Hamlet, 2009

dir. Gregory Doran


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David Tennant’s famous performance of Hamlet was so loved by the masses that after numerous re-runs in the theatres the RSC just had to say ‘sod it, we’ll stick it on the camera and then people can watch it any old time they want.’ Well, that’s exactly what they did and what a success it is. This is a really nice film because even if it’s a bit low-budget the film-makers did an excellent job at using what they had.

 

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Patrick Stewart – living Shakespearean legend – is a wonderful Claudius; calm, well-mannered, eloquent, authoritative and yet, somehow, entirely unconvincing as a man content and at one with himself no matter the façade he projects. I’d expect no less from the master.

 

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This only earns three stars for some very basic reasons; number one, the production was designed for theatre and theatre is where is it wants to be, no matter clever the little uses of the camera that crop up here and there to demonstrate 'the observed of all observers'. What I mean by that is instead of getting ‘the best of both worlds’ we actually end up with the worst; the camera is pretty confined and watches like a theatre audience but we are deprived of the ability to let our eyes roam and observe the scene naturally as the screen dictates what we see. Secondly, whether because they were lazy or were trying to preserve more of the ‘theatre’ qualities of the production (which as I just noted was probably a mistake) there is no score! No music at all! Not even in transitional shots. Now I don’t know about you but music in film is very important to me; and besides, I felt that the production deserved a score because the moment it was transferred to the screen its form and being was changed in such a way that it required one. I’m not asking for much; just some sombre, mysterious bass lines to weave in between the scenes, especially when the credits roll. Not giving a good film some tunes is like not giving a beautiful woman some romance. There is such a thing as trying to be too clever, you know? Number three, and I’m serious about this, because it’s a little obscure and I’m sure you’ll think I’m bitchy as hell and I’m sure girls in love with David Tennant don’t mind one little bit but for me at least it was unforgivable; the costumes and set design are superb - bare with me - classy, modern and elegant whilst still preserving a certain medieval quality that sows in nicely with the lines. I was really enjoying the way it looked until this appalling moment when Tennant comes out in this revolting pinkish-red t-shirt that has a six pack and muscle tone design printed onto it; in fact, he then proceeds to perform the ‘To be or not to be’ speech in this disgusting thing and that really upset me. Who the hell told him to do that?? He delivers the lines like a true Thespian! Only he looks like a true idiot! It is just so bizarre and unfitting for the rest of the style and quite frankly, it looks nasty. It’s the kind of ‘trying soooooo hard to be cool’ t-shirt that the Youtube vid ‘All my friends are d***heads!’ is going on about. To me it showed up the rest of the costumes like a limp stinging nettle in a hedge of roses.

 

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My favourite scene is when Laertes, played by Edward Bennet, storms the castle for his confrontation with Claudius. Claudius - perhaps because he is so much more worried about his soul than body? - conquers Laertes effortlessly and the scene is very potent in the film. Actually, strike that, my favourite scene is the bedroom scene; very charged and Tennant was in the zone when he pins his mother down to the bed and spits his condemnation in her ears. Very powerful stuff. That had me on the edge of my seat. But then again, it is Hamlet, so that shouldn’t be too difficult. If you love Doctor Who or Star Trek then this could be a four star movie. But no one could say it’s five stars. In the theatre, as a theatre production, it may well be a five star affair. But on the screen, it’s just a pretty cool movie, worth watching but not really something for the uninitiated.



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