Perspective : Olivier’s Hamlet

It’s lunch.  So I popped in the last of my newly borrowed movies – Olivier’s Hamlet.
Here’s the thing, and whether it says something about Olivier or about Hamlet, I don’t know – but I opened up *randomly* – in this case, the scene just after “Give me some light” where Polonius tells Hamlet to go see his mother.
And you know what? It’s absolutely f^&*()ing brilliant. 
I have not seen this movie since senior year in high school (over 20 years ago) when Mr. Corey made us watch it.  My memories of it then are boring voiceovers, no Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and a relationship with Mom that made Mr. Corey pause the movie and remember to mention the whole Oedipal theory to us.
Maybe it is not saying something about Hamlet or Olivier at all, but about my own changed perspective.  I’m sure that 20 years ago I was thinking “When is this movie over?”  Five minutes ago, after 10 seconds of this exact same movie, I was thinking “I want to hear every single word, catch every single facial expression, contemplate every single directorial choice.”  The way Hamlet just stops in mid conversation, points off into space and does the whole “Do you see yon cloud in the shape of a weasel” bit, the patronizing look on his face is wonderful, like “You stupid old man, how can you not possibly see that I see right through you?”  I wouldn’t have been surprised if Hamlet at that moment said, “Do a little dance for me, Polonius” just to watch the old man bust a move.
I was optimistic about the Welles movies because I’d never seen one, whereas I was dubious about Olivier because I had 20 year old memories of it being dull and boring.  Funny how things change.

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3 thoughts on “Perspective : Olivier’s Hamlet

  1. The best thing is the amount of cutting – Olivier knew enough about both the play and his audience to slice away.

    I’ve gone a bit stale on this Hamlet (seen it too many times … every time I taught Hamlet this got dragged out- and it is amazing how many bored teenagers you can produce with one scene of this movie).

    I watch now and think, dated.

    ah, ’tis gone, ’tis gone, ’tis gone.

  2. Dated? Oh, to be certain. I found that Horatio and Ophelia in particular look like they walked right in off the set of a silent movie and didn’t know what to do with themselves. Who did Horatio’s hair??

    I said I wanted to watch and understand each scene, not that I thought they were all brilliant :). I happened to catch what I thought was a good scene.

  3. The fault lies with me … I did enjoy it once; but over-exposure (to the concept as much as the acting).

    ah, ’tis gone, ’tis gone, ’tis gone –

    silly old man sitting on a bench regretting the loss of youth.

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