|Hamlet (Laurence Olivier)|
Having never read Hamlet, I can’t speak to how faithful the adaptation is to Shakespeare’s play, but I can talk about what was onscreen and frankly it was amazing. Since it is Shakespeare, I am not going to sum up the plot. What makes this adaptation so great is Olivier’s directing, not just his acting. Like he did in Henry V, he intermixes theater and cinema.
First is the acting, which instead of playing to the back row takes advantage of the camera to place the scenes in an almost dream-like space between reality and theater. Second are the sets, which are very theatrical, but rather than distancing us from the story and characters, they establish a sparse atmosphere that keeps the focus on the actors while constantly reminding us that this place is not quite real.
|Ophelia (Jean Simmons)|
Thirdly, Olivier uses lighting, iris shots, and other cinematic effects to show what would have otherwise been conveyed through dialog.
|The Ghost Of Hamlet’s Father|
|The Vision Of Hamlet’s Father’s Murder|
|A Dark Foreboding Reflection|
Then there is the beautiful movement of the camera, hidden cuts, and the wonderful use of sound, but I don’t intend to write anymore. The combination of these things create a noir adaptation of Hamlet that isn’t canned theater, but an all engrossing cinematic experience similar to Welles’ adaptation of Othello. I can’t recommend this film enough. See it!