Sunday, 1 February 2009

Hamlet (1996)

I saw Ken Bran's Hamlet the year I started secondary school, so by my amazing maths skills I saw this film the year it came out, and I loved it. My sister and I have a tradition of trying to watch Hamlet every summer all in one go (five+ hours, quite a feat). I bought her the dvd this Christmas and we watched it last week.
Anna and I saw the RSC's production of Hamlet in Stratford this summer- which of course starred David Tennant, who we had seen previously in Edinburgh in Look Back in Anger. I think the reason why this production was so successful (even without Tennant for most of last month) is that all the actors are RSC trained, they all speak the play the same way and so if you can understand one actor you can undesrtand them all, it is made completely accessible. Anna and I only noticed this when watching Kenny's Omelete last week, we drifted off at times and it only happened with certain actors. The cast of the 1996 Hamlet are from everywhere, so classically trained Kenneth Branagh and Nick Farrell are spellbinding yet when Jack Lemmon has a go (God bless him) it's strangely boring and flat and sometimes confusing. Billy Crystal and Charlton Heston play their parts amazingly well -before you accuse me of saying Americans cant do Shakespeare, Crystal I'd say was the most succesful of all the actors at making Shakespeare understandable- Yes it's a comic part but it's still written in the same way as all the others.
When I was younger and enjoyed this film I must have known the story so well and just ignored the parts where I zoned out, and just loved the whole spectacular sight of it. God, it's so well shot, it's beautiful! And the actors are so good, so many long long scenes all in one shot!
The film is famous for using the entire unabridged script but probably more famous for the odd assortment of stars from stage, hollywood and well, Ken Dodd... It was probably this film that sparked my obsession with actors, watching Hamlet is like star spotting, only last week did I notice Rosemary Harris as the Player Queen! Fab!
While I'm drooling over actors I might as well mention how gorgeous EVERYONE is in this film; Kenny B at his best, earned the nickname 'Girdle-legs' from Anna and I because he's just so effing thin! He must have just stopped eating, knowing that he had to look fabulous! Rufus Sewell strutting around as Fortinbras, Jesus, that man is handsome, Michael Maloney even looking passable (That must be a wig!) And my favourite Nicholas Farrell as a jumpy, probably gay Horatio. Obviously Kate Winslet and Julie Christie are lovely too, but they always are...
My friend Penny studies English and Drama and she has told me that all her teachers have told them that Kenneth Branagh is rubbish and he destroys Shakespeare. Kenneth Branagh is a wonderful actor and director who has brought Shakespeare to the masses! Those teachers are out of their minds. Until you've seen Kenny on stage you are not qualified to say anything. I finally saw him live in Ivanov last December. The story was mostly awful (sorry Chekhov, I'm slamming you again) but he was so good. You waited for him to be on stage! His depression, his breakdown, his tears, were so real! So disturbing! And he frequently breaks down in Hamlet! if you watch closely the parts where he goes from quiet, to mad, to agonising breakdown, to normality- he frequently does in one shot!! He is an amazing actor and this film is him at his absolute best.

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