else is there to say about it?Published on Sept. 30 2013 by Bucky
This hamlet production breathe new life into an ancient tale. Magnificently made, it meticulously paid attention to character portayal at par with that on stage. Read morePublished on April 12 2013 by Eve F.