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Hamlet (1996): Review


Hamlet is a 1996 Shakespearean tragedy film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, adapted for the screen and directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also stars in the titular role as Prince Hamlet. The film also features Derek Jacobi as King Claudius, Julie Christie as Queen Gertrude, Kate Winslet as Ophelia, Michael Maloney as Laertes, Richard Briers as Polonius, and Nicholas Farrell as Horatio. Other notable appearances include Robin Williams, Gérard Depardieu, Jack Lemmon, Billy Crystal, Rufus Sewell, Charlton Heston, Richard Attenborough, Judi Dench, John Gielgud and Ken Dodd.

The film is notable as the first unabridged theatrical film version of the play, running just over four hours. The longest screen version of the play prior to the 1996 film was the 1980 BBC made-for-television version starring Jacobi as the title character, which runs three-and-a-half hours.

The play's setting is updated to the 19th century, but its Elizabethan English remains the same. Blenheim Palace is the setting used for the exterior grounds of Elsinore Castle and interiors were all photographed at Shepperton Studios, blended with the footage shot at Blenheim. Hamlet was also the last major dramatic motion picture to be filmed entirely on 70 mm film until 2012, with the release of Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master.

Hamlet was highly acclaimed by the majority of critics and has been regarded as one of the best Shakespeare film adaptations ever made. However, it was not a box office success, grossing just under $5 million on a budget of $18 million. The film received four Academy Award nominations for the 69th Academy Awards for Best Art Direction (Tim Harvey), Best Costume Design (Alexandra Byrne), Best Original Score (Patrick Doyle), and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) (Kenneth Branagh) (source of information from top: Wikipedia).


I read Hamlet (Shakespeare) in college, and the student movie theatre aired the Kenneth Branagh film while I was taking the course, and I compared the play to the Branagh film.

Hamlet (Shakespeare) is really about a brooding prince who deserves justice but does not understand the best method to achieve it. When he does achieve it, there is much drama and circumstance. The play is also a presentation of the 'experience of monarchy.' Unlike other monarchy-themed plays of Shakespeare such as Richard III and King Lear, Hamlet invites us to ponder what it is like to be a prince-in-waiting, eager to embrace a lavish throne in a monarchy system but plagued by self-doubt and sentimentalism.

Branagh's film does a great job in capturing Shakespeare's view of the 'worldliness' of civilization and the claustrophobia created by pomp and circumstance, so while it is not as somber or meditative as other renditions of Hamlet (on screen or on stage), it does a stellar job of using cinema as a medium to re-present the 'glory of redeemed frustration,' which is why this Branagh film is a great Blu-ray disc gift for your favorite teacher or your scholarly dad for Christmas.

In fact, it was this Branagh rendition that made me want to visit Denmark and explore its 'human ambience.'


Hamlet (Wikipedia)



Veteran Member
Premium Member
Once Branagh adapts a Shakespearean play into film, it should be considered the canonical version. After his Hamlet, Othello. Much Ado about Nothing, etc., these should be considered the definitive representations, even more authoritative than the folio manuscripts.


The Denmark Dossier: Hues

Branagh and Olivier are really the pop film/stage adaptation icons when it comes to Shakespeare.

I like how Branagh's Hamlet made me feel about the 'colors' of Denmark, as presented by the memorable words of Shakespeare, which is why I think (partly) the Branagh version is considered to possess an 'edge' over Mel Gibson's Hamlet.

I'd like to see Branagh try a comic book project (as Ang Lee did with Marvel's Hulk) --- perhaps Captain America or Green Arrow. Think Henry V and Othello.

If you think about it, it is not inevitable or simple that we have heavily-invested pop culture film adaptations of Shakespeare in the modern age.


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House of Star: Graffiti or Glory?

In fact, there's a whole genre devoted to 'high-brow pomp art,' so we can see what kind of a general storyboard/script Kenneth Branagh could work with to blend his skills with 'monarchy grand-standing' and comics-oriented 'libertine fantasia.' Why not? Batman (DC Comics), the popular American urban masked vigilante, has a knight counterpart in Europe named Cyril the Knight.

Who started all this, Quentin Tarantino or Martin Luther?

It's a shame that we hear comments like, "I prefer Branagh's Hamlet, simply because it's a superior Blu-ray disc!"


Titana was an amazing warrior-queen betrayed by her people and cast out and forced to wander around Denmark as a mercenary and priestess-in-exile. Titana had a blue-fish metal abdomen armor plate, a shiny green Excalibur broadsword, and a fancy horned head-gear. Titana was always complimented for her beauty, but her unruly courage made her seem like a rebel, and some kings and queens in her sphere of influence mocked her by insulting calling her a 'self-appointed Joan of Arc.' Titana was determined to prove everyone wrong, so she began wandering around the streets of Denmark at night, dressed in a touched-up warrior-knight outfit perfect for a modern monarch-in-waiting and worked as a vigilante-for-hire.

No one knew Titana the queen was still alive, and everyone thought the 'new' Titana (the vigilante-for-hire) was simply a mysterious wanderer with a coincidental resemblance to the ousted queen of Denmark. Well, Titana was never quite a queen --- only a princess awaiting coronation. However, out of 'courtesy,' she was ousted as a 'future Queen.' Titana first hired herself out to the Yakuza Japanese crime-gang and then hired herself out to the Denmark secret service who needed a 'femme fatale' to work as a message-retriever, spy, and assassin. Titana amused to herself that even if she was not Joan of Arc, she was fooling enough men to prowl around Denmark as a 'new age superheroine' who no one recognized or bothered to identify for federal records.

Titana had to face a terrible empress of the urban underworld named Shea who was something like a female version of Lucifer. Shea had much power and influence over narcotics cartels, black market gun-runners (e.g., for the IRA), and an espionage organization established by the CIA to infiltrate the Danish monarchy. Shea was always on the look-out for the ousted Titana, queen-to-be of Denmark and believed her disappearance was staged and that she was still roaming around. Shea even wondered if Titana the vigilante (who had gained a certain reputation in the underworld) was actually Queen Titana of Denmark. However, Titana was not going to allow her secret identity to be exposed easily, and she wanted to topple She's power for her Danish employers.

On a certain night when Shea and Titana were together alone in Shea's chambers, making nice 'Saturday evening girl pillow-talk,' Shea kept prodding Titana, asking her if she was really the ousted Queen Titana. The two got very drunk, and finally Shea's incessant (though harmless) prodding caused something in Titana to simply snap, and Titana disclosed her identity to Shea with great rage, claiming she could regain her power and throne through her diligent and creative work as a vigilante. Titana then told Shea to get up and fight her and that she was going to arrest her and take her to her Danish employers as her hostage. Shea was enraged and replied to Titana that if Shea could defeat her in a hand-to-hand knife fight, Shea would take over Titana's life as a vigilante (and Titana would have to go away somewhere in further exile).

Titana had no idea that agreeing to such a wager would prove so impactful. It was in the fourth year of Titana's exile that she crossed paths with Shea again, who was now a full-fledged Danish vigilante, taking over Titana's past life of fantastic adventures with the sword and wits. Titana wondered for a moment what her life would have been had she stayed a vigilante (and won the knife-fight with Shea that one eventful night in Shea's chambers). Titana realized she may have been able to regain the throne as the rightful red-and-white Queen of Denmark and that she would have enacted awesome ruling policies that favoured social investments in the arts and in fair politics and dealings between monarchs and the people. However, these were all daydreams now, and Titana pondered the possibility that she may have to challenge Shea to chess to redeem herself to Shea. This was the competitive female atmosphere in Denmark, and Titana's distant cousin, Ophelia, was about to marry a pensive but promising Danish prince named Hamlet.

Hamlet was sitting in his chambers writing in his diary and being watched by the ghost of his dead dog Ralph:

"My fair friend Ophelia, whom I may marry (somehow), is supposedly cousin to some street-vigilante named Titana who may be the very same ousted princess of Denmark (also named Titana). How is it that Denmark could cater to the charms of both a queen and a vigilante? Now, we hear that Titana was 'deposed' by yet another 'manic dreamer' named Shea. I am only greateful, since I am, that fair Ophelia has a much more sane destiny in my arms; all I need do is find my true gait! I will make a quick and insane 'child's doodle' of this mysterious Titana (maybe she's a man!)."



Estro Felino

Believer in free will
Premium Member
I really love Branagh's film. Kate Winslet played the best Ophelia ever...and the final scene was so intense...beautiful adaptation.