DVD 106 mins
Suitable for 12 years and over
Hamlet [2000]
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USA  /  English

Director Michael Almereyda

As an entry in the Shakespeare-redone-as-teen-movie stakes, Hamlet has a less obvious hook than most. Though the gloomy prince--played by Ethan Hawke as a 20-something clinging to student status because he can't cope with the grown-up world of power politics--is a youth identification figure, the political background, translated into a big business concern with Old Hamlet as the CEO of the Denmark Corporation, is beyond the gangland simplicities of Romeo and Juliet or the high school pecking order of 10 Things I Hate About You. Michael Almereyda, after two interesting horror movies (Nadja and The Eternal), offers what he calls "a rough draft" of the play, and casts very fine players in a severely abbreviated text: the micro-presence of some (Jeffrey Wright as the grave-digger) suggests a longer version was prepared and slimmed down to this quite tight picture. The actors manage a middle ground between the original and the new context: Sam Shepard's Ghost lingers silently beyond his stage appearances to emphasise the textual theme that Old Hamlet was a sinning villain who deserves his limbo; Kyle MacLachlan's Claudius is smooth, but conscience-struck in the back of his limo after viewing Hamlet's cut-up underground film allegorising the murder; Diane Venora's Gertrude is a radical reading that plays well, drinking the poison on purpose to save her son and at once innocent of her husband's murder but genuinely committed to Claudius's rule; Bill Murray, Liev Schrieber and Julia Stiles make a good unit as Polonius, Laertes and Ophelia respectively, though the text-pruning (and especially Stiles's vulnerable mad child) turns them into victims of a selfish Hamlet rather than culpable collaborators with the something rotten in Denmark. Hawke's prince is the sketchiest reading but his knitted hat and messy student workstation make sense and he is a credible post-adolescent ditherer. This Hamlet, who has to be convinced of his uncle's guilt and that he ought to take revenge, never quite comes round to the brutal eye-for-an-eye logic of his father. The settings are steely hotel ballrooms (the coronation is translated to a press conference) and other inventively co-opted New York locales: Ophelia drowns in a huge lobby fountain, her mad scene is at a reception in the Guggenheim, the "to be or not to be" speech is delivered in the aisles of Blockbuster Video (as Hamlet prowls the Action section). Deliberately imperfect but far more interesting (and exciting) than the recent Mel Gibson and Kenneth Branagh embalmings of the play, this is a rare and welcome Hamlet that sets out to be an addition to the debate rather than a definitive reading. --Kim Newman

Edition Details
Barcode 5014138038632
Region 2
Release Date 03/02/2003
Screen Ratio 1.85:1
Nr of Disks/Tapes 1
Personal Details
Purchase Price £10.00
Links Amazon UK