Thursday, September 1, 2011

Film Fest - Hamlet

David Tennant's Hamlet.  Amazing.

This latest BBC/Royal Shakespeare version of Shakespeare's Hamlet is very good.  I like the restraint and relative lack of Directoral "interpretation": except for paranoid business with video cameras and a vaguely Fascist flavor to the costumes and sets, the play is given to us straight.  (A little judicious snipping of text.)   Settings are somber and simple, making Branagh's version look like a Rococco cream puff.

Good acting all round.  For once, relationships between the Prince and Rosencranz and Guildenstern make sense: you could see Hamlet first glad to see friends, then doubtful, then disgusted.  I actually noticed Horatio and came to like him - the only level headed man at Court, the only one Hamlet trusted.  Ophelia is an actress' nightmare - what do you do with that girl?  Here she seems genuinely frenzied... but I still don't "get" her.  (I don't think costumes helped, she seemed always to be flat footed, bare footed, in a draggled cotton shift... maybe I just missed the usual airy-fairy treatment.)  Pelonius was a miracle of irritating pomposity slipping into senility.  The Queen is as mutton-headed as usual, but her interactions with Hamlet felt real.  This mother/son pair made the 1990 Mel Gibson/Glen Close pairing seem like the Disco version.  (Scenically, the broken mirror in the "rat-behind-the-arras" scene was well used then and later.)  The wicked Uncle, usurper King is very fine.

But the jewel is Tennant's Hamlet.  As an on-screen presence, Tennant has intelligence, a glint of manic humor, and the rubbery face of a great comedian... all making Hamlet's pretense of madness seem a plausible choice for the character and his antics believable.  (Dr. Who maybe helped.)  Hamlet still dithers until you want to smack him 'longside the head, but that's the Bard's doing.

I really loved Tennant's take on the "To be or not to be" soliloquy.  (You Tube clip here.)

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