Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, must decide whether or not to kill his
uncle, who murdered his father, married his mother, and stole the crown.
Written and Directed by Laurence Olivier
Starring Laurence Olivier, Eileen Herlie, Basil Sydney,
Jean Simmons, Norman Wooland, Terence Morgan,
Felix Aylmer, Peter Cushing
Based on the stage play by William Shakespeare
Oscar Wins - Best Picture, Best Actor (Laurence Olivier),
Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actress (Jean Simmons),
Best Director, Best Original Score (William Walton)
I've never been one for Shakespeare, apart from Macbeth, which I have a soft spot for. I've said in the past that adapting Shakespeare to film is challenging because there's so many different versions of his work out there. It's tough to make yours stand out. Olivier started that trend, with his adaptation of Hamlet showing that Shakespeare was adaptable to Hollywood. The film hasn't aged particularly well, as it drags on quite a bit at times and a lot of the acting is quite hammy. But Olivier is stellar, as he always was. He poured a lot of himself into this one, and you can feel it.
My biggest issue with the film is the story itself. Yep, that's right, I'm about to bash Shakespeare. I think Hamlet is overly long and could lose a good chunk of unnecessary subplots, and that's after Olivier cut it down substantially already. Scenes like Hamlet putting on a fake play for his uncle to force a guilt trip is ridiculous. And I know this is a weak complaint, but fuck it. The language is tough to comprehend at times, and it's difficult to get sucked into the story. Until the finale, which I must say was pretty damn entertaining. The production design, costumes, and score are all impressive as well.
I don't think Hamlet deserved Best Picture at the 1948 Oscars, especially when it was up against four considerably better films. I think the Academy got ahead of themselves and tried to show they were still able to appreciate the classics. But the other four were so progressive in their subject matter that they make this film look bad by comparison. And that's just me, because I'm not a Shakespeare fan. If you are, great. You might enjoy this a lot.