It’s not much of a secret that I like Shakespeare. A lot. I talk incessantly about it to those around school, I’m eager to discuss any plays I’m passionate about, I’m president of an embarrassingly tiny Shakespeare club, and who knows how many argumentative papers in favor of the Stratfordian theory I’ve written that my poor English teacher has had to assess. I adore Shakespeare: I’m enamored with his words, his silliness, his morbidness; the way he seems to touch my soul and speak to me although we live hundreds of years apart, the way his stories can still bend and flow to reach modern audiences. Everything about him, to me, is groundbreaking.
And that being said, Hamlet, in itself, is a work of pure genius — but I’m certainly not the first literature enthusiast to argue such a thing. If I started talking about all the reasons why Hamlet is a pure masterpiece, this article would be several thousands of words too long. So we’re not going to state the obvious and talk about why Hamlet is important, but rather: which productions of Hamlet, I feel, are important. Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of them in preparation for this article, and although I certainly haven’t reached all of them, I’ve watched a good handful. So please, enjoy this little list of film versions of Hamlet I think are worth pursuing.
(Ten bucks says this is going to be the most pretentious-sounding article I’ve written yet.)
5. Hamlet (2000) dir. Michael Almereyda, starring Ethan Hawke as Hamlet
I’m not going to hide my dissatisfaction for this movie, so right off the bat I’m going to establish that this movie pretty much does not meet any of my rather low standards for Hamlet productions. In fact, I’m just going to be blunt and say that I hate this version. But let’s start with the pros!
This production does get points for originality and … well, effort. They truly do try to fit the context of the play into a modern standard, which is tough in itself, considering all of the 14th-century context that is supposed to be established within the play itself. I like how Denmark is a company, and Claudius, the CEO — and similarly, I do think that, to an extent, this movie is well-casted. Claudius, Gertrude, and Polonius especially look the part, in my opinion.
And as a small detail, I find it at a 60-40 ratio of charming-to-irritating that Hamlet’s groundbreaking “to be or not to be” soliloquy was mumbled emotionlessly in the “Action” section of a Blockbuster. For a movie published in 2000, it feels shockingly like dark millenial humor to have a character almost boredly contemplating his deep desire for the eternal sleep found through suicide in a DVD store in the middle of the night.
Those are the pros. Blink and you’ll miss ’em!
On to the flaws. Ethan Hawke is terrible as Hamlet. I never even feel Hamlet’s emotions throughout his entire performance. He seems to act as though if he speaks in a monotonous drone enough, the audience will finally understand how … sad Hamlet is? I guess? I strongly believe that Shakespeare isn’t supposed to sound as absolutely dull as Hawke portrays it. Iambic pentameter beats in tandem with one’s own heart; Shakespeare’s writing, itself, is full of heart, of passion! In Act 1 scene 2, Hamlet is so utterly steeped in grief and horror at the world that he literally wishes his face would melt like lava, and resolve into the dew on the Earth’s grass! That’s an intense mental image, but Hawke reads it like Hamlet is on the verge of sleep!
And, shocker! I was on the verge of sleep throughout his performance too! Amazing, the effect such a thing can have on your audience, huh?
Another detail about Hawke that may just be me being picky is that, to me, he doesn’t really … look like Hamlet? Sure, he does look like a CEO’s bratty son who spends his day locked up in his room editing videos and only comes out to verbally abuse his girlfriend or scream at his mother — his horrible costume design (including the beanie and the glasses) can attest to this — but he doesn’t look, or feel, like Hamlet. I don’t catch any air of grief, or really, as I mentioned previously, any emotion. I don’t recognize the Hamlet from the play that I know, who is slightly manic, slightly eccentric, yet overall … at least somewhat endearing? Hawke’s Hamlet is a stranger to me.
But anyways, I’ve already ranted for too long — let’s be quick with the rest of the cons. Julia Stiles’ Ophelia, while a somewhat-interesting take, is ultimately boring to me. (What a perfect bride for Hawke’s Hamlet!) I find it almost insulting to the source material that Ophelia’s death — such a beautiful, harrowing, chilling, devastating tragedy in the original content — was reduced to a beautiful girl who drowns in a shallow hotel fountain. I feel that it sucks the meaning from the act itself in that they portray it in such an absurd way.
In summary? This movie tried way too hard to be The Matrix, and failed awfully.
Hamlet (2000) gets 1.5/5 stars from me, the 1 point being the modern setting and the half point being that the runtime is mercifully under two hours.
4. Hamlet (1996) dir. Kenneth Branagh, starring Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet
Yep, Branagh’s super long, super crazy Hamlet is almost the worst in my books, although significantly better than Hawke’s. There will be no kissing Branagh’s butt in my household, even if he is an admittedly talented actor and director!
This time, let’s start with the cons to spice this up. There’s so much about this version that is just … so … weird, so let’s do a lightning-speed round.
Act 1 scene 2 seems to take place at Gertrude and Claudius’s wedding which, in context, makes pretty much no sense whatsoever. The whole scene where Polonius is chilling with Reynaldo and a prostitute is absolutely absurd. The kiss between Laertes and Ophelia is extremely jarring, and uncomfortable to watch as an audience member. The ghost does not even seem like a ghost (but rather, a funny man with bleached hair and contacts), and Hamlet’s reaction to it is exceedingly underwhelming. Along with that, the special effects in this movie are comical at best. Hamlet and Horatio don’t even seem like friends in this version! If they’re not friends, then what’s the point of Horatio even having a place in the story?
The tiny train that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ride in on is the most “WTF” setpiece of this whole tacky affair. I find the entire casting of this movie to be pretty questionable, besides maybe Kate Winslet as Ophelia. Branagh takes Hamlet’s madness — arguably one of the most interestingly ambiguous things about the source material — and reduces it down to its barest, most boring bones. The audience never questions anything about what’s going on, because Branagh has made all the decisions for you, erasing the ambiguity that makes the source material so engrossing. Claudius’s death was awful, just awful; one of the most cringeworthy stagings I’ve ever seen.
And as a final note: the costume designs. Why did the fencing outfits need nipples, Kenneth? Can you explain that to me? I’m begging for an answer here.
Anyways, I know that was a whole listing of seemingly random claims about this movie, but the runtime is almost 4 hours. If I made in-depth arguments for each one, we’d be here all night. Just watch the movie (or don’t, and stick around to see the end of the article for my actual recommendation) and you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I say that this movie can be a little too over the top sometimes.
But on to the pros, which I hope to flesh out a little more!
I do like, to a small extent, what this version did with Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship. Although I wasn’t very much into the explicit image of them having a physical relationship (which, again, most productions usually keep ambiguous), I did like the fact that Branagh stuck solidly to the concept that Hamlet does love Ophelia and she, him. To date, Branagh’s “get thee to a nunnery” interpretation is the only one to have ever given me chills and make me really feel sorrowful deep in my heart for the events. You can see the agony on Hamlet’s face as he realizes that Ophelia, too, has rejected him in favor of joining Claudius’s side; how truly heartbroken and alone he must feel! I just feel as though the emotion in this scene is truly poignant, even if Ophelia’s face looked awfully silly when squished up against the mirror like that.
I also love the way they added little bonus flashbacks showing pre-play Hamlet. This one, in particular, makes my heart melt, and I adore the way you can really see Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship thrive in it:
While I don’t necessarily agree that Hamlet was in love with Ophelia (an opinion based solely on the text), I do like the clear thought and dedication that Branagh put into this concept, and it is charming at several points through his production. So, bravo to you, Mr. Branagh.
Another simple thing that I like about this interpretation is the setting that they placed it in. Blenheim Palace (in Woodstock, Oxfordshire) is an absolutely stunning, vast location, and I think that it really works for Elsinore. It’s perfectly eccentric (with its checkerboard floors, especially), and seems to reflect the long, winding, almost confusing nature of the play itself. Just as well, I love that the main floor is lined with mirrors; speaking of reflecting, such a setting choice is perfectly illustrative of Hamlet’s tendency to reflect the innermost thoughts and personalities of those around him. All in all? It’s pretty clever!
To sum it up, I give Branagh’s Hamlet a slightly higher 3/5. I could take it or leave it, even though it does occasionally tug on my heartstrings, and does do some very interesting, unique things with the text.
3. Hamlet (2009) dir. Gregory Doran, starring David Tennant as Hamlet
Not gonna lie: I’m actually quite fond of Tennant’s Hamlet, and I promise it’s not just because I got a lot of nostalgia watching one of my favorite Doctors from Doctor Who play one of my favorite (if not my absolute favorite) Shakespeare characters. Tennant has such charm as an actor; he’s undeniably talented and handsome, so seeing him as Hamlet really is quite a treat.
This production, unlike Hawke’s and Branagh’s, doesn’t really make any crazy moves with Hamlet — which I find refreshing. Often I feel like directors, in wanting to spice up an age-old, world-famous play, sometimes take things a little bit too far, and end up doing the opposite — so I’m glad, at least, for a tad of normalcy to be found in Tennant’s Hamlet. I find the setting, itself, to be perfectly adequate for the play, and the casting is acceptable. Overall, I’d define Tennant’s Hamlet to be a pretty safe version, you know? It’s a solid choice, not very remarkable, but far from bad, too.
But anyways, on to the things I actually really liked. I love the way Tennant shows Hamlet’s madness — by being overall very goofy and silly, and by sometimes harboring a bit of a zany glint in his eyes. This production emphasizes the questionable “insanity” of Hamlet, but still leaves some room open for interpretation for the audience, which I can certainly appreciate. Overall, Tennant handles this role with skill and precision, displaying an utterly wide range of emotion through this iconic character, and somehow still breathing a fresh, unique life into him. It’s certainly commendable!
Above is my favorite little scene that Tennant does in this version. I just love the way he speaks, the way he portrays Hamlet’s wildness. It’s so, so good!
I also really, really love the way Hamlet and Horatio’s relationship is portrayed in this production. Normally, I feel like productions don’t really take advantage of the nature of their friendship, nor of Horatio’s character at all. I would definitely argue that Horatio, although limited to a handful of lines, is an absolutely central character to the play — he is the light at the end of the tunnel, the one who survives in order to grant Denmark a better future and royal family through the words of his mouth and his memory. He is the only confidant that Hamlet can trust throughout the whole affair, which is utterly important, considering Hamlet cannot even trust his own love to keep his secret.
In this version, Hamlet and Horatio’s close relationship really shines through, which makes me feel utterly comforted as a viewer — that even though Hamlet is paranoid and manic and utterly depressed, he still has a friend he can trust and confide in. To me, Horatio represents hope shining through in the events that unfold. And every time we see Hamlet gratefully fling himself into Horatio’s arms, or goofily play recorders with him, or even when Hamlet dies within the embrace of the only person he could ever trust — we see that hope shine through, even in the darkest of moments. And I really, really adore that.
However, I do have some small-ish qualms about this production that I would like to address.
I’m not really crazy about how the ghost is portrayed here. Composition of shots is very important when shooting a film; normally, in Hamlet, the ghost is portrayed to be taller, more terrifying, Hamlet on the ground or sitting down and looking up at him. It shows admiration, and a position of power in the ghost’s case. However, I thought it strange how in this version, Hamlet is a little bit taller than his father, and they stand eye-to-eye until Hamlet falls to his knees. To me, the power imbalance between them is not really emphasized, which does not really make Hamlet’s shock and terror pack a punch? Also, I know I said this about Branagh’s as well, but McKellen’s Hamlet Sr. doesn’t even feel like a ghost to me. Hamlet can touch him, and reach out to him; he is not even vaguely transparent or mystical, or even remotely scary. To me, the experience of that scene is rendered underwhelming.
The other little problem that I have with this movie is that the broken glass/mirror imagery is … sort of shoved down your throat, here. Unlike Branagh’s, which conducts that symbolism with a sort of keen subtlety and doesn’t make it the main focus of the movie, Tennant’s really packs it on thick. Even the cover of the DVD itself is Tennant staring at his broken countenance in a shattered mirror. I think that they could have pulled that off with a little bit more finesse. Other than that, though, my problems with this production are very minor, and I mainly enjoy everything I see!
I give Tennant’s Hamlet a 4/5 for being easily enjoyable and well produced.
2. Hamlet (1948) dir. Laurence Olivier, starring Laurence Olivier as Hamlet
I just want to clarify right off the bat that any production of Hamlet that endorses Freud’s absolutely garbage theory that Hamlet wants to bang Gertrude or vice versa (read that article at your own discretion, it’s gross) is one that I already disapprove of. The Freudian theory is absolutely absurd and goes against pretty much everything Hamlet stands for in the play, and should never be taken seriously. Even though Olivier’s interpretation of Gertrude and Hamlet’s relationship is pretty explicitly Freudian (which truly breaks my heart), I’m going to completely ignore that and focus on the parts of his version that is actually coherent and sensible. Just know that I, in no way, condone of this interpretation of their relationship, and am choosing to rather emphasize the things that are worth watching about this production, since it is somewhat historically significant in that Laurence Olivier starred in it.
With that said, let’s segway into the pros.
I actually really love the casting of this version. I think that every character really suits the character that they’re playing — Olivier is appropriately melancholy looking, his face suspended in permanent puppy-dog eyes for almost the entirety of the play. Just as well, this Ophelia (portrayed by Jean Simmons) is absolutely breathtaking with her long, blonde hair and girlish and youthful expression. In fact, I think that this version might have my favorite Claudius ever, Basil Sydney. I love the way he portrays Claudius, and I think that he just has an excellent look for him. This is one thing, I believe, that is quite important for film adaptations, especially for that of Hamlet — I feel a lot of dissonance when the actors don’t look the way the characters perhaps should, like when they make Hamlet a beefy jock or Polonius a younger fellow. This production, I feels, does really good in that department — along with the absolutely incredible costuming.
Much like in the Branagh version, I really, really love the setting for Olivier’s Hamlet. There are so many wide-open doors and eccentric castle rooms, and I also very much loved the huge ocean next to Elsinore, and the lovely creek in which Ophelia died. Again, similarly to Branagh, the setting for this production really felt like a winding maze — lots of curling staircases and almost primitive-looking platforms, juxtaposing confusion and simplicity. Hamlet can be found in the vast throne room, which contains pillars and expensive chairs and goblets and other such details — or sitting simply atop a surface looking down at the ocean in his “to be or not to be” speech. I feel as though these locations really illustrate the theme of action or inaction in Hamlet, which is such a gorgeous touch to add.
Another thing that I appreciated was how the ghost in this version is actually quite terrifying. We never fully see his body, nor do we ever really have the perception that he is an empathetic human being. He is ever shrouded in the night’s fog, his expression almost looking malformed and devilish, his voice a harrowing boom resounding through the air. I really appreciate the truly supernatural approach that Olivier took to portraying the ghost; after all, at one point in the play, Hamlet truly has to wonder if this being was his father or just a demon sent to trick him. I think it’s worth points to portray the ghost as actually … well, something that could be demonic. It was an interesting touch, to say the least.
Now, to go onto Ophelia. I truly love Ophelia in this version. She is soft and sweet, and you can truly see how much she loves her family. (I feel as though productions of Hamlet sometimes forget that it was her father’s death that drove her mad. In order for her to go mad with grief, it must be shown that she actually did love her father, right?) My favorite is in Act 1, scene 3, when Polonius is harping on to Laertes about how he should behave while he’s away in France – and all the while Ophelia is walking behind him, goofing around and fixing his collar and bugging him in an endearing manner. I find it to be very adorable that they’re actually portrayed as siblings are, and am surprised that more productions don’t take this route! It’s so fun to see their family actually feel like a family, and that almost enhances the effect of the later tragedy.
And speaking of the later tragedy, one small detail I love about the scene where Ophelia is mad is that when she solemnly says, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.Pray you, love, remember.” (IV.V.199-200). Normally, productions have Ophelia offering this flower to Laertes, as a symbol for them both remembering their father, perhaps. But in Olivier’s version, Ophelia slowly and gracefully walks into another room, and sets the flower on the armrest of a chair. She seems to caress the air for a moment, as if cupping someone’s cheek, and says, “pray you, love, remember,” in a soft, loving voice. I like to interpret this as she’s speaking to Hamlet, even though he’s away. After all, Ophelia assumes in Act 3 scene 1 that Hamlet’s mind is corrupt, so that he no longer knows or remembers who she is or what their honest relationship was like. I truly like this interpretation of those simple lines, it’s very unique!
Those are about all the pros I can think of. Let’s go onto the cons.
Is it blasphemous to say that I don’t think Olivier is that good of an actor, at least for this role? I know he’s classic and considered one of the best actors ever, but I feel as though his expression never really varies throughout this film. I don’t really feel that hyper-emotional, eccentric, melodramatic quality of Hamlet that always should shine through, and which shines through even in the original text. He maintains the expression of “calm, sad boy” throughout the whole thing, and even declares his, “I am dead, Horatio” with a stone-cold expression. This Hamlet is not manic; he seems to be going through all of his sufferings with unrealistic calmness. It just doesn’t feel like the weirdly lovable, messy Hamlet I know. While Olivier surely looked the role, I wouldn’t really say he’s the best Hamlet I’ve seen.
Also … Olivier cuts out so much of the play, including some characters — Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Fortinbras altogether! And while I understand that he was probably looking to make the play shorter, more together and less chaotic, and a little easier to understand, those three characters (although minor characters) are still incredibly important in highlighting certain qualities in Hamlet? In fact, maybe their absence is the reason why Olivier’s Hamlet just feels so boring to me. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern highlight a sort of pained carelessness in Hamlet; Hamlet feels betrayed by their siding with Claudius, and even goes as far as to kill them when they try to deliver him to England. And Fortinbras is supposed to be a foil for Hamlet — he’s quite literally the story of Hamlet if everything had just gone right! It’s a real shame that they’re not in it.
Also, this production’s Horatio, much like its Hamlet, is utterly boring. I feel like how much of a role Horatio plays in a production of Hamlet can really make or break how I feel about it, honestly. Horatio is so important to the story, and if he isn’t shown to be relevant to the story or very close friends with Hamlet, the hope or ray of light at the end of the play doesn’t really stick with me.
Besides the absolutely garbage Oedipal allusions, that’s about all the problems I had with it. Although I was sad to see Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Fortinbras absent, I sorta liked how short and easy the movie became to watch. Overall, I liked this version, and found it very good! I give Olivier’s Hamlet 4.5/5 for how gorgeous, spooky, and tragic it is.
1. Hamlet at Elsinore (1964) dir. Philip Saville, starring Christopher Plummer as Hamlet
Okay. Okay. This is my absolute favorite production of Hamlet, for so many reasons. Let’s get right into the pros, because I can’t wait.
Christopher Plummer, to start off, is an absolutely amazing Hamlet. He captures his melancholy, his grief, his mania, his sort-of eccentric personality — all wrapped up in one multifaceted, appropriately complex, handsome prince who both looks and feels the role. I was endlessly amused, devastated, and charmed by Plummer’s Hamlet, and to date I have not seen a Hamlet that I enjoy more than his. Just as well, the casting of this movie is amazing. The Polonius (Alec Clunes) is so expressive, and utterly hilarious, especially during Hamlet’s initial scene in which he feigns madness. The way that he reacts to being put in such a situation had my sides sore.
Just as well, the Claudius and Gertrude in this seem to have been born for this role. Gertrude reacts to the events happening around her with a sort of shocked, guilty grace; she has the composure of a Queen, but the true guilt shining through of an adulterer. I admired her acting skills so much! And to speak of Claudius, I loved how conniving he was without even trying. I feel like one important thing to take into account with Claudius is that, as an audience, we’re not really supposed to like him; after all, he ruined Hamlet’s life, killed his brother, and took all the benefits of marrying Gertrude without really apologizing. I feel like some adaptations try to make him seem like a villain who could be passed as a hero, but in doing that, sometimes, it’s hard to catch whether or not the production is trying to interpret him as innocent or moral, which, as the text clears up, he is not.
Yet Robert Shaw’s sheer vibe that he gives off as Claudius lends him to seem like sort of a mysterious man — trustworthy, perhaps, but the snakelike air that emanates from Claudius’s villainous role definitely shines through. Special shoutout also goes to Jo Maxwell Muller’s sweet, youthful Ophelia, whose song entranced me and I’m sure others who’ve seen it; Michael Caine’s adorable, loyal, and self-proclaimed LGBTQ+ positive (see his autobiography The Elephant to Hollywood, pg. 63) Horatio, who is definitely my favorite Horatio yet; and the absolutely charming Osric, played by Philip Locke, whom Hamlet humorously mocks. This cast is just fun, and very well picked, which is the backbone of the very production itself! I really, really love it.
I know I’ve talked a lot before about how I’m bothered that almost all film adaptations choose not to take into account Hamlet and Horatio’s close relationship, but I feel absolutely oppositely in regard to Hamlet at Elsinore. I think Caine’s choice to “emphasize Horatio’s ambiguous sexuality” (Caine, 63) was an incredible choice, and it truly adds to the tragedy and hope wrapped-up in Hamlet’s plan and death. It made Hamlet’s goofiness more charming, and certainly made him more lovable as a character, because we got to see how he truly is when smitten with a close friend.
(If you ignore the cheesy AMV-esque music they put to this video, you’ll see how great and precious their dynamic is.)
Just to reinstate, Horatio’s dynamic with Hamlet is extremely important because Horatio represents a light at the end of the tunnel for Elsinore (same with Fortinbras); he represents the virtue or nobility in “[suffering] the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, as Hamlet puts it (III.I.65-66). So when Hamlet at Elsinore is drawing to a close and Horatio’s emotion-stricken expression raises, and we see the tears streaking his pale face and sorrow in his light eyes, the audience realizes that Horatio does not commit suicide because there is pure virtue and purpose in him being alive. Horatio is strong, and steadfast, and so important in making this point at the end. So even though Horatio is the only Shakespearean character Michael Caine has played (due to lack of dramatic training, so I read?), I believe he does an absolutely breathtaking job.
And speaking of Hamlet’s relationships with the other characters around him, I’m actually very pleased with the way he and Gertrude’s relationship is shown. I was fearful of some aforementioned Oedipal nonsense in some parts, but I really do think that this production does a good job of capturing Hamlet’s familial fondness for Gertrude, and vice versa. It is my interpretation of the source material that Hamlet and Gertrude really do love each other, despite the fact that Gertrude hasn’t been a very good mother. You can see that here:
QUEEN: He’s fat and scant of breath.—
Here, Hamlet, take my napkin; rub thy brows.
The Queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet. (V.II.313-315).
QUEEN, to OPHELIA: I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife;
I thought thy bride-bed to have decked, sweet maid,
And not have strewed thy grave. (V.I.255-257)
HAMLET: Soft! now to my mother!
O heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever
The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom.
Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use none. (III.II.426-429)
And there’s a lot of instances in which Gertrude frets over Hamlet’s wellbeing (try II.II.36-39
), and of course, in the closet scene, Hamlet is really concerned about his mother rejecting her dirtied lifestyle in favor of one of virtue. And this fondness certainly comes out in the acting between Plummer and Tobin in Hamlet at Elsinore.
I find it exceedingly endearing how even after “speak[ing] daggers” to her, Hamlet still shows in fondness by laying his head on his mother’s lap, and giving her a hug to comfort her
amidst all of his cruelty. Even though Gertrude’s trust in Hamlet’s sanity is shattered here, it’s clear that Hamlet only has her broken morality in mind. I love the way this dynamic is portrayed on screen, and I feel like a lot of adaptations miss out on choosing to waste
their scenes by making them Freudian as opposed to emphasizing their complex, tragic familial relationship.
To change subjects a little, another decision that I find very compelling and interesting is how the audience never quite gets the opportunity to see the ghost, but the ghost, in a way, is the audience. It is not the ghastly entity as portrayed in Olivier’s Hamlet, but rather, it is the camera itself: Hamlet looks right up at it as he speaks with his father, conveys his horror to us as if it’s us we’re speaking to. It makes me wonder if what they were going for in making that decision is in that Hamlet is such an age-old story, we all expect to know what will happen, and wait consciously for the deaths that will occur due to Hamlet’s quest. It makes me feel as though I’m the one telling Hamlet to do this in expecting it; I’m the one telling him to keep his mind on track in Gertrude’s closet, because I, like the ghost, am an outside observer who has no say in how the dominoes will precisely fall. But I’m sure there are several interpretations and reasons for this choice. It’s just unlike any other production of Hamlet I’ve ever seen!
And now I’ll talk about the setting, because setting is always very important. The title of this production speaks for itself: it was actually shot at Elsinore, the place in which Shakespeare chose Hamlet to take place back when he wrote it. While the castle, itself, isn’t quite anything remarkable or symbolic like Branagh or Olivier’s location choice, it is quite enchanting to be able to regard the events of Hamlet in the place they were initially supposed to take place in. It’s quite the treat, especially for someone who enjoys small facts about Shakespeare like that, like me! Another small setting choice I like is how Hamlet’s first interaction with the ghost takes place on a sort of rocky beach. As Hamlet contemplates the weight of his new purpose, there’s an added, intense effect by the fact that the waves are crashing loudly in the background. I feel as though it represents his tumultuous emotion, which I think is very fitting. I like that detail!
As I’m sure you can tell, I could literally talk about this production until my dying day. There’s pretty much no problems I have with it, honestly? I heartily recommend it to anyone who wants a focused, clear, well-shot, -produced, and -casted Hamlet. I absolutely give Hamlet at Elsinore 5/5, and the status of my favorite production of Hamlet yet!
Thank you so much for reading, if you’d made it this far! I highly encourage watching as much as you can and figuring out what interpretations and types of Hamlet productions work best for you, too. All of this is my highly unprofessional opinion. But I hope you got some helpful insight anyways! You can watch Hamlet at Elsinore here, if you’d like! Happy watching!