Monday, March 17, 2014

Movie of the Week – Hamlet

This week’s movie: Hamlet (1948)

This is Laurence Olivier’s adaptation of the William Shakespeare play about the Prince of Denmark, who believes that his uncle murdered his father to marry his mother and become King.

The film is directed by Olivier who also stars as Hamlet. It features wonderfully moody aesthetics, as Olivier worked with cinematographer Desmond Dickinson and art director Carmen Dillon (who won an Oscar, as did costume designer Roger Furse). The score from William Walton is also very good.

In addition to Olivier, the cast features John Laurie, Esmond Knight, Anthony Quayle, Peter Cushing, Eileen Herlie, Basil Sydney, Felix Aylmer, and Jean Simmons. For those really paying attention, Christopher Lee and Desmond Llewelyn have tiny roles as well.

Laurence Olivier is one of the great British actors. He came to prominence in the 1930s, playing both Romeo and Mercutio in alternate performances of Romeo and Juliet on the London Stage. With 1940’s Alfred Hitchcock film Rebecca, Olivier was an international star. He turned his focus on bringing Shakespeare to cinema, first with Henry V and then with Hamlet and Richard III. Hamlet is phenomenal. It won four Oscars including Best Picture and Actor (for Olivier); however, it was not well received by purists who did not like his “modern” interpretation and staging when it was initially released. Today, the film feels like a classical take on the play, given the many versions we have seen since, but in its day it was quite edgy. Olivier is able to make the play come alive like no other film adaptation. It is my personal favorite (followed by Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet).

Trailer: Here
Available on: DVD and Video On-Demand

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