Reviewer: Charity Bishop
The story of Hamlet has become synonymous with Shakespeare, as
perhaps one of his greatest triumphs. Franco Zeffirelli is responsible for
bringing many of Shakespeare's plays to life, from the wit of Twelfth
Night to the passion of Romeo & Juliet, and even an old version
of Much Ado About Nothing, poorly remade recently by Kenneth Branagh.
The premise is almost simplistic and yet intriguing... Hamlet is the Prince
of Denmark whose father has recently died. His mother is already remarried
to his uncle, something that causes strife between mother and son...
particularly when Hamlet learns that his uncle is responsible for his
The ghost of the king returns to tell Hamlet (Mel Gibson) that he
must be avenged or his soul will not be at peace... but there is one
condition: Gertrude (Glenn Close) is not to be in any way harmed, as
she is innocent. Innocent in her husband's death, Hamlet admits...
but is she truly innocent in her swift marriage to the murderer?
Confused, enraged, and yet seeking the proper way to proceed, Hamlet
retreats into himself. He calls off his marriage to the beautiful
young Ophelia (Helena Bonham-Carter) and begins to behave strangely.
The court is convinced that he has gone mad, but Gertrude is
reluctant to confine her son to an asylum. Desiring to test Claudius
and his mother, Hamlet arranges the visiting troop to perform a play
that has much the same premise as his father's killing. The
performance has the effect the desired, and as his uncle flees to
the chapel to pray for forgiveness, Hamlet chooses not to kill him.
In prayer, he might be sent to heaven... whereas if he catches him
in some ungodly act, he will assuredly be sent to hell. Therefore,
he chooses his mother instead and goes to her chamber to confront
her with the truth. He terrifies her nearly out of her wits and
winds up accidentally murdering Ophelia's father, the King's
is sent away immediately, but Ophelia's brother is seeking revenge. What
follows is a tragic tale of romance, revenge, justice, and dishonor as
Hamlet struggles to right his wrongs and eventually pays the ultimate price.
While this adaptation has been moderated and shortened to fit a pleasing
screen time, the dialogue and speeches remain much the same and are
presented in a manner which would make Shakespeare proud. The cast is
magnificent, particularly Mel Gibson as Hamlet and Glenn Close as Gertrude.
The costumes and decor received Academy Award Nominations.
you're not a fan of Shakespeare, even listening to Hamlet
you will realize how familiar many of his speeches and sayings
are. They have become so embedded into our very language that it
is like listening to a familiar ballad to hear them sing through
the lips of such esteemed and great actors. I never have been an
adamant fan of the Bard, but this film was engaging as well as
tragic and renewed my interest in Shakespeare in general. The
acting was superb, particularly on part of a young Mel Gibson in
the lead. For true Bard fans, the film may seem to leave out a
great deal, but for teens seeking an interest, the draw of this
swiftly-moving plot and all-star cast is a sure fire winner.
Hamlet speaks suggestively to Ophelia during the play; she
later, in a moment of madness, sings a song to the guards
about how men never marry girls who have gone to bed with
them. Gertrude stops Hamlet from killing her by kissing him
passionately. It hints at incest, and in one case by a
critic, implied rape.
There are a few mutterings of "God" used
incorrectly, as well as one expression of "God's
blood!" in surprise.
A half dozen people are killed on-screen, either
by poisoning or the sword. Word comes that a young
woman has drowned. Hamlet attacks his mother
violently in her bedchamber and is only stopped from
strangling her by his father's ghost.