Geek Out

Oh my god, the Branagh Hamlet is finally coming out on DVD – two discs! You have no idea how excited I am, or maybe you do …

I know I don’t need to explain my geekiness to anyone (although I did manage to harness an extra 5 points at the pub quiz last Friday – the question was something to do with the Gunpowder Plot, everyone of course says Guy Fawkes, failed attempts to blow up Parliment etc – I threw my hand up and added “it’s also referenced in Macbeth” …) but I’m in an ultra geeky mood at the moment …

Kenneth Branagh’s version of Hamlet was the 70mm, four hour one (although you may have seen the studio butchered 2 hour version). It’s close to a full text Hamlet with a few lines shuffled around here and there (I wrote an essay on it, I didn’t just do it for fun ok, I’m not that kind of a geek … possibly) which is partially why I like it. The other reason is because Derek Jacobi’s Claudius is brilliant – warm statesman in public, cold and calculating in private, his performance is so excellent that I can completely ignore Branagh’s over enunciating Hamlet and the annoying to the point of distraction Patrick Doyle score (for god sake’s man, let us have a speech in silence! You don’t have to tell us this is an important speech, we already know!).

The version itself doesn’t stand up to repeated viewing, the music is seriously irritating; Branagh needs to tone down his performance for camera, talk faster and break the fourth wall or do something else with those soliloquies; some of the stunt casting gets in the way (whoever thought Robin Williams as Osric was a good idea ought to be shot in the liver and left to die) and after elevating the role of Ophelia in a very clever manner, to have her reduced to inane lunatic babbling was criminal (for an excellent ‘mad’ Ophelia scene check out Julia Stiles’ performance in Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet). On the flip side, the sets are stunning, I love the court of mirrors and thematically the idea of public/private sphere works very well.

So yes, getting the DVD for a beyond excellent performance of Claudius (I have the BBC Hamlet, merely because Jacobi’s performance in that as Hamlet is stunning). Yup, geek and proud.

If you would like to see good Shakespeare on film I highly recommend Richard Longcraine’s Richard III – it’s the one with Ian McKellan in it, only a third of the text is left, the Richmond ending misses the point of the play but it’s a very good film and makes excellent work of converting the text into visual dialogue. Titus is very good too (if not at times a touch confusing, but worth it for Anthony Hopkin’s performance) and I still, some how, have a soft spot for Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing


One Response to “Geek Out”

  1. In high school we watched the 2 hour version and my best friend and I thought ourselves mightily impressively geeky by going and renting the 4 hour version… however for us Kate Winslet’s Ophelia was a highlight… perhaps because we a) idolise her, and b) dug the way it captured overtly the sexual hypocracy or something… perhaps there isn’t meant to be sexual hypocracy… I don’t know… I never really did properly ‘get’ Shakespeare, as we know…

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