Branagh's Hamlet on DVD is Finally Here!

Good news! Kenneth Branagh’s HAMLET on DVD is finally here!   August 14 is the scheduled release date. For those who haven’t been following this long awaited release, Branagh’s 1996 Hamlet is what some might call the masterpiece in a career loaded with groundbreaking Shakespeare film adaptations (Henry V, Much Ado, Othello….) This was the “full text” version, in other words a 4 hour long movie. Loaded up with star power as well, including Robin Williams, Judi Dench, Richard Attenborough, Billy Crystal, Derek Jacobi, John Gielgud, Jack Lemmon…. I could keep going.  It was a big cast. 🙂 Let’s be realistic here for a minute. As far as going and sitting in a movie theatre to see this? Not so much. I can honestly say that I didn’t always love his interpretation, either. I thought it a bit unnecessarily violent in some key areas, and a bit too “I’m starring in my own movie so there’s nobody to tell me I’m overacting” in others. But as an academic resource, this is simply amazing. Nobody does the full text Hamlet. This is the sort of thing that you could envision English students being told to watch for homework instead of the Olivier version.  And hey, I don’t recall Kenneth Branagh making out with his mom in this one. If you were looking to add a Hamlet to your Shakespeare on Film collection, you can certainly do worse than Branagh.  This is the sort of movie where I’d like to see a bookmark feature so I can just jump right to the most interesting scenes.  (Yes, I know that all DVDs have a scene menu.  I’m talking about favorite scenes instead of having to page through 50 little thumbnails every time).  

3 thoughts on “Branagh's Hamlet on DVD is Finally Here!

  1. This is a great film! Not only did Branagh do the entire play, he also directed it and played Hamlet. I use it with my classes to show key scenes. It’s especially good to have kids read a scene, brainstorm ideas on how it might be interpreted, and then show the entire seen from the Branagh film to see how he did it.

  2. To be fair, I hope your class also discusses the good and bad of Brannagh’s interpretation. After all, that’s what it is – his interpretation. There’s nothing about his particular choices that are any more right than anybody else’s, he just happens to have done a much longer and more detailed version than anybody else. For instance I didn’t love his use of Claudius and Polonius hiding behind a two-way mirror during the whole “Get thee to a nunnery” scene. And his interpretation of Fortinbras’ entrance was rather violent, didn’t you think?

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