William Shakespeare's Hamlet [Blu-ray] Kenneth Branagh

William Shakespeare's Hamlet [Blu-ray] Kenneth Branagh
While I've seen filmed Hamlet adaptations by Olivier, Kozintsev, Zeffirelli and Almereyda's anti-consumerist effort, wherein "the apparition" appears in front of a Pepsi One machine, Branagh's four-hour ego trip always eluded me. I know that this is the first version to use the full original text uncut and that the usage of 65mm film stock makes it very pretty, but still, four hours is a lot to take in during a single sitting. Fortunately, Branagh's version is actually quite lively and propulsive, taking us through Hamlet's (Branagh) initial angst about his mother (Julie Christie) marrying his uncle Claudius (Derek Jacobi) after his father's death, all the way to its tragic ending with visual flair and creative, respectable interpretations of various scenes and characters. Furthermore, the aforementioned filming techniques translate well onto the high definition Blu-Ray platform, making it an immersive home theatre experience. It's true that Branagh struggled with the difference between film and theatre acting, coming off too big, at times, and that Jack Lemmon doesn't have a Shakespearean bone in his body, just as it's true that some of the sets look cheap and the occasional performance one-upmanship is distracting. Regardless, every scene crackles with energy, whether it's a lingering moment for an important monologue or one broken up by off-stage action and flashback imagery. Even some randomness, such as Robin Williams' interpretation of Osric as a flaming homosexual or the handling of Ophelia's insanity, keeps things invigorated so that the routine knowledge of a play familiar to us all doesn't drone on. This is discussed on the commentary track with Branagh and Shakespeare scholar Russell Jackson, as is every decision made in every scene, should anyone desire to understand the intentions with this adaptation. Also included with the Blu-Ray are the Cannes promo, an introduction and a "To Be on Camera" supplement that discusses how this project came about. Duplicate information is also available in the 32-page booklet that comes with the package. (Warner)