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Hamlet

4.3 out of 5 stars 141 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Kenneth Branagh, Julie Christie, Derek Jacobi, Kate Winslet, Riz Abbasi
  • Directors: Kenneth Branagh
  • Writers: Kenneth Branagh, William Shakespeare
  • Producers: David Barron
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Number of tapes: 2
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Studio: Warner
  • VHS Release Date: Nov. 1 2001
  • Run Time: 242 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 141 customer reviews
  • ASIN: 0780629450
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,617 in Video (See Top 100 in Video)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a very comprehensive, long movie; so long that it needs 2 discs and over 4 hours to watch in its entirety! It is well done, but it is not a movie for everyone; the movie has its high moments and its slow/low ones (but then again, we are talking about a Shakespeare story here). If you love Shakespeare and wish to enjoy it visually, or if you are studying or learning about Shakespeare, then this is worth watching. It is best that you familiarize yourself with the story first, as the film is presented in old English. Visually, the movie is beautiful!
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Format: VHS Tape
"Hamlet" is obviously the gold standard for actors -- pull off the melancholy Dane, and you've just about reached the top of your craft. Kenneth Branagh's turn as everyone's favorite soliloquist is an ambitious, bold, wonderful film that just misses the mark.
First, the high points (and there are many). By daring to film the entire (four hour!) production, Branagh has paid both Shakespeare and his audience the ultimate compliment. As Branagh's characters spelled out in his comic gem, "A Midwinter's Tale," cutting "Hamlet" from its full four-hour length to a two-plus hour length is one of the most difficult editorial processes you'll ever try, but everyone does it because nobody stays in their seats for four hours anymore. By telling the "whole story," Branagh fleshes out minor characters and provides more context for the story (for example, Claudius has a more precarious political position than many truncated versions depict, and his negotiations with Laertes become more important).
Branagh's Hamlet is a bright, dynamic individual, full of rage and yet stymied by his ability to see more than one side of the situation. (As has been pointed out by wiser folks than I, if Hamlet and Othello were transposed, there wouldn't be any plays! Othello would have murdered Claudius in the first act, and Hamlet would have seen through Iago's plotting and outsmarted him.) He's a product of his home, which is a surprisingly well-lit, semi-modern location -- most productions cast Elsinore as a fairly gloomy place.
Showing off a buffness that was not present in his earlier films (in "Henry V," Branagh is comparatively doughy), Branagh nails the part.
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Format: VHS Tape
I cannot add to the wonderful reviews for this film but I would like to tell of my personal experience with it.
I have a teen-age daughter who was struggling with English Lit. She hated reading (always had). She had to read various classics and was especially struggling with Hamlet. She could not understand it, but, plodded through it anyway. The cliff notes confused her. I came across this movie at the video rental place and decided to try it to see if it would help. After watching the video, she was so excited about the story of Hamlet that she immediately read it again, then watched the movie again. We both found the movie to be extremely true to the original writing. The greatest thing about this movie is that it gave my daughter the drive to read. FINALLY. I had given up on her ever being able to enjoy reading, now she would rather read than watch TV. I give all the credit to this movie. Now, if a movie comes out based on a book she always reads the book if she watches the movie.
The only criticism I have is that I WANT THIS ON DVD and it isn't available.
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Format: VHS Tape
The chief virtue of Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 Hamlet is that it’s essentially complete, though this could be construed as a mixed blessing, given that Shakespeare is unlikely ever to have produced a complete production himself and that it may never have occurred to him that anyone would ever try to do so. Its key weakness, though, to my mind, is the other aspect of its ambition: Branagh has a tendency to focus on gorgeousness over interpretation (or faithfulness) in his Shakespeare films, and in this case, all the luxury and the focus on beauteous film-making distract both him and us from the substance of the play, and take the whole thing down several notches. The play, as written, has a heavy atmosphere of darkness and sickness and paranoia and claustrophobia, and this atmosphere is a key element of it; this film has too much glamour and glitz, too much space, and way, way too much light. It completely excises the flavouring that ought to overhang the play. (The film was shot at Blenheim Palace, which is, admittedly, gorgeous.)

I’m not sure that Branagh is all that strong an actor, either, and in this case his talent doesn’t match his ambition; though there’s nothing really wrong with his performance, there’s nothing particularly right about it either, and you never get the feeling that he’s really gotten to the heart of the character; he misses much of the nobility, as well as the existential angst; there’s nothing underlying his antic, and you lose sight of the method and the seriousness, the melancholy and the profundity of the character — and thus the point. Having said that, there are several good passages: he’s strong in the scene right after the play within the play, for example, if not so good during it.
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