Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Castle Rock Entertainment, Midwinter Films. United Kingdom, 1995. Screenplay by Kenneth Branagh. Cinematography by Roger Lanser. Produced by David Barron. Music by Jimmy Yuill. Production Design by Tim Harvey. Costume Design by Caroline Harris. Film Editing by Neil Farrell. Toronto International Film Festival 1995.
Hilarious comedy from Kenneth Branagh about a group of renegade, out of work actors who put on a performance of Hamlet in a broken-down church in the town of Hope, a ramshackle little English hamlet that defies its own name. Having everything against them (one week to prepare, actors who don’t get along, a designer who won’t come up with a concept, a local audience that won’t necessarily go for a four hundred year-old play about murderous monarchs at Christmastime, an American movie producer who wants to steal the lead actor away to star in a new science-fiction trilogy), the group somehow manages to band together in a Mickey and Judy kinda way and put on a great show. Branagh’s crisp black-and-white photography is beautiful, and the clips we see of the actors performing Hamlet are actually a sight better than Branagh’s own four-hour film adaptation of the play one year later. Jennifer Saunders appears in a hilarious cameo.