Not-So-Dull Revenge, Spurred – “Hamlet” (2009)
Happily, thanks to the technology gods, the director and cast did a quick film version and it’s currently available via Netflix for your viewing pleasure. So, loving both the Bard and the Doctor, view it I did.
The three-hour film wisely takes the acclaimed stage production and elevates it to a well-rounded film experience. Director Gregory Doran has picked up the production from it’s theatre and enhanced the stage production with clever camera work and lovely set decoration, in addition to a talented cast.
Patrick Stewart brings his credibility and grandeur to both the roles of Hamlet’s Father and King Claudius, and does his best to make Claudius more likable than in previous productions. Penny Downie is lovely and sympathetic as Gertrude, and her big bedroom scene with Tennant is one of the films best. Mariah Gale is a unique Ophelia, and her mad scene is played here with less sentimentality and more grittiness than in any production I’ve ever seen. As her father, Oliver Ford Davies balances a well-timed sincerity with daffiness.
However, it’s the Hamlet show – and Tennant succeeds. A lithe and energetic actor, he makes for a dynamic Prince of Denmark. Most importantly, he’s a very human Hamlet. His Hamlet is a flawed young man clearly playing a madman in order to throw his castle into chaos to gain revenge on his uncle Claudius. With several heavy soliloquies to accomplish, Tennant breezes through the role with a focus that’s unshakable.
Doran keeps the action moving, and wisely brings the idea of surveillance to the castle of Elsinore. Not only are there mirrors everywhere (even the floor of the main hall is a mirror) but there are also numerous surveillance cameras, two-way mirrors, and places to hide and observe the residents of Elsinore as they deal with their secrets. It’s a clever way to approach the piece with Modernist sensibilities – rather than screaming “It’s 2009!” all over the place, characters dress in modern clothes in the setting of a castle, and the whole things feels rather timeless.
Once again, to quote the character of Marcellus, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
Shakespeare is one of my literary favorites, and now and again I feel the need to revisit the characters I love so dearly.
To head back to Elsinore, this is one of the better film adaptations.