Hamlet

Commentaries on film, video and television productions based on the play by William Shakespeare:

Hamlet (1948)
[SHOW CREDITS]
[HIDE CREDITS]

Director Laurence Olivier; featuring Olivier, Eileen Herlie, Jean Simmons

Hamlet (1969)
[SHOW CREDITS]
[HIDE CREDITS]

Also called Shakespeare's Hamlet
Director Tony Richardson; featuring Nicol Williamson, Judy Parfitt, Anthony Hopkins, Marianne Faithfull

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1980)
[SHOW CREDITS]
[HIDE CREDITS]

Director Rodney Bennett; featuring Derek Jacobi, Claire Bloom, Patrick Stewart, Lalla Ward

Hamlet (1990)
[SHOW CREDITS]
[HIDE CREDITS]

Director Franco Zeffirelli; featuring Mel Gibson, Glenn Close, Alan Bates, Helena Bonham-Carter

Hamlet (1990)
[SHOW CREDITS]
[HIDE]

Director Kevin Kline; featuring Kline, Dana Ivey, Brian Murray

Hamlet (1996)
[SHOW CREDITS]
[HIDE CREDITS]

Also called William Shakespeare's Hamlet
Director Kenneth Branagh; featuring Branagh, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Derek Jacobi, Gérard Depardieu

Hamlet (2000)
[SHOW CREDITS]
[HIDE CREDITS]

Director Michael Almereyda; featuring Ethan Hawke, Sam Shepard, Kyle McLachlan, Diane Venora, Julia Stiles, Bill Murray

COMMENTARY | MOVIES

Hamlet 1980 scene

Derek Jacobi is acclaimed, though less forceful than others, as Hamlet in exhaustive 1980 BBC version.

Hamlet the Whiner

If you want the whole unexpurgated play at its whole unexpurgated length, you could do a lot worse than Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, a 1980 BBC production running a full three and a half hours and starring Derek Jacobi.

Jacobi's Hamlet has been highly praised—a few have even called it the very best Hamlet. Jacobi was quite experienced with the play, early in his theatre career playing Laertes to Peter O'Toole's Hamlet and taking an acclaimed production of Hamlet, with himself in the title role, on a world tour, before essaying Hamlet for the BBC's Shakespeare series. And he is obviously a very fine actor. (See his brilliant breakout performance in I, Claudius four years before.)

But he's not Hamlet. At least not my Hamlet. This is a weak, whimpering prince. An unrealistic dreamer.

Like Nicol Williamson's Hamlet, Jacobi's is probably really mad. But his rages are less fearsome, more like tantrums.

And talk about age. In his forties, Jacobi is heavily made up to hide the wrinkles, giving him a ghoulish appearance tending towards effeminacy. Jacobi is obviously a wonderful actor and you can see wonderful acting in every line, in his voice, in his face, in his eyes, in his whole body—throughout Hamlet. His monologues are delivered directly to the camera, as though he's addressing you the viewer, which is very effective.

Yet he never convinces me until the very end of the play that he actually is that bold, impulsive prince bent on revenge.

His uncle King Claudius is actually performed by a younger man, Patrick Stewart, just a few years before his television stint as the Enterprise's Captain Picard. With his commanding voice, Stewart is strong and charismatic—which is a problem because he almost makes us sympathize with him against the annoyingly wimpy Hamlet.

Claire Bloom, as Queen Gertrude, is ravishing as ever in her middle age, seeming a better match for Jacobi's Hamlet than Ophelia, played by the slight Lalla Ward of Dr. Who fame.

This is a stage-based production of Hamlet. It doesn't try to be otherwise with its overhead lighting, scene-long shots and unadorned soundtrack. One for live-theatre fans and English literature students.

— Eric

MOVIE COMMENTARY

missing graphic
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
(1980, DVD)
Get at Amazon
USCanUK

Related pages:

Author
William Shakespeare

Play
Hamlet

Play
Julius Caesar

missing graphic
Hamlet
Get at Amazon:
USCanUK

missing graphic
The Oxford Shakespeare (hardcover)
Get at Amazon:
USCanUK