- Director: Laurence Olivier
- Based on book: Shakespeare.
- Cast: Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Basil Sydney, Eileen Herlie, Norman Wooland, Felix Aylmer, Terence Morgan
- Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
- Laurence Olivier – As You Like It, Richard III, Henry V, Spartacus, Sleuth, Oh! What a Lovely War.
- Jean Simmons – Spartacus, Elmer Gantry and many more
- Why bought: Hamlet
- Seen: First time: awhile ago. Second time: December 12, 2009 Now: February 9, 2013
In the first place, Denmark doesn’t have any mountains, it’s as flat as a pancake (makes for good bicycling, believe me). Second, there may be confusion about Hamlet’s age but he is definitely not thirty-seven years old and getting wrinkles. Thirdly, a more monotone, expressionless To Be or Not to Be is hard to imagine. In the fourth place, weep, weep, weep easily becomes (and does) wimp, wimp, wimp – Ophelia and Gertrude deserve a much deeper portrayal!
More about Larry. At moments the genius he’s famous for can be glimpsed – his nonchalant leaning against the wall and his flippant tone when Claudius is asking him about poor dead Polonius hit the right note. And his final words, “The rest is silence”, spoken in a resigned but almost amused voice with a little twitch of the eyebrow, is perfect.
But those moments do not make up for two and a half hours of an Olivier who is either so laid back that you wonder if he’s mentally writing a grocery list while filming, or screaming and throwing women to the floor or kissing his mother lasciviously or flouncing around with limp wrists. Granted Hamlet is a multifaceted and enigmatic figure but the facets should at least match the character in the play.
People don’t agree with me. The movie got an Oscar for best movie. Olivier for best actor. Tastes differ.
Wasn’t there anything I liked about it? Yes, there was. Best was the incredibly beautiful black and white photography, the dramatic stairways in the enormous castle, the swirling fog, the long corridors. Extremely suggestive, psychological and gripping. It was also an interesting touch that after her confrontation with Hamlet, Gertrude turns away from Claudius who is saddened and bewildered by it.
Otherwise, sorry, this is my least favorite Hamlet. But it is Hamlet so therefore
2 ½ * of 5