Mel Gibson's best moments come in the highly physical duelling scene that climaxes the Shakespeare play. Otherwise, Mel's Hamlet is blond and Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet is bland.

Mel Gibson’s best moments come in the highly physical duelling scene that climaxes the Shakespeare play. Otherwise, Mel’s Hamlet is blond and Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet is bland.

By slicing the text virtually in half, and casting a matinee idol in the lead, the director clearly hoped to engage the masses. Unfortunately, this Hamlet seems no more modern or pertinent to contemporary concerns than any other on stage, screen or tube in recent decades. Nor does it possess the rugged freshness of Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V.

Familiar story unfolds in and around a formidable fortress that is actually a combination of three ancient structures in the British Isles. Deeply aggrieved by the death of his father, Hamlet is commanded by his father to avenge his murder at the hands of his brother Claudius, who has since become king and married Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude.

Performances all fall in a middle range between the competent and the lackluster. Gibson gets the dialog and soliloquies out decently, but rolls and bugs his eyes a lot. Best is probably Paul Scofield as the ghost, although Zeffirelli irritatingly cuts or pulls away from him midstream. Alan Bates is a solid Claudius. Glenn Close brings a juicy vigor to Gertrude.

1990: Nominations: Best Art Direction, Costume Design

Hamlet

Production

Warner/Nelson. Dir Franco Zeffirelli; Producer Dyson Lovell; Screenplay Christopher De Vore, Franco Zeffirelli; Camera David Watkin; Editor Richard Marden; Music Ennio Morricone Art Dir Dante Ferretti

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1990. Running time: 135 MIN.

With

Mel Gibson Glenn Close Alan Bates Paul Scofield Ian Holm Helena Bonham Carter
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