Hamlet (1964)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Tragedy, Period Film  |   Run Time - 140 min.  |   Countries - Russia   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Considered by many to be the finest film adaptation of Hamlet, Gamlet is a stunning work of cinematic art. Yes, there are flaws: Purists, for example, will decry the cutting of text so that a four-hour play unspools at 140 minutes. Yet this is a charge that can levied at almost every adaptation of this lengthy, complex work, and director Grigori Kozintov and writer Boris Pasternak have done an admirable job of editing. Even with several major speeches missing, the beauty of the text, the flow of the plot and the motivations of the characters remain intact. Kozintov also understands that the place that visual interpretation can play in deepening the meaning of a piece, and his Gamlet is almost unearthly in its use of the camera to create new layers. Utilizing the at times majestic and at other times claustrophobic lensing of Jonas Gritsus, Kozintov creates a look that magnifies both the themes of the play and the depths of the characters themselves. His Hamlet isn't merely isolated, cut off from society because of his indecisiveness; he is visibly a prisoner of that society, a fact enhanced by the stark framing of the castle and its environs. Gritsus' photography is sometimes gorgeous, sometimes, brutal, sometimes unnervingly nuanced, but at all times keenly tied in to what is going on in the film at that exact moment. In the lead role, Innokenty Smoktunovsky is perhaps a bit old for the young prince, but his age is the only thing that can be held against him; the performance itself is startling, brooding, enraging and filled with welcome nuance. And as Ophelia, Anastasia Vertinskaya is a small marvel.