Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA/United Kingdom/France, 1990. Canal+, Carolco Pictures, Icon Productions, Marquis, Nelson Entertainment, Sovereign Pictures. Screenplay by Christopher De Vore, Franco Zeffirelli, based on the play by William Shakespeare. Cinematography by David Watkin. Produced by Dyson Lovell. Music by Ennio Morricone. Production Design by Dante Ferretti. Costume Design by Maurizio Millenotti. Film Editing by Richard Marden. Academy Awards 1990. National Board of Review Awards 1990.
Mel Gibson is excellent in the title role of the much-depressed Danish prince whose recent loss of his father has put him into a quandary: is it possible to forgive his mother (Glenn Close) for immediately following the death of her husband with the marriage of her husband’s brother? When his father’s ghost (Paul Scofield) appears to Hamlet and tells him of the nature of his demise, our hero’s wits are reassembled (or are they?) and he sets his course for vengeance all the way. Though severely pared down from the original play, this adaptation captures the energy of Shakespeare’s original and successfully puts forth the penetrating gloom that it all takes place in (something Branagh sacrificed in place of misplaced opulence in his 1996 version). Close is probably the best Gertrude ever seen on film (though is hilariously only one year older than Gibson), terrifying and vulnerable at the same time, and the production is brought beautifully to life by the excellent period costumes and sets. Franco Zeffirelli never did a better job of bringing a classic to the big screen with such vitality and clarity of vision, and his unorthodox casting decisions serve him well to back it all up.