Oscar Bait – Hamlet

List Item: Watch all Best Picture Winners (to date)
Progress: 78/88Title: Hamlet
Director: Laurence Olivier
Year: 1948
Country: UK

No, just no. In this year, the following films all saw a release: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Rope, The Snake Pit, The Red ShoesBicycle Thieves and Letter From An Unknown Woman. Yet, Hamlet won the Best Film awards at the Oscars, Golden Globes, BAFTA, the Bodils and the Venice Film Festival. To be fair, Bicycle Thieves won the BAFTA a year later – but my point stands.

This is a place of honesty, I fell asleep during this film twice.

It is not that I am against slow paced films, period dramas or adaptations of Shakespeare plays. I have got a lot of examples of films that I have enjoyed that match any or all of these criteria. It’s just that this film did not work for me at all.

I’m not even sure that it was because Laurence Olivier being twice the age of the actress playing his mother was part of this. I am aware that this was a conscious choice to up the Oedipal nature of the text, so that’s fine. Odd, but fine.

What gets me, I guess, is how Olivier cut out half of the play and yet the full four hour version of Hamlet by Kenneth Branagh felt more interesting and better paced. I mean, how can you have an adaptation of Hamlet without Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? You can’t.

This 1948 version just felt needlessly decadent, overly vain and just bad. I know that this is probably me showing myself as a troglotite to a lot of people – but if I can sit and be gripped by a 4 hour silent movie about Napoleon, then something is just wrong here.

Still, at least this wasn’t as bad as Cimmaron.


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