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It’s Hamlet, what did you think?

Usually when Hamlet is performed, it’s cut. Down to a manageable size, two and a half or three hours. Sure, the famous stuff is always left in- the murders, the soliloquys, the players. But there’s a whole lot of incidental dialogue ranging from merely extraneous to decidedly problematical, that is usually cut or modified greatly to go with whatever focus the current production has.

Branagh left it all in. This is the first movie, so far as I know, that is the complete (or as complete as we have) and uncut script of Hamlet. It’s FOUR HOURS LONG, folks, so it’s not for the faint of heart. But if your stamina is up for it, you won’t be disappointed.

Firstly, it’s Branagh. He totally gets Shakespeare, at least most of the time (and the less said about Much Ado About Nothing the better, because it was.) So he understands the nuances and dichotomies and characters and all that. Also, the cast is great. Branagh, Derek Jacobi as Claudius, Julie Christie as Gertrude, and Kate Winslet (who didn’t show her breasts even once, as Mr. Otter pointed out, and yet he agreed that the movie was worth seeing.) Plus a whole lot of people in really good bit parts, my favorite of whom was Charlton Heston as the Player King.

The play is set in Victorian-ish times, with beautiful gowns and well-cut uniforms, a lot of crystal and sparkle, and excellent use of mirrors, gates/bars, and colors.

But the most important thing about this movie is that they shot it as a film, rather than a stage play. There was no pretense that there was a stage or theater; it’s a film of Hamlet, which means a whole lot of freedom when it comes to scene changes, cutting, changes of setting, and point of view.

And it succeeds. Brilliantly. After waiting 11 years for this movie to come out on DVD (there was some problem getting the rights, I think to the music; it came out in the theatres JUST before the DVD revolution, and that was when everyone was coming down hard on the movie distributors to make sure everything in the DVD was signed off on) it was indeed worth the wait.

Buy it, you’ll want to see it over and over; there’s too much here to absorb in one viewing.

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