Hamlet (1990) [VHS]
Hamlet (1990) [VHS]

 
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Product Description

Franco Zeffirelli's stripped-down, two-hour version of Shakespeare's play stars Mel Gibson as a rather robust version of the ambivalent Danish prince. Gibson is much better in the part than many critics have admitted, his powers of clarity doing much to make this particular Hamlet more accessible than several other filmed versions. The supporting cast is outstanding, including Glenn Close as Gertrude, Alan Bates as Claudius, Ian Holm as Polonius, and Helena Bonham Carter as Ophelia. Zeffirelli's vigorous direction employs a lively camera style that nicely alters the viewer's preconceptions about the way Hamlet should look. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews:

  • The classic story returns for the next generation
    Though Shakespeare has been studied by scholars for centuries and it theater audience have been limited to the highly educated, only in this last decade have I recently enjoyed the works of Shakespeare through the movie screen. Its language and historical value have eluded me for decades. Only since the release of Taming of the Shrewd on VHS have I ventured to view and thoroughly enjoy not only the Shakespearean words, but a lively tale which showcases how life has not changed since the 16th century. Hamlet, with Mel Gibson, is another such movie that has brought Shakespeare alive and understandable. It is entertaining & easy to follow & not too lengthy that one would lose interest. Glen Close also adds her genius acting to the mix and you can escape into a world that may or may not have existed. It was a pleasant two hours of entertainment which is a rarity in Hollywierd today....more info
  • Without its natural end, it is endless
    This Play is one of the most important pieces of drama and poetry in Shakespeare's complete works. A cycle of peace and quiet is disturbed by an incestuous crime, both the murder of a brother and the hasty and sensuous marriage of the murderer with the victim's wife, a marriage which is totally against the normal Christian and feudal rules of the time : you are not supposed to covet the wife of your brother. Then havoc falls onto the kingdom of Denmark. Hamlet is forced to play deranged and crazy to save his life and to cover up his violent defense against dangers around him. Ophelia will get deranged to the point of drowning herself. Then the cycle of disturbances will go on to its utter end which means the destruction of all the protagonists. Shakespeare's vision does not stop there : equilibrium is reintroduced in this disturbed kingdom by the arrival of a distant cousin, Fortinbras, who seizes power by force though he represents the last touch of legitimacy available. But this film takes two interesting options. The first one is the will to be as realistic as possible about the real living conditions of the time in the Elsinore Castle in Denmark. Gloomy, dark, shadowy, life is nothing but a shady dream accompanied by ambitious social climbers who are ready to do anything to have power and privileges. The film insists on the fate of some of these smiling hypocrites, like Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern who are shown in their last living instant just before the axe of the executioner falls on their necks in London. The film also insists on the filth of such a life and concentrates this dirt onto Ophelia. This realistic choice gives to the play a dramatic density that it deserves entirely. At times it verges onto a melodramatic dimension, especially when dealing with the mother who is an unsensitive ambitious woman who does not want to lose the status of Queen and is ready to do anything to keep that crown. In fact she cannot love Hamlet because he represents a danger to her queenhood. Zeffirelli shows her nearly as being repentant. The second option is the cutting off of the last scene, the arrival of Fortinbras to seize power by force and legitimize the return to equilibrium since he is the only surviving relative of this blood line and he had been banned out of Denmark because he was against the strange crowning of the brother of the dead King due to his marrying the dead king's wife, which is incestuous as we have seen. This change in ending cuts off any historical and political meaning in the play, and that is a shame because Shakespeare is a great historian in a way, definitely a historical playwright who has a full vision of fate and time. Why did Zeffirelli do that ? We can hardly know. Maybe he wanted to balance his Romeo and Juliet with a second drama of the same type. Maybe it is his vision of Shakespeare, even if it is a reduction.

    Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University of Paris Dauphine & University of Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne
    ...more info
  • Best Hamlet EVER
    The film is set in the time Hamlet was to have taken place rather than Shakespeare's time or some other. This DVD is widescreen with superb sound. It may not boll me over like seeing it in the theater- I sat through it twice- but it will do quite well.Gibson for my money has turned in the best film Hamlet I have ever seen, and I have seen about 14. Also the ENTIRE cast is top notch all the way. Five stars or maybe six? Gibson is as briliant as Olivie was in Othelo- the spares one....more info
  • "These Are the Best Actors in the World."
    I put off seeing this film for many years as I did not believe that Gibson would issue appropriate treatment to Shakespeare's masterpiece. In retrospect, Braveheart and Gibson's own masterpiece, The Passion, should have alerted me that Mel was a serious artist with extensive vision far before his later achievements came along. Here, more venturesome viewers than I, discovered that Gibson was not a bubblegum actor but a figure worthy of association with the bard. With this film we see a rather early glimpse of what Mel Gibson would become. There is a boyous impetuousity and energy to his performance that makes him infinitely believable. Helena Bonham-Carter is her princessularly beautiful self. As a feminine figure of wonder she has few peers. Ian Holm, as always, is first class. The same can be said of Glenn Close. One of the things I find rewarding about watching Shakespeare on DVD is turning on the subtitles and having the text enhance the visual experience...and enhance your mind as well....more info
  • Lackluster
    Hamlet / B00019072G

    *Spoilers*

    I adore Shakespeare in general and Hamlet in particular, and I generally try not to hew too closely to any one version, but I did not much care for this version of Hamlet. Compared to the superb Kenneth Branaugh version, Gibson's Hamlet seems dazed, drugged, and lackluster. His lines are spoken with no particular emphasis - everything sounds flat and dull. Initially, I felt this was an attempt to portray Hamlet as dazed and overwhelmed by his father's death, but even his descent into madness seems dull and lifeless and pales strongly in comparison to the manic babbling and hyper antics of Branaugh's Hamlet. I appreciate an attempt at a numb, grief-stricken performance, but it just doesn't work dramatically, and Hamlet requires more energy than Gibson displays here.

    I will also add that Glenn Close, whom I usually respect, seems overly campy and bubbly here, with very little attempt at any facade of widowhood. This contrasts, too, with the Branaugh version, where Gertrude is superbly displayed as a politic queen, with a perfect facade of mourning, overlaying an underlying joy. This duplicity is more intriguing than the dancing, giggling child-queen we get from Close, and I found it strikingly simplistic.

    Also very annoying is that several scenes are cut out of place, lines are spoken out of order, and soliloquies are cut short. This chops the drama badly and while I understand that some people feel that Shakespeare must be made more brief in order to be more accessible, there must be a better way with this.

    This version provides a closed caption option for the hard of hearing. I do not own this movie - I rented this through my Blockbuster Online account....more info
  • Response to "Poor Disjointed Production"
    In an earlier review, "Me Just This Guy" describes how he "lost all respect for this interpretation of Hamlet" when Mel Gibson as Hamlet uses the phrase"...enterprises of great pitch and moment" in his "To be, or not to be" soliloquy. He ridicules the 'mistake', calling it a 'goof up' because the word 'pith' should have been used instead of 'pitch'. He goes on to suggest that actors need to "1) Know the script, 2) Know what the script means".

    What script is "Me Just This Guy" referring to? It's worth reading a scholarly edition of Hamlet (& other plays) to learn of the difficulties in agreeing on a definitive script. In the case of Hamlet, 'pitch' is used in one early version of the play (Quarto 2), and is the preferred use in many published editions (e.g. Cambridge). 'Pith' is used in other early editions (e.g. Folio), and appears in other modern versions of the play (e.g. Oxford).

    Pitch has several relevant meanings, including one prevalent in Shakespeare's day: "The height to which a falcon or other bird of prey soars before swooping down on its prey"....more info
  • The Cool Hamlet
    Franco Zeffirelli takes another shot at directing Shakespeare--a hobby of his since the 1960s--in this solemn 1991 production with his characteristically abridged text.
    Gibson joins an intriguing fraternity of the onscreen portrayers of Literature's Princely Procrastinator. Laurence Olivier had the classically dramatic Hamlet(1948), Nicol Williamson had the staid Hamlet (although in that 1969 production, Marianne Faithfull's Ophelia made more of an impression on me), and Kenneth Branaugh, clad in 19th century costumes, had the intensely sinewy and thorough Hamlet(1996).
    But Mel Gibson strikes me as the intensely cool Hamlet. In a drafty-looking Elsinore Castle situated by the sea, the drama begins, and the modernity Gibson lends to the role of the melancholy Dane as he mourns his father (the venerable Paul Scofield) is confronted by his ghost, disturbed by the sudden remarriage of his mother Queen Gertrude(a most Scandinavian-looking Glenn Close) to his Uncle Claudius (a conniving Alan Bates)who succeeds his brother to the Danish throne, emanates.
    Gibson makes this role a carry-over from his roles in "Mad Max" and "Lethal Weapon" as he plays another character on a quest for vengeance (and perhaps he also draws on earlier training as a Shakespearan actor, having played Romeo onstage in Australia years before). Feigning madness, he has the melancholy air displayed in so many of his films and the close-ups of his very expressive trademark cornflower blue eyes encapsulates that.
    He has the opportunity to kill his Uncle after learning of his responsibility for his father's death as Claudius kneels at prayer with a troubled conscience after watching a play with an all-too-familiar theme. Worrying that Claudius' soul may go to Heaven if he is killed while at prayer, Hamlet decides to wait for a more appropriate moment--a decison that leads to a mounting array of carnage.
    The tragedy of Polonius(Ian Holm)the King's Chamberlain, falls fast on the heels of Hamlet's unfortunate decision, which soon has its bearing on Ophelia(a well-cast Helena Bonham Carter), Polonius' daughter, as well as well as his son, Laertes (a sharp-eyed Nathaniel Parker who is relatively calm in his treachery).
    Amid an array of seemingly accurate Danish Medieval era costumes, and an environment of mostly cold solemnity, we watch Hamlet outwit two fellow students, noblemen Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Michael Maloney and Sean Murray), with the fatal consequences for the duo; another lugubrious moment is briefly assuaged by Hamlet's chat with a gravedigger (Trevor Peacock).
    Later John McEnery, two decades removed from his memorable performances as Zeffirelli's Mercutio, appears as the nobleman Osiric.
    Stephen Dillane's Horatio bears witness to these calamitous events, and after Gibson gives the most soberly forceful delivery of Hamlet's denunciation of his Uncle that I've witnessed to date, is charged with telling the tale. No invasion of foreign troops. No seizure of the Danish throne by the Norwegian Prince Fontainbras in this production. It is just basic, and full of profound sadness, leaving a viewer with much to ponder about the folly of it all....more info
  • Mel did a very good job as the wishy washy prince
    Poor Hamlet, couldn't make up his mind to save his life. I really ejoyed this version, Mel and the rest of the experienced cast did a great job. You just have to forget Mel was Mad Max and accept him as the Mad Prince of Denmark and you'll enjoy this as much as I did. Also, if a teenager has to do a book report on Hamlet this is a good version for that age group. Enjoy!...more info
  • Shakespeare badly served
    First, let me clarify that I sometimes like Mel Gibson as an actor, even sometimes as a director. Also, let me say that Franco Zefferelli has a very fine eye for color and composition, fine enough to make all his films interesting to look at. However, the problems of this film are many-fold, so many that in spite of its being pleasant to look at, it is unpleasant to watch and hear. The biggest problem is the director's lack of depth. Viewing this movie, I have the distinct impression that Zefferilli's first thoughts were about the length of the picture (keeping it from exceeding "two hours traffic") and making interesting-looking pictures. This surface-oriented approach to Shakespeare indicates that the director placed little emphasis or made nearly no effort at what constitutes the heart of his work: Making the most of the language.

    Among other errors, Zefferelli makes unfortunate cuts and emendations. For example, he guts much of Claudius's soliloquy in the prayer scene, leaving the character almost a stock villain (this in spite of an excellent actor, Alan Bates, in the role). He also seems to be unconcerned with temporal logic: Hamlet and Laertes cannot duel properly with bated or unbated rapiers because of the medieval setting. It is absurd that they use broad swords rather than rapiers in the duel scene, swords which are meant to hack, rather than stab, contradicting the whole point of the unbated and poisoned tip of the foil. The medieval story always, in Shakespeare, has to be consistent with the Elizabethan context in which it was composed.

    Finally, Mel Gibson, ordinarily a decent film actor, is hung out to dry and unable to negotiate this, the most challenging male role in English theatre, alone. He needs a director who is both a deep thinker and who knows how to challenge his actors to find the spine of their character and bring it to the surface. Zefferelli just didn't (or couldn't) make his leading actor dive deeply enough into the character - especially not THIS character. And Mel Gibson is an actor who himself lacks the depth needed to investigate Hamlet thoroughly, and his is surely an actor who needs a very different type of director for this kind of role.

    I give the film its two stars, however, for a couple of reasons: First, the supporting cast has two gems in it -- Helena Bonham-Carter is, in spite of some very odd choices from her director, a wonderful Ophelia, and Ian Holm is one of the very best Poloniuses I have ever seen. Second, as bad as this film is, it is far less painful than Kenneth Brannagh's so-called "uncut" Hamlet....more info
  • A wonderful Hamlet - too bad about the text editing
    I remember when this movie came out almost 15 years ago - I really wanted to hate it - imagine! Mel Gibson, Mr. Lethal Weapon, Mad Max as the Danish Prince! I was almost tasting the blood as I walked into the theatre. Surprise, surprise! It's actually my favorite film of this play, and yes, that includes the much-overrated (in my opinion - I hate the voice overs) Olivier version. I really, really, really got behind Gibson as the Prince in this one, and I thought Paul Scofield as the ghost was magnificent - his scene with Hamlet on the battlement is so intimate - a real father/son talk.

    For those who know the play, some of the textual cuts and re-arrangements may be startling -it's odd to hear Hamlet tell Ophelia "get thee to a nunnery" in the middle of the Mousetrap scene, for instance. I also found myself feeling frustrated that I didn't get to see Gibson do some of the speeches and soliloquies which were cut -- "How all occasions do inform against me" for example.

    All in all, an excellent version. ...more info
  • Accessible Version of a timeless play - worth 4.5
    Once again, I'd like to give a half-star rating, but alas . . .

    As my by-line indicates, I am a former high school teacher. Without exception, this is the version of Hamlet that is a class-room favorite. (I show 2 others: Branaugh (2nd place) and the film starring Ethan Hawke (everyone hates it).) It is accessible to younger viewers and is just a beautiful film all around.

    The filming, camera work and sets are impeccable. One is instantly transported into the world these characters inhabit. As to the script, it IS heavily edited; however, most of what is omitted (see note below) is "shown" to the audience through visual media. This isn't a "filmed version of the play"; it is a film based on the play. In that framework, it is quite well done. I particularly like the beginning scenes that make Hamlet's description of his mother - "Like Niobe, all tears" - come to life.

    The acting, to my thinking, is superb. The emphasis here is on Hamlet's relationship to his mother, Gertrude. That comes through quite clearly. Gibson's Hamlet comes across as a soldier - a man of action - who agonizes over the eternal consequences of his acts. He is believable in the role, masterful in some ways. Likewise the supporting cast. Helena Bonham-Carter and Glenn Close provide particularly vibrant portrayals of their characters.

    So, why not 5 stars? Without the "Fortinbras" subplot, some of the urgency in the play seems missing. While definitely a secondary story-line, it provides a framework that adds tension to the play as a whole as the war is waged both outside the castle walls and within.

    Overall, this production gets an A. Very accessible. Very easily understood. And haunting in its own way....more info
  • Hamlet
    Mel Gibson won me over. Hamlet was produced by Franco Zeffirelli, the guy behind Romeo and Juliet 22 years earlier. Great color, grays and browns from the Middle Ages. Shakespeare biographies are sketchy. William Shakespeare was born at Stratford-on-the-Avon in 1564. Stratford is 100 miles from London. Avon is the river. He married Anne Hathaway and had three children. He moved to London and established himself as a playwright. His plays were staged at the Globe. Hamlet is the best, written in 1601. It deals with revenge, procrastination and insanity. Hamlet puts on an "antic disposition" as he delays avenging his father's murder. The real issue is death. Why do we have to die? Why live at all if we must die? Shakespeare died in 1616 at age 52. His 36 plays divide into tragedies, comedies, histories and problem plays. Characters drop like flies in the tragedies.

    ...more info
  • Perfectly dreadful
    I give this film version of Hamlet one star only, and that is for the Paul Scofield's terrific ghost, which is perhaps emblematic of the several smaller roles taken in this production by superb Shakespearean actors of British backgrounds.

    Such performances notwithstanding, the film is, quite simply, dreadful, and more in the vein of high melodrama than high tragedy. Gibson is altogether unable to convey anything of Hamlet's complexity. Why are mediocre actors applauded for their "vitality", when the results are this, well, mediocre? And given her abundant gifts as an actor, Close is especially disappointing as Gertrude. The problem here may be partly interpretation, and hence the responsibility of Zeffirelli.

    In fact, it is Zeffirelli who surprises me most of all with this mess, as he has been responsible for several fine renditions of the Bard's plays, not the least of which was his Romeo and Juliet.

    One is much better off going to any of number of other cinematic Hamlets, begining with Olivier's magnificent 1948 assumption. And if the objective is to appeal to a mainstream audience, why not turn to Almereyda's 2000 film, set in New York City? For all of its eccentricity, that film, contains some interesting performances, and on the whole, possesses the tragic quality that a good Hamlet should.
    ...more info
  • Homage To Sir Laurence Olivier Works, But Misplaces Lines
    Franco Zeffirelli's ("The Taming Of The Shrew," "Romeo And Juliet," "Jesus Of Nazareth," "Othello") third stab at transferring Shakespeare to the screen works very well, with the casting of Mel Gibson ("Mad Max," "Lethal Weapon" and pre-"The Passion Of The Christ" noteriety) in the role formerly owned by Sir Laurence Olivier (and rightly so; see my review on his "Hamlet," arguably the best interpretation of one of the Bard's timeless [and most quoted] tragedies) and redone 5 years later by Kenneth Branagh as a full-bloodied treatment, explaining its 3 hour 22 minute running time, combined with a dream cast (and a lot of little additions, which were well-chosen and expertly done by the contemporary master of William Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh, the director of "Henry V" and
    "Dead Again." Joining the "Lethal Weapon" star are Glenn Close ("The Big Chill"), Paul Scofield ("A Man For All Seasons"), Alan Bates, Ian Holm, Michael Maloney (who would be cast as Roderigo opposite Kenneth Branagh and Laurence Fishburne in Oliver Parker's "Othello" [see my review of Olivier's "stage" version of the tragedy, though he only starred in it] and who Branagh would cast as Laertes in HIS 3-hour version of "Hamlet" [a proper homage to Sir Laurence Olivier and his classic version of the play; see my review on that one as well] 5 years later), Nathaniel Parker (who would be cast as Cassio in his brother's version of "Othello" 4 years later) and Helena Bonham-Carter.

    Zeffirelli intended this movie as a homage to Sir Laurence Olivier (who had died 2 years prior to this movie) and it works pretty well, for the most part. What I was slightly uncomfortable with was Zeffirelli's misplacing a lot of lines and in one scene, he gives one of Hamlet's lines to the Ghost. Also, Helena Bonham-Carter DID NOT convince me as Ophelia. She was too dull and unreal, whereas Jean Simmons (who had immortalized the role in Olivier's version) and Kate Winslet (who did an acceptable job in Kenneth Branagh's uncut, epic revisionist reworking of "Hamlet") were good in the role, with Jean Simmons being the BEST Ophelia ever, that's why she was nominated for Best Actress in 1948 (she didn't win-what a shame). Ian Holm said his lines too quickly, not slowly as I expected him to, in a scene with him, Laertes and Ophelia. But then again, I'm more used to Felix Aylmer and Richard Briers' interpretations of the role and I think that they did better jobs than Holm in their respective versions of "Hamlet" (both done by great directors, actors, text-editors, producers AND stars of all their versions of the Bard's work) as Polonius.

    The rest of the cast, however, was excellent. The scene where Hamlet confronts his mother was very well done, but Olivier and Branagh heightened the scene to better lengths to create even more emotional intensity and suspense that the scene required.

    I recommend this version just to pass the time, but it's ideal as a teaching tool for 12th-grade English teachers (I recommend showing Olivier's version first, then Branagh's and finally this version). Despite the film's "PG" rating, there was really nothing objectionable in the movie. Only what the play called for.

    The Best Versions Of "Hamlet" Are:

    #1 Sir Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh. Both were so good that I can't decide which one was the best. See my reviews on these versions for more information.

    #2 Franco Zeffirelli. This one was alright. It started out alright with a scene not in the play, but should've then progressed to the actual beginning of the play, where a guard cries out "Who's there?" "Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself!!" That scene scares the hell out of you because you're sitting quietly and then-bam!!, you almost jump out of your skin. In short, that scene sets the tone for the rest of the play. HUGE blunder on Zeffirelli's part to omit that scene. It also misplaced a lot of lines (and cut others that I think should've been put in), such as the line where Hamlet says to Ophelia "Get thee to a nunnery, why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?"; that line was supposed to have occurred in THAT scene, NOT where it was placed in the film. This version struggles between cutting out too much or too little. Kenneth Branagh would remedy that 5 years later with his uncut version of the tragedy, making HIS version a more fitting homage to Sir Laurence Olivier, as several of the actors (aside from him) had performed "Hamlet" on stage/or on film many times on different occasions. However, Zeffirelli's take on "Hamlet" IS faithful to the play and THAT's what I was looking for. The setup for the final act duel was the same as in Olivier and Branagh's versions, only that the denouement in Branagh's version was more violent than the denoument of the previous two faithful versions and stuck more closely to the play, with Branagh throwing in a few harmless touches of his own...to very good effect.

    This version is Not Rated.

    ...more info
  • really good movie
    i like this movie even though i couldnt understand some of the words. but it is good movie. all dialogs are on right spot and i dont think anybody could be confuse whatever is happening in movie. Mel Gibson is a really good actor....more info
  • HAMLET
    This was a great teaching tool; however Mel Gibson is the weakest actor of the bunch. Some tasteless moments have to be overlooked....more info
  • A Tradegy
    Hamlet is a tradegy and probably derived its inspiration from David, Uriah, and Bethesema - debaucle. Like David, who killed Uriah to cover his sins; so did Claudius kill his beloved brother too take the Queen; the gruesome arrangment less than a three months from the extinquished life of the King. Shakespheare usually includes various and diverse human elements in his dramas and in Hamlet he includes : insanity, moral repulsiviness, and the supernatural. The Ghost of Hamlet's father returns and shockingly reveals that he was poison by his brother; Hamlet re-enacts the murdeous plot through a play before the queen and king; the Act causes the King to lament is dark secret before God; the Queen swears an oath to no more share intimacy with the king.

    Tradegy strikes deep in the household with the murder of priest; the same priest who has put Ophelia at odds with Hamlet; Hamlet declares at Ophelia's grave that he loved her more than a hundred brothers could; Shakespeare invention of the insanity or Ophelia was truly magnificent and a scene worthy of any court jurisprudence. Ophelia is the "Macbeth" of strange visions, bizzare party dialogue, and outbursts of pain and rage.

    Hamlet combines humour; Hamlet talks fondly to the dead skull of the court Jestor; Hamlet stammers around the court trying to pry a rock away to project upon the king in the court below; Hamlet jests with his opponent during the duel of rights not settled; Hamlet mocks the priest calling him a rat.

    The Queen behaves like a youthful female in love; Hamlet tells her that she is not acting seemingly because at her age the temperature of passion should have cooled; the Queen robustly drinks the poison that was designed to kill Hamlet; Hamlet is nicked with the poison of a deadly serpent and dies like an inject mouse; Hamlet tells his friend Horatio that he is dead, a talking dead man. The ghost king told Hamlet not to punish the Queen but to let God exercise judgment and administer justice. Hamlet's has a complex towards his mouth kissing mother; Hamlet is in the pit of strange Greek love mythos.
    ...more info
  • Hamlet DVD is GREAT!
    What can I say? How can a movie with Mel Gibson and Glenn Close (both do impeccable Britiish accents) go wrong? Everyone in the movie "gets" the Shakesperare. It was very moving . . . great work . . . a masterpiece. I'm using this verson of the great play to teach my students Hamlet....more info
  • Shakespear at it's best
    Stunning acting by Mel Gibson, Shakespearian art hasn't been lost from this DvD a must buy if you have read the story before or just getting into Shakespeare. Truly a intellectual movie you will watch for years to come.

    -SBJ...more info
  • WHAT A PIECE OF WORK
    It was about twenty years ago that I turned on my television idly one evening to find that a showing of Hamlet had just started. I was instantly transfixed and not just because this is my favourite play of all plays, but because I was looking at my absolute idea of what a Prince Hamlet should look like. It was another two hours before I found who was in the title role, but throughout that two hours I watched the action and listened to the dialogue and monologues acted and spoken by as perfect a piece of casting as I think I have ever yet seen.

    Let me say that I have seen Olivier's Hamlet and I have seen Branagh's Hamlet and that I hugely enjoyed them both. I am not greatly concerned in this notice to weigh up niceties of interpretation and direction, because there are enough subtleties and possibilities in this great play to allow full scope for the individual style of every great actor for another thousand years. The literary criticism trade, profession or industry, though it has not yet talked Hamlet to death, has been trying hard to do that, and I would not like to be, without intending it, the straw that broke that camel's back. What puts this production in a class of its own for me is simply that for me Gibson IS Hamlet whereas Olivier and Branagh are acting Hamlet, albeit superbly. The blond fringe and the smallish physique are right for a start, in my mind. Then there is the understated style, the diction quiet, the mood brooding and smouldering. That is my idea of how to do the great soliloquies, not declaiming them, and when the repressed tension is abruptly released as, say, when Hamlet runs his sword through the arras, the contrast is all the more effective and does not require histrionics. Does Olivier perhaps over-act a bit? To my way of thinking he nearly always does, and in Hamlet his final `then venom to thy weh-eh-eh-eh-eh-rk!' definitely goes over the top even if nothing else does.

    The supporting cast have won high praise, and I shall join in that too. Perhaps no other play by Shakespeare, unless maybe Coriolanus, is quite so dominated by its lead role as is Hamlet. Nevertheless the best Hamlet in the world could be undone if Claudius or Gertrude or Polonius or Ophelia or Laertes were not up to scratch, whereas if he has the kind of `support' provided here a performance that is already superb seems better than ever. One feature of the production, attributable to both the acting and the directing, struck me forcibly this time in a way it had not struck me before, and it relates to the character of Claudius. Up until the play-within-the-play his sang-froid is remarkable considering the primal crime he has committed, and even though his guilty conscience comes to the surface in the chapel, he carries his burden lightly, to all appearances. The play-within drives him to further desperate stratagems, but what came across to me was just how cool and inventive he remained. He tries to have Hamlet executed in England, and when that fails he arranges for not one but two types of poison to ensure the outcome of Hamlet's duel. Most strikingly of all, when Gertrude drinks the poisoned goblet he still controls his reaction to avoid giving himself away. Iago impressed Goethe enough to serve as the prototype of Goethe's Mephistopheles, but Iago's actions were small beer compared with this, and his planning was nowhere near as clever. Iago has had more attention from the commentators because he shares more of the limelight, but at the end of Othello he runs away as if Shakespeare did not even think him worth killing. Claudius may have deserved everything that Hamlet called him, but his defects did not include lack of quick thinking or want of nerve.

    The production, but for the fact that this is a slightly abridged Hamlet, suits me admirably. The camera work and lighting are superb, and there are some excellent little vignettes, such as the terror of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern being brought to their executioner. In keeping with Gibson's reading of the title role, the `effects' are less highlighted here than from Branagh, and much less than from Olivier. The ghost is not melodramatic, and significantly the background music is kept within bounds of tolerance. It is a sad pity that William Walton, whose music accompanies the Olivier production, had on the one hand exceptional talent for such music but lacked the experience to know when he was overdoing things. I did not manage to spot what castle was used. It may have been in Scotland, and certainly the scene at the graveside could almost have been from Braveheart. As some will know, the real castle of the real Amled does not beetle o'er any crags, and the Bard's Elsinore is much more imposing than real-life Helsingor, but the Bard's is the concept that we need, and it is what we are offered.

    Right at the start we are told that what we are about to see is `based on the play by William Shakespeare'. There are no major liberties, and what we are given is a bit of an abridgement. Hamlet is not a tightly-plotted drama, and I am not unduly upset by what Zeffirelli has done. The opening scene with the night-watchmen is skipped, and at the end Fortinbras is dispensed with. Neither of these acts of pruning bothered me, although I regretted the loss of occasional bits of dialogue from this most quotation-replete of plays. Of all plays that I have ever seen or read it remains my favourite, indeed this production reinforces its primacy. I can't say, as Mr Clive James has said, that it is the best play in the world because I don't know all the plays in the world, but surely it must be a candidate for that honour....more info
  • Good enjoyable interpretation.
    I liked this version of the tragic prince's tale. As someone who's spent a lot of time studying Hamlet, the portrayal of the closet scene irritated me, but is entirely forgivable. The acting is very good, though the editing and arrangement of the script might throw you for a loop. If you're not a student who's read the play umpteen times, you should be fine though. Regardless, it's very enjoyable, and definitely worth the price....more info
  • Outstanding if you like Shakespeare
    This is one of my favorites next to Much Ado About Nothing. Mel does an excellent job. I have watched it twice already. ...more info
  • This is the best movie version of Hamlet.
    Mel Gibson is a bit too old to play the young Hamlet, but he is very believable. He has awesome facial expressions when he realizes Ophelia is dead. Glenn Close also plays a wonderful Gertrude. When she is dying from the poisoned wine, she, too, has awesome facial expressions. Great movie!...more info
  • A worthy depiction
    Throughout cinematic history many gifted people have made many splendid versions of what is one of Shakespear's most spirited and acclaimed stories of all time. They have come and gone, but this is one that should remain for all times never to be forgotten. Definitely my favorite, it seems so much more alive than other versions and lets face it, with an actor so live as Mel Gibson at the helm, its bound to be.

    Gibson slips immaculately, if not effortlessly into the shoes of this hard-to-fill character previously portrayed by so many other fine actors. But in doing so, he brings something new to the theatrical table set forth here by Franco Zeffirelli (The Taming of the Shrew). It is practicalism. Gibson does not selfishly attempt to play Hamlet in his own way as some have, but instead prefers to keep things deeply theatrical and classic as well as practical for all those watching. In the 'actor's journey' included in the special features leaf, we witness Gibson's painstaking and dedicated efforts to keep the character accurately real through constant research and repetition of the lines. We get to see a master at work. Mel Gibson sacrifices nothing and yet adds everything to the renowned character, and does it with a truly wonderful supporting cast.

    Glenn Close is Hamlet's mother, Gertrude, while Alan Bates portrayes Hamlet's Uncle Claudius. Both are superb in their skills and fill their respective roles wonderfully, but the two roles that really captured my attention were Ian Holm as the meddlesome Polonius, and Helena Bonham-Carter as our frail and lovely Ophelia. As a viewer I have always been partial to Holm in any role. To me he seems to be one of the lesser known geniuses of his craft, and that evaluation is in no way lessened by his work here (for those of you unfamiliar with his name you might remember him from his most recent role as 'Bilbo' in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy). He's been around for ages and seems to be at the peak of his acting abilities in this work, moving effortlessly over the unceasing and complicated structure of Shakespear's lines and phrases. As for Helena Bonham-Carter, no one could have been better to portray the ill-fated Ophelia in saneness or madness. She also posesses one of those unique, other-worldly kind of faces that just seems to gel for this role. Paul Scofield returns to familiar work in William Shakespear's plays as the dead ghost of Hamlet's father. Top all of this off with music scored by the legendary Ennio Morricone (who was recently honored with lifetime achievement at the Academy Awards) and you've got yourself a depiction of a story that can't go wrong!

    The movie runs 135 minutes long and is accompanied by a making-of documentary by Mel Gibson, "To Be or Not to Be". It also comes with the original theatrical trailer and the movie itself is viewable through English, French or Spanish subtitles. And be sure to buy the widescreen version for better viewing.

    This movie is produced with the upmost dilligence, and most superb effort from actors, writers, designers, musicians and director alike. The most wonderful and practical version of "Hamlet" on the market. You'll see what I mean....more info
  • Disappointing
    Mel Gibson is always good to look upon; however, this version of Hamlet was not handled well by the director and so the whole production was disappointing....more info
  • Franco did it again, and he's better than ever!
    Lord, I thought Romeo & Juliet was good BUT Hamlet is superb. Mel Gibson IS Hamlet. I hate to make this a lesson, but I must. There is always controversey over the characters Horatio and Hamlet...Many people can't seem to grasp why of all people would Hamlet choose to die in the arms of his best friend. That's the point. I mean, think about it just for a second. Hamlet was a madman (Mel Gibson showed that, love ya' Mel!) and ontop of that deullisonal, confused and distraught but Horatio was his squire and as such he stuck by him despite the conqusences. Hamlet had no other companion but his loyal friend, and I think both Mel and Stephen play this out well. Enough of that friend chit chat, let's get down to the movie. God, what can I say? It's perfect! It's following in the footsteps of its ancestor Romeo & Juliet (Watch out for John McEnery as Ocrbis!) I can't say enough about Mel...He can act, he can be crazy (duh, any idiot knows that), he can swordfight, and he can sing (watch Pochonatas!) this and The Patriot have to be Mel's best work (Father: Don't you dare walk out that door! Son: I am not a child! Father: Your my child! I love that from TP) Anyhoo, Helena Boheman Carter is a stand out for her role as Princess Ophelia (Can't wait for Corpse Bride either!). It's almost my bedtime soon so let me sum this up. Don't bash a gay director (teehee, I'm no Les!), don't bash Hamlet and Horatio's realtionship (friends people, friends!), don't bash Mel (cause he's soooooo darn cute), and finally...DON'T BASH THE MOVIE! Watch it, and enjoy the wanders of Shakespere's Hamlet. ...more info
  • First, Sir Laurence Olivier. Then, Franco Zeffirelli.
    When Director Franco Zeffirelli is at the director's helm, the results are nothing short of phenomenal. Along with the Sir Laurence Oliver version, this is the one I watch the most. As usual, Franco Zeffirelli adds his phenomenal, but dignified scenery, his music that flatters the content, and a great cast that actually become the characters. For those of you who don't know the story, it revolves around Hamlet. I really don't like Mel Gibson, but there is no denying the fact that he handles the role of Hamlet very well. (His sorrow, his contemplation, his sudden rages, his seeming madness, etc.) He suspects his uncle Claudius murdered his brother (Hamlet's father) to steal the crown and the elder Hamlet's widow. His beliefs are confirmed when he meets the ghost of his father who tells that story. (The ghost by the way is portrayed phenomenally by Paul Scofield who portrays human sorrow and dignity.) However, Hamlet can not just kill Claudius. (He has no evidence, and Claudius is an EFFECTIVE AND LIKABLE king. The murder of Claudius will not be accepted on some ghost story.) We also meet the bumbling, but good hearted Polonius played well by Ian Holm. His son Laertes is played well by Parker. (Parker has Laertes's love for his father and sister down as well as his sudden rages.) Helena Boham Carter gives beauty and dignity to Ophelia. Glenn Close does a fairly good job as Hamlet's mother. A big extra kudos goes to Alan Bates for his phenomenal portrayal of Claudius. This is a complex character that many people don't fully understand. He is the villain who murdered his brother and stole the crown. But like Macbeth, he DOES have a conscience, and he does feel sorrow and regret. (Richard III could have easily sat through a play of what he had done without even flinching! Claudius IS NOT that sort of person!) He is also a good king except for what he did to get the crown. (He is especially likable when he quells Laertes's raid with pure courage and intelligence. And he IS being honest when he says he was guiltless of Polonius's death!) As Hamlet begins plotting his moves, even at the point of appearing mad, Claudius is NOT fooled. He sees the madness exactly for what it is. (An element in a plot against him.) Except for Hamlet, Claudius is by far the most intelligent character in the story, and just as Hamlet is waiting for his chance, Claudius is waiting for his chance. (But he can't just kill Hamlet either. Like himself, Hamlet is too well liked.) So, it is a race as to whether Hamlet can prove that Claudius killed the elder Hamlet or if Claudius can prove that Hamlet is plotting treason first. To be sure, this movie cuts a little under 2 hours from this 4 hour play. But Director Franco Zeffirelli was really careful about what he deleted. (Even the Sir Laurence Olivier version was 2 hours and change.) But despite the missing material, nothing is obviously missing. In fact, it would seem that rather than trying to memorize 4 hours of script, the actors concentrated on what was essential, and they BECAME the characters for 2 hours. Whether it is Hamlet, Claudius, The Ghost of Hamlet's Father, Gertrude, Polonius, Laertes, Ophelia, Horatio, Guildenstern, Rosencratz, the players, or even the grave digger, can any one person be accused of not having the role down? In all honesty, there is not a dull moment in this production. Finally, to Director Franco Zeffirelli's credit, he juggled the scenes around to make more sense. (One example is that he deletes the first scene with the ghost of Hamlet's father. We just see his funeral. This makes it all the more frightening when Hamlet's friends tell him that they have seen his father.) Overall, this follows Sir Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet" very well. The dvd has 2 nice extras. (A brief interview with Mel Gibson and his role as Hamlet, and a series of photo journals while the movie was being made.) ...more info
  • really good movie
    i like this movie even though i couldnt understand some of the words. but it is good movie. all dialogs are on right spot and i dont think anybody could be confuse whatever is happening in movie. Mel Gibson is a really good actor....more info
  • Gibson's Hamlet is very entertaining
    Mel Gibson turns in an excellent performance as Hamlet, showing a fine mix of melancholy, madness, and humor. Also outstanding is Helena Bonham Carter; her handling of Ophelia's tragic breakdown is top-knotch.

    There are some liberties taken with this version--as well there has to be when dealing with four hours of subject matter--but overall the film stays true to the words. Most all of the memorable lines are kept, except, alas, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." But, at least there's nothing rotten with this fine film. Enjoy....more info
  • Suprisingly excellent
    With casting Mel Gibson as lead, this film was always going to attract a type of movie goer that would probably not normally see a Shakespeare production. Hence it's no suprise that we don't have 100% theatrical authenticity here, it is perhaps (or was at the time) a suprise to see just how good Gibson's performance is. Intense and broody, it manages to convey the confusion of a mind being torn apart by fate in a way that is more convincing and watchable than Branagh's. The whole film is entertaining while still managing to bring something new to the much feasted upon Shakespearean table, just what every film adaptation of the bard's works should try to do....more info
  • Dreadful
    This film has many problems, bad cuts, miscasting, etc. - but I'll limit myself to Mel Gibson here. This is the most ridiculous Hamlet I've ever seen. Mel plays him with swaggering machismo (the only thing he is capable of) and it is wrong, wrong, wrong. Hamlet is a passive-aggressive type; he is indirect in everything he does. Laurence Olivier's is a good example as to how he should be played. Gibson's doesn't even make any sense.

    And as far as the cuts, they're particularly bad here, but everyone does it. Olivier cuts quite a bit out of it himself. Brannagh's is the only film version I know of with no cuts at all and unfortunately I feel it is as wrong as this one....more info
  • Shakespeare on film
    Excellent film for classroom use to accompany the play. It is only half of Shakespeare's drama, but it gives students a chance to grasp the plot and mood that the writer so masterfully pens. ...more info
  • Highlights of Hamlet
    When I first saw this version, not long after its release I was immediately lost and confused. Having a clear ability to understand Shakespeare (as I had read several of his plays, but not yet Hamlet) I was bewildered. A film based on Shakespeare needs to interpret the work VISUALLY as well as with the dialogue.

    This is not a film for those who know not the play and it is too short, too cut and too uninspired for those who do. What a pointless mess, really. Typical dreary castle, typical silly costumes, typical, typical, typical. It's everything people expect from films based on Shakespeare, boring, dull, familiar.

    See Kenneth Branaughs 4hr masterpiece, and Anthony Hopkins "Titus" or Ian McKellen's "Richard III" to see what Shakespeare can really be on screen.
    ...more info
  • Mel Gibson's Hamlet
    This is Hamlet the movie, not a filmed version of the stage play. Having said that , it is very well done. Mel Gibson's early Shakespearean training (yes, he was a Shakespearean actor before he ever was Mad Max, who let's face it was fairly Shakespearean in concept) shows clearly in this rendition of the ever popular tragedy. I thought it was terrific and am tired of uninformed prejudgemental critics not giving credit where its due and yet touting questionably talented boy/men like Tom Cruise.There is real depth to Mel's portrayal of Hamlet along with the confusion and despair the character goes through after betrayal of family and friends alike. Highly recommended!...more info
  • Great Introduction
    While Mel Gibson may not be the perfect Hamlet, he brings a great deal of humanity to the role. And while supposed "purists" would say this is rubble, I instead find it an excellent retelling of the classic tale, and a great way to introduce people to the works of Shakespeare....more info
  • A Classic!
    One of my favorites! Mel Gibson really gives an excellent performance in this movie. One of his best, in my opinion....more info
  • New standard for Hamlet
    Shakespeare's Hamlet has been done and redone many times over. Probably because the play has so many universal themes it is the most popular of his plays. When I first saw Sir Lawrence Olivier's adaptation I thought there could be no equal. Mr. Gibson has challenged that thought with a moving and passionate portrayal. Mr. Gibson has created nothing short of a new standard for this old favorite. Ms. Close as the doting but fickle mother sets an equal standard for her part. The other roles are filled perfectly as well and the visuals take you back to that time and place to witness the events first hand. This is the one version of Hamlet you must have....more info
  • A good abridged Hamlet
    I just taught a course on Hamlet for Lifelong Learning and this was one of four film versions of Hamlet I used. This is a very good short version of the play. Mel Gibson does a credible job and the supporting cast is excellent. Glenn Close as Gertrude is outstanding - she shows the giddiness and joy of new love which helps to explain the rashness of her remarriage. Alan Bates as Claudius is likeable and you can see why Gertrude violated canonical law to marry him. This is the incestuous relationship at the heart of the play. Think of your mother marring your uncle.

    The reason I did not use Olivier's Hamlet is that while it's a good film with great acting - it's a very bad Hamlet. Freud was very much in vogue at the time and Olivier distorted the movie to put overtones of the Oedipus Complex into it. Also the Claudius in this film is obnoxious and there is no reason for Gertrude to marry him or for Hamlet to delay so long.

    One of the important points of this play is the struggle between the two "mighty opposites" of Hamlet and Claudius. They have to be seen as equals. The best Claudius I have seen is Derek Jacobi in Branaugh's Hamlet (also my favorite version of Hamlet).

    For a short version of the play, I would definately recommend this Hamlet over the Olivier version.

    Another point for viewers to note, in Shakespeare's time, a ghost could either be good or evil. Hamlet has doubts about the truth of the ghost's statement until the mousetrap play proves the allegations. At this time Hamlet assumes the ghost is a good, but sometimes an evil spirit can be telling the truth. It is up to the viewer to decide if the ghost is from heaven or from hell.
    ...more info
  • Not Larry Olivier, but it's acceptable and accessible...
    This is a good choice for a person's first exposure to "Hamlet" on film. Mel Gibson might be a bigoted drunk obsessed with fundamentalist Catholicism in real life, but in "reel" life, he has always been an interesting and competent performer. For an even better filmed version, hunt up a DVD of the 1948 production starring Olivier. If you cannot find a copy, this edition in color with Mel and Glenn Close and some other fine supporting actors is good enough.



    ...more info
  • A Laughable and Terrible Version of Hamlet
    Gibson presents a laughably bad and overacted version of Shakespeare's immortal character Hamlet. He is very ill-suited for the role. So too is Ophelia: supposed to be a frail girl, she is instead graying in hair and a bit too strong-willed for the role. Overall, a very bad portrayal of Hamlet. Kenneth Branagh's or Laurence Olivier's versions are considerably better....more info
  • Speedy Delivery
    According to instructions for ordering next-day delivery, I had 4 minutes to decide. Made my decision and DVD of "Hamlet" delivered within 24 hours. Great!...more info
  • Not Kenneth Branaugh, but doesn't dive
    I use this one for my college sophomore British lit class because it is shorter than Branaugh's definitive production, the costumery and set is fab, and the movement is fast-paced enough to keep their attention. It is also more "historically accurate" in that it is set in medieval Denmark and we will have studied the Danish influence of English culture by then, red Beowulf, etc.. However, it is the "action-figure" Hamlet, with Mel Gibson who was in his prime in all those action movies that he did back then (I can't think of a single title) so it loses something of the pensive angst of other Hamlets. Hamlet, the intellectual, the philosopher, torn between tradition (revenge), personal suffering, and his educated renaissance mind, is lost to Gibson's more determined portayal. Close's Gertrude is an annoying slut who can't even keep her hands off her own son and Bate's Claudius is a passably smarmy Machiavelle. The lovely authentic setting over-rides much of this and the second year students aren't thinking criticaly anyway. However, I do show the beginning, ending, and death of Ophelia from Branaugh's so that they can see another perspective. Perspective is all, you might say, in this case.
    ...more info
  • A HAMLET for all audiences
    As a very outspoken theatre and Shakespeare buff, I should favor Kenneth B.'s 1996 version of the tale, what with its full text of the original play and so on. However, I find this version of HAMLET to be far superior to Kenneth's long, overdrawn, melodramatic, and slightly TOO epic version of the story. My main reason for prefering this version is the fact that Mel Gibson is a much more relateable and multi-faceted Hamlet than Kenneth, who's Hamlet goes through out the course of the film whinning, brooding, speaking eloquently, and then...well, whining some more. I was annoyed with his performance, but very refreshed by Mr. Gibson's. He doesn't play the character as a medieval Goth punk boy, he plays him as a relatively normal young man who has been thrust into a situation that is far from average. The supporting cast is also suberb, especially the regal Glenn Close as Queen Gertrude, portraying very boldly the sexual longings of the character, a very rare find in most productions of the play. Helena Bonham Carter turns in the most modern and strong Ophelia that I have ever seen on screen or on stage. Her Ophelia is obedient, yes, but passive, whiny, and weak, she is not. She gives the impression that she is obedient for one reason only: given her sex and the time period, she has no other choice, but she doesn't give in without a fight. Even her insanity is strong rather than weak - she is a very angry Ophelia, and her madness seems to almost be her way of rebeling against what has happened to her and how her fellow characters have abused and walked over her, rubbing in their faces the fact that her decent into madness is the result of their depravity, selfishness, and manipulation. I love Kate Winslet, but her Ophelia in Kenneth's version was too weepy, too whiny, and too converntial. Helena breaks all the barriers with her portrayl. The atmosphere of this film is very fitting for the story: it is a very remote, earthy, dark, dank Denmark, and even though we see many beautiful European locations and sweeping staircases and large royal halls, Zeffereli manages to artfully make his audience feel as Hamlet feels: anxious and claustrophobic....more info
  • Once and Future Hamlet
    Brilliant is an often overworked phrase, but in the case of *Hamlet* starring Mel Gibson, the word cannot be used enough. For brevity's sake, I will save Zeffirelli's cudos for another time and place except to say that he has done a good thing. This review is for Chris Devore and his beautiful working and dramturgy of the more than difficult Shakespeare script. Devore somehow makes it better. Were he in London, late 1500's, he would have been a collaborator, making Will's work the pearl it is today. My only plea is that, at some date, we will get to see Gibson give the advice to the players which was omitted so that other pieces could be spared.

    This may have been Glenn Close's best work. This is not a complaint, but rather a sign that anyting else she may have or has done cannot be any better than this wonderful, small role. Ophelia (Close) has an important commentary that must be heard in order for the play to work - Will was no fool - and it needs a Close to do it.

    Alan Bates has been a staple of English theatre and screen and has delivered many fine parts (such as Gabriel Oaks in *Far From the Madding Crowd*, 1967). As Claudius, the regicide and brother of Hamlet, Senior, Bates makes you believe that his reign could have been noble except for that one small cancer, that flaw in his character - very clintonian and very believable.

    I have wanted to kick Ian Holm's ever since Ash hurt Ripley in *Alien*, 1979. I have to keep reminding myself that he really is that believable and that I really don't hate him, It's the character he has created so well. His body of work is repleat with characters of such believability that you forget his name - IAN HOLM - until he does it again, the next time, in the next movie. If films were strictly Hasidic, Holm's version of Polonius would be Kosher. There is not one piece of ham in his entire performance. It is worth the purchase of the DVD just to see him act.

    Everyone is good in the movie and there is not time to talk about all of them. But a note to those whose noses are airbourne and won't tolerate anyone but Olivier as Hamlet. There are several uneven performances in his excellent movie. There are no uneven performances in this piece.

    Finally, we come to the mad prince of Denmark. It is most astonishing that I watched this epic again after Mel's dark night of the troll, thrashing about in complete insanity, arguably brought on by hard likker, frustration, and stupidity. Yet with all said, Gibson IS the essential Hamlet. You will find no other actor who delivers the goods the way the Cruiser from the Boozer does.

    You know this is true, not just by watching the exquisite performance on the DVD, but by Gibson's own marvelling at what was accomplished, not because of some actor's raison d'etre, but rather by the actor's very ability to understand that he is dealing with things that go beyond the ken of normal humans. IS Hamlet crazy, or crazy like a fox? And when is he crazy we get to hear Mel say in the devastating interview he made for the DVD release many years gone by.

    So, enough from me.

    If you want to see the best Hamlet ever, buy this DVD and feast.

    - Dick Anderson...more info
  • Though This Be Madness, Yet There Is Method In't
    This is a VERY good rendition of Shakespeare's famous play. For the most part the dialogue is word-for-word. It is, by far, the best Hamlet I've seen....more info
  • Mel Gibson Does Shakespeare...
    1991's "Hamlet" featured action star Mel Gibson as the melancholy Danish Prince of the title of Shakespeare's famous tragedy. Gibson, whose resume was based on the Mad Max and Lethal Weapon franchises at that time, is surprisingly effective in a role thought be a stretch. Director Franco Zeffirelli had the good sense to let Gibson's energetic performance drive the pacing of a very brisk two-hour version of the story. The result is a very accessible production about murder and revenge in the Danish Royal Family, and a vigorous portrayal of the normally languid and moody Hamlet.

    Zeffirelli's movie features beautiful location shooting, excellent costumes, and an extremely talented supporting cast, lead by Glenn Close as Hamlet's mother Gertrude, Alan Bates as the treacherous step-father, and Helena Bonham-Carter as the doomed Ophelia. At the center is Hamlet, as played by Gibson, visibly disturbed in his madness over his father's death, and movingly emotional in his approach to his mother and to Ophelia.

    This movie is highly recommended as a different but highly entertaining version of Hamlet. It may appeal most to those without preconceived notions about how Hamlet should be portrayed, or to those who know Mel Gibson only from his later films....more info
  • Champagne for the eyes
    After seeing Olivier's version of Hamlet, I was interested in seeing this version of Hamlet. Admittedly, Mel Gibson was one-hundred percent of my impulse to see this film. I don't usually follow actors when choosing movies; I trust directors more than I trust actors in choosing movies. But Mel Gibson is an exception to this rule: when was the last time the man made a bad movie?-- I can't even think of one.

    With this said, I rented this movie and watched it with growing delight and amazement. As always, Mel was Mel--great. Glen Close--great. The actors and actresses, from Mel Gibson, to Glen Close,to Alan Bates, to Ian Holmes, etc., delivered the complicated verses of the Bard's epic tragedy as though those words were their very own words. And those words, though fast and often ferocious, were nevertheless so clearly defined and nuanced that at no point during the film did I feel any inclination to switch on the subtitles. As Adrian Lynne's Lolita to Stanley Kubrick's Lolita, this version of Hamlet was so well made as to defy every comparison with its former. The gargantuan and rough-hewn sets of Zeffirelli's Hamlet sharply contrasts against the tiny, but well-organized sets of Olivier's Hamlet. Precision, economy, and bourgeoisie ethos marked Olivier's Hamlet; though equally articulate, Mel's Hamlet is scruffy and coarse as if to blend in with the harsh interior and exterior sets of the movie.

    Hamlet is a proverb centered around the murder of King Hamlet, Hamlet's father. The murder of King Hamlet at the hands of his brother, Claudius--who subsequently assumes both Hamlet's crown and queen--is the outrage that inflames young Hamlet (Gibson)against his mother's--Glen Close-- new husband. Despite all signs pointing to the affirmative--that Claudius murdered his father, young Hamlet cannot act decisively and his wavering establishes a chain of terrible and tragic incidents.

    This Hamlet is a great movie, equally so to Olivier's Hamlet. Mel Gibson's best acting performance. Glen Close, never more beautiful. ...more info
  • Great interpretation, but sloppy dvd production.
    I recently bought this dvd, and thought it was quite good. The supporting actors are to die for, Ian Holm makes an especially good portrayal, although Gibson is a little off. The only problem I had with this dvd was the scene titled "To Be Or Not To Be." Every time I tried to play it, on 4 different players, the dvd stopped completely or jumped to the next scene. It would have been better if it did this at not such an important moment in the production. I thought it was just the disk I had, so I exchanged it for another copy. Sure enough, same glitch on all four of the players again. Overall this is a great movie, but the dvd could be much better!...more info
  • Hamlet with Mel Gibson
    I need it for my school assignment, I watch it two times and learn to appreciate and love the movie, it's a clasic from Shakespeare! A must have!...more info
  • Franco's Hamlet is First-rate!
    Like many people, I was capitivated by Gibson's long-ago performance in Gallipoli. Before Mel went to Hollywood and became a two-dimensional 'movie star,' he possessed a persona that projected great innocence and a purity of character rarely seen in film. It was wonderful to get to see that side of Mel Gibson again. Good show, Franco!

    ...more info
  • Since brevity is the soul of wit ...
    I will be brief; though whether witty, too, as this production is ... why, I know not.
    For 'tis not a trifle thing to take a play like Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and cut its length
    Almost in half, without thus giving up half of its meaning. Yet, Signor
    Franco Zeffirelli: even he, who aught already did for "Romeo
    And Juliet," hath made his mark again here in most splendid fashion.

    The Prince of Denmark's been portrayed by Thespian royalty near and far,
    First among these the great Sir Laurence. Yet here now comes Mel Gibson: a most
    Unusual choice, 'tis true; and better known for other roles. But although
    Action star and ladies' favourite, this venture made him humble; justly so:
    "The play's the thing," he says as Hamlet, and as himself, he adds: "Hamlet belongs
    On stage." And he deplores that merely one of his enactments of each scene
    Should be preserved on film forever, and that he never had the chance
    To delve into the role anew from night to night. - Fear not, good Sir: I think
    You did great honour to the Bard's intent; well understood unhappy Hamlet's
    Scorn, his rage, his doubts, his terrible paralysis, all his tormented soul.

    I also do agree that although ten years older than the prince when you
    Took on the part, those extra years provided further insight of the kind
    That's needed for this complex role. Hadst but maintained you this same sense of
    Hamlet's gravitas until the end, of my full'st praise you wouldst have been assured.
    Alas, the levity that you let creep into the final duel with Laertes
    In my view ill becomes that scene, and although Hamlet on its eve hath had
    A premonition of his death; hath spoke of providence and sparrows,
    And looking at the sunset sighed, I doubt that when he meets Ophelia's brother,
    He's so far gone beyond all caring that he'd make light of their encounter.
    ("The rest is silence," too, would have impressed me more without the lisp.)

    But let that be. For I do join you in applauding those who
    With you hearkened the appeal of Signor Zeffirelli; and who
    Most heartily deserve to share this feature's laurels. Princes of
    British theatre: the late, great Alan Bates - usurper Claudius -
    All ruthless power, cunning, even carnal, brushing away his pangs of guilt;
    Yet, reck'ning he doth not escape. Paul Scofield, next, th' ill-fated ghost;
    Not bearing arms, as Shakespeare wrote, but verily a perturbed spirit,
    As Hamlet calls him, in his pain. And Ian Holm as counsellor
    Polonius: not ponderous, nor slow of tongue and eye but quick, and yet
    Slain by the prince, in Claudius's place. They all have stood on stage a hundred times,
    And brought to life the Bard's great plays, so well doth it behove one new, as Master Gibson
    Is, to Shakespeare's world to credit them for lessons learned; and not just for their acting.

    Also permit me, pray, to speak about the ladies in this male-dictated play:
    Glenn Close's Gertrude, youthful queen, who gives the lie to Hamlet's chide
    And his unmerciful reminder of her flesh's humbleness, and of her
    Age. A bit too Freudian, perchance, her and her son's relationship
    (That's an approach I've never liked). But a commanding presence, all be told.
    Yet, even more praiseworthy is Miss Hel'na Bonham-Carter; her
    Ophelia well-neigh impossible to replicate, she's *that* convincing.
    Now rose in bloom, in love; now in distress, now finally in lunacy; she wails,
    Her hair is tangled, clothes in rags, prophetic words she speaks disguised as
    Songs and flower talk, before she drowns and thus propels this drama's end.

    What else? Oh aye, of course: Kudos must also go to David Watkin,
    In charge of camera, and Signors Ennio Morricone and Feretti
    - by first name Dante - for this film's score and the design of its production.
    Faithful reporting, too, would be amiss without a word on Hamlet's foils:
    Horatio, his school fellow, in Stephen Dillane's able hands, as is
    Laertes in Nathaniel Parker's; and Trevor Peacock as the gravedigger,
    Spot-on: a diamond in the rough. As player king, moreover, have a
    Look out for Pete Postlethwaite; and unlike the movie by Olivier
    This one includes both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern - Michael Maloney and
    Sean Murray. Fortinbras, though, you'll search in vain in this production, too.

    The words, of course, are those of Shakespeare, though moved around a bit, but not in
    Ways that by and large, methinks, the Bard would take exception to. Save, that is,
    "Get thee to a nunnery," which doth assume a diff'rent connotation here:
    A kinder, gentler Hamlet, who still contrives to show some care about Ophelia.
    (But would he really? Nay, I think not.) "To be or not to be" not in the
    Courtyard but the crypt, however, that is amazingly intense: both
    The performance and the imagery. As generally Zeffirelli
    In troth well uses film's ability to convey meaning visually, as
    In the burial of Hamlet Senior, the prince's wordless visit to
    Ophelia, and in the punishment of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

    But let me close now. Brief I would be, that was my promise - well, there goes that.
    Such is reviewing! Yet, what I wish, in faith, dear reader, thou hadst found
    Within these lines is that I recommend this film. So go and watch it - presently!

    Also recommended:
    The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works 2nd Edition
    Hamlet (The New Folger Library Shakespeare)
    BBC Shakespeare Tragedies DVD Giftbox
    Olivier's Shakespeare - Criterion Collection (Hamlet / Henry V / Richard III)
    William Shakespeare's Hamlet (Two-Disc Special Edition)
    Grigori Kozintsev's Hamlet
    Peter Brook's King Lear
    Richard III
    Henry V
    Julius Caesar...more info
  • YEA, MEL
    This is the first time I ever like Mel Gibson. There are many great folks in this, of course. This isn't my favorite version. Kenneth Branagh's takes first place, for me. This is still very good. I like to see all ideas of Shakespeare. Worth the time to watch....more info
  • Good effort but...
    This is a Hamlet in which you need to find the grain among the straw: Zeffirelli shows as usual stick to realistic art direction and a master directing actors (as he probed many times both on stage and in front of camera) but such precision can leave you with the need for something daring, provocative, new... and it is not.
    Paul Scofield's Ghost and Glenn Close's Queen Gertrude are the best among a cast of talented actors. Mel Gibson for the main role was since the beginning the more controversial choice, and no matter what he is not suitable for prince Hamlet.
    But at the end, it was always common with Zeffirelli making this kind of "moves", like casting Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton for "Taming of the Shrew" or the multicast of "Jesus of Nazareth"....more info
  • Hamlet
    Mel Gibson as Hamlet? I wouldn't have believed it till I saw the movie! But what I really liked about the movie was Glenn Close! ...more info
  • "Omelette" Said The Egg. "To Be Or Not To Be...."
    I do find it most amusing whenever an actor such as Mel Gibson thinks he can produce a performance equal to that of Sir Lawrence Olivier which is after all why remakes are made. Sadly Mel has neither the talent or the on screen presence to portray the Mad Prince Of Denmark and all we have left is a guy who looks as if he is suffering from Mad Cow Disease with his eyes rolling about in his head who just wants his mommy.I give this movie 5 stars because all it did was remind me of just how good the 1948 version was....more info
  • Great
    high school students will love this movie for its vivid scenes. Very true to the text. Brings Shakespeare to the teen's grasp....more info
  • Sliced and diced, yes, but oh what remains!
    In a Catholic family which includes a daughter who still wears a threadbare "Braveheart tee", a mother who has seen "Signs" three times on the big screen, and several men folk, who, in spite of the female Murphys' incessant pratings about Mel Gibson being one of the Almighty's more lovely creations, are nonetheless willing to admit that the man, after all, can act, it should come as no surprise that this 1990 film, directed by the flamboyant Franco Zeffirelli, is not known as "Zeffirelli's Hamlet" but "Mel's Hamlet." What is surprising, perhaps, is how much this film adaptation has grown on Clan Murphy over the years, in spite of Zeffirelli's mutilation of Shakespeare's text. Cut by half―nay, chopped, hacked, eviscerated, generally shot all to hell, with no Fortinbras, nary a complete soliloquy except for the inevitable "To be or not to be," with lines reassigned all over the place―this two-hour script of a four-hour play should have been enough to make these bardolaters grieve...were it not that the acting and staging of what remained was so remarkably satisfying.

    To begin, Zeffirelli is an Enthusiast with an operatic streak. His many virtues and occasional vices, cinematically speaking, appear to stem from a temperamental tendency to what the Italians call "sprezzatura." Let us say, "dying in his own too much." But Zeffirelli has taken his over-the-topness down a notch in this film, befitting its bracing North Atlantic setting designed by the brilliant Dante Ferretti. Zeffirelli has thereby resisted the temptation to Wagnerian excess that I, for one, would have loathed. Instead, the medieval Norse Elsinore that the filmmakers have created, an elemental time and place in which springtime seems like a promise never kept, is subdued in color and ornament, but rich in texture. It reels with labyrinthine staircases leading everywhere and nowhere at the same time, as in one of those dizzying Escher lithographs. More to the purpose, perhaps, Zeffirelli and his cast put their sets to good use. The actors move, interact, fill the stage―unlike the Talking Heads productions one so often sees, in which characters stand around babbling beautifully, but never seem to inhabit their spaces, let alone live in them.

    I was impressed, too, as I have been before, with Zeffirelli's talent for getting inside the rhythms and Weltanschauung of another century, another culture. With a play like "Hamlet", this time-traveling facility can be especially valuable, as it has become notoriously difficult for us twenty-first century postmoderns to get our imaginations around a world in which vow-breaking, adultery, incest, and political murder are shocking crimes, worthy of gasps rather than snickers; in which a belief in Ghosts, Angels, Demons―even Eternal Damnation―are tenable metaphysical positions held by sophisticated, educated, people. But that was the world Shakespeare lived in, the world his text hands us, and many directors, circumscribed by their own broad-minded relativism (not to mention, devotion to Foucault-laced lit crit) cannot seem to stage it any longer without dragging in boatloads of irony. What the audience is usually left with is a Prince of Denmark whose much-ballyhooed "nobility" consists of little more than a furious facility for skewering hypocrisy (Branagh) or a rebel-without-a-cause ennui (Almereyda).

    Zeffirelli, however, by all accounts (like his star, Gibson), still adheres to many of those traditional concepts which form the subtext of this Elizabethan revenge play, and the anti-anti-hero he gives us looks a good deal more, I suspect, like the tragic hero of former ages than has been seen for some time. Burdened, baleful, a little batty, yes, and ultimately broken, but no deconstructed Hamlet this...and my goodness, how refreshing it is.

    As for Gibson himself, there has always been something a little ADHD about the actor, and he holds the screen with his energy as much as his good looks. In the role of Hamlet, his athleticism and animal spirits imbue the top-heavy Dane (always thinking too precisely on the event) with an intensity and edginess that I found most appealing. Not that there's anything blunt or un-intellectual about Mel's Hamlet, either, let us hasten to add; just that, for once, I was able to believe that the Prince of Denmark was by nature a robust male with an intact personality―-until, at least, he returns from school to find his familiar Elsinore transmogrified into the Twilight Zone.

    Too, and to his credit, Gibson is one of the few Hamlets I've seen who actually thinks his words as he speaks them; is even surprised on occasion―horrified―by his own suddenly tempest-dark thoughts and impulses. This, too, was refreshing, as actors aren't the only ones who know these lines so well they could recite them in their sleep.

    The rest of the cast is excellent, though the mangled dialogue frequently leaves the actors with insufficient material to build their characters' motivations. Helena Bonham-Carter comes across as too feisty and ornery to suit my personal taste in Ophelias, but her mad scenes are nonetheless deeply affecting. Paul Scofield is a soft-spoken, purgatorial Ghost whose impact proves no less powerful for being restrained. Ian Holm's busy-bee Polonius is not so much malicious as enormously irritating, as he should be, I suppose, mixing the devil's own pride with a fawning servility towards his sovereign―-Alan Bates doing a finely calibrated "bloat king" Claudius. The latter is an interpretation for which I usually care little, as it runs the risk of lessening the danger the character should pose to our protagonist, but it works well here as performed by one of Britain's most seasoned performers. Kudos, too, for Nathaniel Parker's endearing Laertes, who proves a worthy mirror-image for Hamlet's faltering will-to-revenge; one can see the poor man's fury, shame, pity and befuddlement, all in the space of a moment, particularly in the engrossingly staged final swordplay with Hamlet.

    Special mention, I think, needs to be made of Glenn Close's Gertrude. In spite of her occasionally off-putting Brunhilde-ish get-ups, she is primo throughout. She is also the first actress, in my viewing experience, to nail the poisoning scene. No delicately swooning Gertrude this, as is so common even with the finest actresses. Her Gertrude's death is not only *not* pretty, as they say, it's just about what one would expect, if one really thinks about it, from a fast-acting "potent poison" capable of reducing an otherwise vibrant woman to a lump of worm food in the space of a couple of minutes. As someone who has worked in hospitals with the very sick and dying, all I can say is, "Yes."

    Least favorite scene: Ophelia's overtly challenging interchange with her father upon Laertes' departure. In response to Polonius's command that she no longer see Hamlet, Ophelia spouts off with a perfectly sarcastic "I shall obey, my Lord." To my way of thinking, any young woman (especially in that day and age) strong enough to stand up to her paterfamilias in such a ballsy manner should have the whatsis to keep a good grip on her wits when the obnoxious old so-and-so is later killed. The whole episode came across (to me) as an ill-advised and anachronistic concession to the ravenous demands of feminist criticism, and certainly proved a source of cognitive dissonance vis-a-vis Ophelia's later unraveling.

    Favorite scene: The Hamlet-Gertrude "shenting scene," in which an enraged Hamlet mimics "making love over the nasty sty" on top of his own pole-axed mother. For Hamlets, this scene is like the tenor's big aria at the climax of an opera; which means that to be fully satisfying, the Hamlet in question must have had the good sense to check himself till now; must have saved something for the finale. Gibson, in keeping with his legendary ability to project rage on screen (think of the revenge-of-his-wife scene in Braveheart-―yikes!) does just that, and the result, when he finally lets fly here, is a doozy: It takes little imagination on the part of the audience to understand why Gertrude is hysterical with fear that her son is about to kill her, perhaps even rape her.

    But that's still not the (pardon me) climax, for a second later Close manages a one-eighty that few actresses could navigate: She vises her out-of-control son in a violent lip-lock, and it is Hamlet's turn to be shocked nearly out of his skin.

    Okay, so maybe the whole Oedipal thing has been done to death in the last fifty years of Hamlet productions. Goodness knows I've often wished to see just one Closet Scene which didn't end up in Gertrude's bed, with Gertrude's robes falling sexily off her shoulders as her son tosses her about; but in these folks' skillful hands the effect is grisly rather than titillating. This is something of a ghost story, after all, and we should come away just a little freaked out.

    I'm reminded of the cover of the program for the Tygre's Heart Shakespeare Company's 1997 production of Hamlet, which read:

    "Father dies. Mother marries uncle. Dead father visits son. Son plots revenge. Stepfather plots sons death. Mother is poisoned. Son is poisoned. Dying son stabs stepfather...Hamlet: Suddenly your family seems normal."

    Now if only, if only, this had been a nice, plump three-hour Hamlet, complete with "Rogue and peasant slave" and "O how all occasions" speeches left intact... ...more info
  • Hamlet
    The movie was in great condition. It helped me so much with my report for English. I watched it like 3 times just because I had to keep going back to make sure I didn't miss key points. My teacher was a real PITA. I ended up with a B- Thanks!!!!...more info
  • A Great and Easy Version
    My kids really enjoyed this version and actually, so did I. I have to say that Mel Gibson verged a little too strongly on that dippy character he played in all those Lethal Weapon movies - but that's probably my bad. If I hadn't watched those dumb movies all those years ago, I probably wouldn't have been expecting Mel's Hamlet to suddenly dislocate/relocate his shoulder.

    Anyway, Mel was pretty good. And Helena Bonham-Carter was REALLY good. After Hamlet stabbed Polonius behind the tapestry, Ophelia came unglued in a really spooky and satisfying way. Her big crazy scene was full of energy from every actor on the set - you could FEEL their "Ew! Keep away from me!" emotions jarring around with their terrible grief and pity for what poor, pretty Ophelia had descended into. It was very spine-tingly.

    I liked Glenn Close a lot as Gertrude. That was definitely a different spin on the role I'd ever seen before, with the guilty queen swanning around with wide, innocent eyes, so happy with her big, strapping new hubby (ick) and so pleased when her darling boy makes the effort to cast off his gloominess and embrace his new daddy (ick more.) Hamlet's "gotcha" scene with Gertrude was also very good.

    Because so much has been cut, this is a great version for kids to watch. Mine sat on the edge of their seats for the whole two hours and never mentioned popcorn. The ending threw me for a loop - Fortinbras? - so I couldn't give it 5 stars, but Rosencrantz and Guildenstern got their comeuppance, so I was somewhat reconciled....more info
  • Zeffirelli rocks
    Being a big Shakespeare fan, I believe this is the best version of Hamlet. Franco Zeffirelli really knows his stuff. I also really love the 1968 version he does of Romeo & Juliet ...more info
  • Shakespeare for everyone
    This is my favorite version of any Shakespeare play. Gibson is pitch perfect in the role. I actually think he does a better Hamlet than Laurence Olivier! I have never seen Gibson act so well. This is a robust Hamlet that anyone can understand. Gibson makes Hamlet a man of action who is tortured by what has happened to his family. Although madness creeps up on him, he struggles to act honorably. Forget tedious school days trudging through Shakespearean text. This movie is what it is all about. The quip is that you already know the play because most of it has been pilfered for quotations by just about everyone. The English has been updated but not simplified in the movie. Great film, great acting, what a script! This is memorable stuff, just like a Beethoven symphony or Jimmy Page playing the guitar....more info
  • Look at this! Mel Gibson in a willy script...
    He did great! That fun lover drunkard Jew hating man! I expect much more from him in the future...

    HA! How many Years has it been since I've seen him in anything?! His past works where wonderful, pity for his future....more info
  • Hamlet
    I teach English at a local Community College, and I use this film version of "Hamlet" to back-up the Shakespeare text of the play. This film version is very close to the actual play....more info
  • Odd ingredients make maybe the most accessible hamlet
    I laughed my head off when I was told that Mel Gibson had made a version of Hamlet. But even though casting a then action star as the meloncholy dane made as much sense as casting Charlie Sheen as King Lear, Gibson actually pulls it off, making for a more accessible and relateable Hamlet without cheapening or selling-out the material. The rest of the cast is perfectly acceptable: Glenn Close, Alan Bates, Ian Holm etc. And director Zeffirelli (already a notch on his belt with a definitive version of Romeo & Juliet) brings an interesting visual style to the mix: Matching the film to a rugid, harsh, grey, landscape the mirrors the rugid, harsh, grey content of the film to an effect that would have made Igmar Bergman proud (along with an, of course, wonderful Ennio Morricone score). The play is abridged which means that there isn't nearly enough of (amoung others) Helena Bonham Carter's Ophelia, but I suppose it's better to wish you could spend more time with someone than for them to wear out their welcome....more info
  • The best Mel Gibson movie ever
    I don't think I gave Mel any credit as an actor till I saw him in this movie. An absolutly awesome presentation of Shakespeare that did far more to culture a desire to read and learn more about him(Shakespeare) then any English teacher ever thought of doing. This for me was my gateway to a world that had previously not intrested me....more info

 

 
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