21 thoughts on “TBT: Hamlet (1996)

  1. I love the visuals, but Branagh’s portrayal of Hamlet was never my favorite. I appreciate the challenge of learning all Hamlet’s dialogue and fitting it in a movie, but he seemed so… braggy. The sing-song delivery of some of his lines didn’t seem like Hamlet acting crazy, it seemed like Ken showing off his memorization skills- more recitation and overacting than a believable character. But, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, so maybe I’d think differently now.

    Mel Gibson is good, Ethan Hawke’s version gave me a little motion sickness from the camera work, I enjoyed the Hamlet portrayal in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and I once saw a local stage production of Hamlet which had a fantastic lead actor. Almost no costuming to speak of, but I adore The Reduced Shakespeare Company; they are hilarious and delightful.

    1. Yay, another Reduced Shakespeare fan! I’ve loved them ever since they started waaaaay back at the Blackpoint renfaire in CA, & I’ve seen them on stage many times. I love their Hamlet backwards in 2 minutes — ‘oob!’ ;)

      1. That’s so cool!! I saw them live for “Completely Hollywood (abridged)” nine or ten years ago now (and got called on by Reed!), and I own all their DVDs and audio CDs. Totally love them.

        The “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet” sections of their show make me laugh every time. My English minor back in undergrad was mostly Shakespeare courses, and I took “The Weird of Shakespeare” specifically so I could read “King John”, just in case I was ever in the audience when the Reduced Shakespeare Company asked, “Raise your hand if you’ve read King John? See, nobody has read it!” :P

      2. I gotta reply to this cause…when I used to work at blackpoint faire back in my highscool days I always made time to go see them a few times. They were always great! I also got the joy of seeing some of their after-hours shows they did for workers.

  2. Actually Branagh’s black outfit is a uniform: The double-breasted tunic and hessian boots are right for a late 19th-century jaeger or hussar, and the pieces of embroidery at collar and cuffs are definitely badges of some kind (presumably rank and/or corps) rather than just decoration. It’s more obvious when he has his jacket fully buttoned-up over a black stock: there’s no way that is civilian dress.

    1. But he’s not a soldier & doesn’t have a rank. He’s a student. The costume evokes uniforms without being a uniform, & he wears it open & informal through much of the film, pointedly so.

      1. Although we never see Hamlet behaving in a military capacity, Ophelia calls him a “courtier, soldier, scholar” and Fortinbras gives the command to “bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage” and he’s going to give him a military funeral (though possibly because that’s simply the only way Fortinbras sees the world). Or maybe he’s trying to honor or emulate his dead father. I like the black uniform; it looks very like the ones used in Trevor Nunn’s Twelfth Night film, too.
        Speaking of Fortinbras, no shots of Rufus Sewell? My students sit up and take notice when he strides in, amid all the carnage and broken glass.
        Thanks for the pictures–it’s been ages since I’ve watched the whole thing (yeah, the Ophelia as the (maybe?) daughter of the regiment confused me, too), and I had no memory of Gertrude’s russet velvet tea gown. Gorgeous! But the one costume that I felt was a misstep was Horatio’s (Nicholas Farrell) loud plaid coat. It didn’t communicate “scholar” in any way, and it just looked like upholstery.

      2. I think what they’re referencing with the uniforms is the practice of royals serving as ceremonial heads of military units. It’s not really appropriate for the original medieval setting of Hamlet, but it’s makes sense with the later period that this version is set in.


  3. Loved it.
    I saw it in the theatre sitting in front some kids who’d barely heard of Shakespeare and never seen any. They were mesmerized, as were we all. Thank God for the intermission though.
    I thought Branaugh was good but the best Hamlet ever was my Grandpa. He also did a fantastic Shylock and and a great Faust.

  4. I like this Hamlet a lot, and I think the fact that it’s so obviously set in a doxastic world allows for considerable variation in fashions we would–in a film claiming to be historical in any way, at least–want to be more consistent with our world’s timeline.

  5. I enjoyed this version, too. I believe I saw Reduced Shakespeare Company do Henry V at Renfaire and which I enjoyed immensely.

    I prefer Glenn Close as Gertrude but I enjoyed both HBC and Kate made excellent Ophelias.

    1. I personally prefer Jacobi’s Hamlet, as he gave the lines some very unusual readings that imparted them with new meaning.

      Also, Claire Bloom as Gertrude, Patrick Stewart as Claudius, and Eric Porter as Polonius.

      1. Jacobi is my favorite Hamlet too. Branagh is just way too over-the-top for my taste, and I’ve always thought Jacobi’s line readings were pitch perfect.

    1. Oh, that’s a shocking (and perhaps egotistical) error on Branagh’s part. Rufus has such range.

  6. I saw this version in college years ago. I remember liking some things but Ophelia’s mad scene was disturbing (maybe it should be, but…). I also remember feeling like the costumes were such a limited palette and so many shots set against that B&W checkered floor that I found it a hard visual to take—confusing and overstimulating for my eyes. I haven’t seen Olivier or Hawke versions, but I have seen the Gibson version and I do think I prefer it.

  7. I kinda figured the bridesmaids were in “court uniform”, like the Russian court around the same time. Russian court uniform was nailed down in the 1840’s (iirc) and didn’t change until the Revolution made the Court vanish. Though, now that I think about it, that doesn’t excuse Gertrude or Ophelia in the same scene. I guess the costumer thought it looked prettier.

    1. I assumed Ophelia was honorary colonel of some regiment as royal and noble ladies often were in Real Life. They too wore uniform tunics with long skirts. Oddly she isn’t wearing any orders or insignia.

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