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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Warner Home Video 12/96 DVD/VHS Feature Film
PG-13 - some violent images and sexuality
Kenneth Branagh's mesmerizing screen interpretation of William Shakespeare's most famous play runs 242 minutes, and there is not one dull moment in it. This full-text version is set in the nineteenth century and includes visually stunning sequences at Blenheim Palace, ancestral home of the Duke of Marlborough.
Having played Hamlet on stage nearly 300 times, Kenneth Branagh is able to vividly convey the young Dane's melancholy, grief, and desire for revenge. This Hamlet is a vigorous man of action who sets out to accomplish his mission with firm resolve.
Branagh has chosen an exceptional cast for the tragedy, and many of them give tour de force performances. Julie Christie is vibrant as Queen Gertrude; Kate Winslet makes Ophelia into a complex character; Richard Briers transforms the cliche-spouting Polonius into a Machiavellian member of the King's inner circle; Derek Jacobi gives a smooth and shrewd portrait of Claudius; and Nicholas Farrell shines as the good-hearted and loyal Horatio. The best performance by an American is given by Billy Crystal as the gravedigger whose wit is laced with wisdom. Kenneth Branagh's direction of this classic drama is bold, imaginative, and emotionally affecting.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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