Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hamlet (1948)

William Shakespeare's tale of tragedy of murder and revenge in the royal halls of medieval Denmark. [imdb]

Nominated for 7 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Laurence Olivier
Best Actor: Laurence Olivier (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actress: Jean Simmons
Best Original Score
Best Art Direction (WINNER)
Best Costume Design (WINNER)

Last year I started pushing myself into seeing all the Best Picture winners, some for the first time, some again, in chronological order. The 21st Best Picture winner was definitely... difficult to watch or just not engaging. I didn't enjoy Hamlet and I found the incredibly long first half quite painful to sit through.
It's not the story, which I find interesting and we have the 2nd part to prove it. It's not the shakesperean dialogue, which I can get used to. It's the damn slow pace, the shaky direction in the first part and some unsatisfying acting. While watching the first hour, I was quite sure this was going to be the worst BP winner I'll ever see. Some casting choices are just crazy, but surprisingly enough it's the actress who plays Gertrude who delivers the best performance. Jean Simmons has nothing to do with any Oscar talk and Laurence Olivier... well, sometimes he's just perfect with the dialogue, other times he overplays the gay arrogant card.
On the good side, it has an efficient original score, the ghost scene is good and the last 30 minutes have a much better pace than the rest of the film. But even so: how snobbish were the Academy voters for choosing this over Treasure of Sierra Madre and Johnny Belinda, the two all-American favorites?! It's a win hard to explain.
My rating for the film: 4/10. I'm sure some adore it. I'm also sure many didn't get past the first 10 minutes.


  1. I agree. The Best Picture win is just awful. I think Olivier deserved his award very much, though I'm not that crazy about him in general.

  2. I haven't seen the Best Actor competition but it did look like a pretty weak line-up... it was an obvious win for him, though.

  3. I really like this film, I think it uses the visual tropes of Film Noir very well and the creeping dread within Elsinore is fascinating. Everything seems to be overheard.

    That said Treasure of Sierra Madre is clearly a better movie.