|Directed by||Kenneth Branagh|
|Produced by||David Barron|
|Screenplay by||Kenneth Branagh|
by William Shakespeare
|Music by||Patrick Doyle|
|Edited by||Neil Farrell|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$4.7 million|
Hamlet is a 1996 film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, adapted and directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also stars 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 cast members 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 the first unabridged theatrical film version of Hamlet, running just over four hours. The setting is updated to the 19th century, but its Elizabethan English prose 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 has been regarded as one of the best Shakespeare film adaptations. However, it was not a box office success, grossing just under $5 million on a budget of $18 million. The film received four Oscar 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).
The film follows the plot of the original play, and is the first adaptation to have the complete original text.
The film uses a conflated text based on the 1623 First Folio, with additions from the Second Quarto and amendments from other sources. According to a note appended to the published screenplay:
The screenplay is based on the text of Hamlet as it appears in the First Folio - the edition of Shakespeare's plays collected by his theatrical associates Heminges and Condell and published in 1623 by a syndicate of booksellers. Nothing has been cut from this text, and some passages absent from it (including the soliloquy "How all occasions do inform against me ...") have been supplied from the Second Quarto (an edition of the play which exists in copies dated 1604 and 1605). We have also incorporated some readings of words and phrases from this source and from other early printed texts, and in a few cases emendations from modern editors of the play. Thus in I, 4, in the passage (from the Second Quarto) about the "dram of eale", we use an emendation from the Oxford edition of the Complete Works (edited by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor, 1988): "doth all the noble substance over-daub" - rather than the original's "of a doubt".
Despite using a full text, Branagh's film is also very visual; it makes frequent use of flashbacks to depict scenes that are either only described but not performed in Shakespeare's text, such as Hamlet's childhood friendship with Yorick, or scenes only implied by the play's text, such as Hamlet's sexual relationship with Kate Winslet's Ophelia. The film also uses very long single takes for numerous scenes.
In a radical departure from previous Hamlet films, Branagh set the internal scenes in a vibrantly colourful setting, featuring a throne room dominated by mirrored doors; film scholar Samuel Crowl calls the setting "film noir with all the lights on". Branagh chose Victorian era costuming and furnishings, using Blenheim Palace, built in the early 18th century, as Elsinore Castle for the external scenes. Harry Keyishan has suggested that the film is structured as an epic, courting comparison with Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments and Doctor Zhivago. As J. Lawrence Guntner points out, comparisons with the latter film are heightened by the presence of Julie Christie (Zhivago Lara) as Gertrude.
Hamlet was shot in Panavision Super 70 by Alex Thomson. It was the last feature film to be shot in 70 mm until production of The Master in 2012. Branagh was among the very few to use 65mm film cameras after that, on his 2017 film Murder on the Orient Express. Filming took place January 25-April 12, 1996.
|William Shakespeare's Hamlet: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by|
|Released||10 December 1996|
|Label||Sony Classical Records|
The score to Hamlet was composed and co-produced by frequent Kenneth Branagh collaborator Patrick Doyle and conducted by Robert Ziegler. Doyle composed three primary themes for the film to accompany the characters of Ophelia, Claudius, and Hamlet, which are varied throughout the score. The "simple, childlike" theme for Ophelia is mostly string-dominant, often performed by a string quartet yet occasionally accompanied by a full string ensemble or mixed chorus. For Claudius, Doyle composed a theme in the form of a demented canon, using more 20th century harmonies. The theme for Hamlet was considered by Doyle to be "the most daunting and elusive" to conceive, before settling upon a more "simple" motif to accompany the contemplative character.
The soundtrack was released 10 December 1996 through Sony Classical Records and features 26 tracks of score at a running time of over 76 minutes. For his work on the film, Doyle received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score.
A 2-Disc DVD was released in the US and Canada on 14 August 2007. It includes a full-length commentary by Branagh and Shakespeare scholar Russell Jackson. A Blu-ray Disc was released on 17 August 2010 in the US and Canada with similar additional features, including an introduction by Kenneth Branagh, the featurette "To Be on Camera: A History with Hamlet", the 1996 Cannes Film Festival Promo, and a Shakespeare Movies Trailer Gallery.
Hamlet was not a success at the box office, mostly due to its limited release. The film earned just over $90,000 in its opening weekend playing on three screens. It made just over $30,000 in the Czech Republic (the film's only foreign market) and ultimately played on fewer than 100 screens in the United States, bringing its total gross to just under $5 million on a budget of $18 million.
Hamlet received positive reviews. It currently holds a 95% rating at Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus, "Kenneth Branagh's sprawling, finely textured adaptation of Shakespeare's masterpiece lives up to its source material, using strong performances and a sharp cinematic focus to create a powerfully resonant film that wastes none of its 246 minutes."
Roger Ebert, film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, awarded the film four stars, comparing it to Laurence Olivier's lauded 1948 version, stating, "Branagh's Hamlet lacks the narcissistic intensity of Laurence Olivier's (in the 1948 Academy Award winner), but the film as a whole is better, placing Hamlet in the larger context of royal politics, and making him less a subject for pity."Janet Maslin of The New York Times also praised both Branagh's direction and performance, writing, "This Hamlet, like Branagh's version of Much Ado About Nothing, takes a frank, try-anything approach to sustaining its entertainment value, but its gambits are most often evidence of Branagh's solid showmanship. His own performance is the best evidence of all." The New York Review of Books praised the attention given to Shakespeare's language, "giving the meter of the verse a musician's respect"; Branagh himself said his aim was "telling the story with utmost clarity and simplicity."
Some critics, notably Stanley Kauffmann, declared the film to be the finest motion picture version of Hamlet yet made. Online film critic James Berardinelli wrote the film a four star review and declared the Branagh Hamlet the finest Shakespeare adaptation ever, rating it as the best film of 1996, the fourth best film of the 90s, and one of his top 101 favourite films of all time, saying, "From the moment it was first announced that Branagh would attempt an unabridged Hamlet, I never doubted that it would be a worthy effort ... I have seen dozens of versions of this play, and none has ever held me in such a grip of awe".
The film did have its detractors, however, with Lloyd Rose of The Washington Post calling it "the film equivalent of a lushly illustrated coffee-table book" and Desson Thomson writing of Branagh's performance: "the choices he makes are usually overextended. When it's time to be funny, he skitters over the top. When he's sad or touched, he makes a mechanical, catching noise in his throat."John Simon called Branagh's performance "brawny" and "not easy to like" and said that Branagh's direction used "explicitness where Shakespeare ... settled for subtlety or mere suggestion".Leonard Maltin, who gave the film a positive three stars in his Movie and Video Guide (and gave the Olivier version of Hamlet four stars), praised the cinematography by Alex Thomson, but stated that "Branagh essentially gives a stage performance that is nearly as over-the-top as some of his directorial touches."
Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet ranks No. 3 on Rotten Tomatoes list of Greatest Shakespeare Movies, just behind Akira Kurosawa's Ran (1985, based on King Lear), which ranks in second place, and Branagh's own Henry V (1989), which ranks in first place.
|Award||Category||Recipients and nominees||Result|
|Academy Awards||Best Art Direction||Tim Harvey||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Alexandra Byrne||Nominated|
|Best Original Dramatic Score||Patrick Doyle||Nominated|
|Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)||Kenneth Branagh||Nominated|
|Art Directors Guild Awards||ADG Excellence in Production Design Award||Tim Harvey, Desmond Crowe||Nominated|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Costume Design||Alexandra Byrne||Nominated|
|Best Production Design||Tim Harvey||Nominated|
|British Society of Cinematographers||GBCT Operators Award||Martin Kenzie||Won|
|Best Cinematography Award||Alex Thomson||Won|
|Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards||Best Film||Kenneth Branagh||Nominated|
|The International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography CAMERIMAGE||Golden Frog Award for Best Cinematography||Alex Thomson||Nominated|
|Chicago Film Critics Association Awards||Best Actor||Kenneth Branagh||Nominated|
|Empire Awards||Best British Actress||Kate Winslet||Won|
|Evening Standard British Film Awards||Special Jury Award||Kenneth Branagh||Won|
|San Diego Film Critics Society Awards||Best Actor||Kenneth Branagh||Won|
|Satellite Awards||Best Art Direction and Production Design||Tim Harvey||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Alex Thomson||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Alex Byrne||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||Patrick Doyle||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture||Kate Winslet||Nominated|
A spin-off game entitled Hamlet: A Murder Mystery was a co-production between Pantheon and Castle Rock-Entertainment. This was arguably the first video game based on a Shakespeare work. This CD-ROM is divided into two parts titled: "To be" (where players can play Hamlet in the narrative) and "Not to be" (where players can read the texts). In gameplay, players wander through the castle trying to locate the killer.
Galley Cat deemed it "The Hamlet Video Game That Time Forgot". Shakespeare Studies, Volume 38 thought the game shows film's potential as a middle ground for digital works by offering a sound narrative that can be manipulated by player choices. SHAKESPEARE'S HAMLET IN AN ERA OF TEXTUAL EXHAUSTION felt the game offered a reworking of the plot that gave the player agency and a sense of immersion. Quandary praised the game for its multi-layered nature and its packaging.