Shakespeare Saturday: To Watch or Not to Watch

Good evening, Cactus friends! As we continue Shakespeare month here at the Nerd Cactus, Saturdays will be dedicated to the recommendation of watchable versions of the latest edition of Boozy Books (excuse me, I mean, plays…). In case you missed it, yesterday we explored Shakespeare’s great tragedy, Hamlet. Link below:

So now that we’ve read the play it’s time to watch the play! Seeing as it’s one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays and motion capture cameras have been around since the 1890s there are plenty of options for us to consider. In fact, since 1900 there have been fifty film adaptations of Hamlet (and I’m not even sure that includes The Lion King). Keeping that in mind, please note that I myself have not actually watched all fifty versions so when I make a recommendation it’s based on what I have seen. I will also post the link to Wikipedia’s “Hamlet on Screen” so feel free to peruse the plethora of films that are listed.

As far as I’m concerned everyone should watch Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet (1996). I believe it’s the only movie version of Hamlet that includes the entire text so it’s worth watching for that alone. Branagh’s direction is beautiful, his portrayal of Hamlet varies between his youthful recklessness and his indecision, and the cast is stacked with a number of incredible actors (including Derek Jacobi, who assumed the mantle of the Danish prince in BBC’s 1980 adaptation).

Speaking of Jacobi’s portrayal! …Patrick Stewart plays Claudius alongside him and is amazing. Because Patrick Stewart can do no wrong. That’s all there is to it. Admittedly, I haven’t seen the entirety of the 1980 Hamlet, but I watched several scenes in a college acting class and it was well worth my time (and yours). As a matter of fact, I’m gonna make it my mission to find the full video and watch it myself.

Moving right along. Olivier’s Hamlet (1948) is incredible. And when I say incredible I’m referring primarily to the acting. Watch it. It’s Lawrence Olivier. And he is king. It’s a shortened adaptation of the play so it helps to be familiar with the story, but there are some truly great moments. Ophelia isn’t my favorite (she’s too ditzy for my taste), and it’s important to consider that being a film from the 1940s not everything is as visually pleasing as the adaptations that followed.

For the record, I do not condone watching Gibson’s portrayal of Hamlet even though people tend to come away from the experience saying “he was better than you’d think”. Yeah, that’s not exactly a glowing review… Anyway, I found the interpretations to be completely off and the relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude was unfounded and unnecessarily creepy. To quote Forrest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about that”.

So those are my recommendations if you’re in the mood for some intense Shakespeare. Don’t forget that there are plenty of other offerings including Hamlet as played by David Tennant, Ethan Hawke, Richard Burton, and Kevin Kline (all of which are going into my Netflix queue right now). Also, if you are going to be in London anytime between now and the 31st of October there is a production of Hamlet being staged at The Barbican. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Ciaran Hinds (you’ll know him as Mance Rayder from Game of Thrones) so it’ll probably be worth a watch.

Oh! There’s also this…

Have a good night and join us for tomorrow’s silliness!


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