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Year: 1996 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1 (70mm) 
Certificate: BBFC PG Cert – Parental guidance 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

After the death of his father and his mother's (Julie Christie) subsequent decision to marry his uncle, Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark (Kenneth Branagh) returns home from his studies abroad. Upon his arrival, he discovers - through a meeting with what appears to be his father's ghost - that it was in fact his uncle (Derek Jacobi) who murdered his father. Urged by the ghost to revenge his father's death, Hamlet's psyche gradually deteriorates - his ability to soliloquise is heightened to the extreme while he is in reality paralysed and unable to act. The audience is left to watch the ways in which Hamlet systematically destructs not only his only life, but also the lives of almost all those around him.

Kenneth Branagh appears to have built a career on the ability to represent Shakespeare in a way that makes the plays both enjoyable and comprehensible, and this film version of Hamlet is no exception. Again deciding to use a multi-national cast, Branagh is possibly the only actor in the world who would be able to get Richard Briars and Billy Crystal in the same film together. For the most part it works, and the performances are strong across the board, with the notable exception of Jack Lemmon who thankfully disappears early in the film. Kate Winslet is particularly impressive as Ophelia, and Julie Christie and Derek Jacobi lend gravitas to the proceedings.

As with most Branagh productions, the film looks stunning and Patrick Doyle's soundtrack underscores the film's key moments. The set design and costuming are immaculate, and Branagh's intelligently made choice to use 70mm film rather than the standard 35mm means that every inch of the screen is given immense clarity and the visual experience is particularly intensified.

Branagh's production of Hamlet isn't perfect and of course it has its flaws. But it is intelligently made and features strong performances from the majority of the cast - not something to be scorned at nowadays.

Laura Watson

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Screenings of this film:

1994/1995 Autumn Term (35mm)
1997/1998 Autumn Term (70mm)
2002/2003 Spring Term (70mm)