Hamlet (2024)


Hamlet Review

The big difference about this new film is that instead of going the other way as was done for months and months in previous productions, showing the theatrical through a cinematic medium Mathias’ ‘restaging’ of his 2021 version is cinema; it tells itself through theatre. The method in filmmaking is to scour every nook and cranny of Theatre Royal Windsor: box office, foyer, dressing rooms, toilets, empty streets outside as McKellen (re)takes on the role of walks broken, almost nervous about what’s about to come.

Neil Oseman’s cinematography is an almost wilful misuse to reframe the play in ways the theatre can’t always manage: Horatio secretly filming Claudius; Hamlet appearing for key scenes from inside a theatre box rather than just being there throughout this is an Elsinore we’ve never seen. It’s playful even for those most well-versed with the venue. The creative use of space all over Theatre Royal offers up some lovely moments where you realise that actually it’s not at all, Mathias puts the theatre itself front and centre by turning grand foyer into public domain where Hamlet taunts Polonius while toilet cubicles become holding cell grounded further still by how everyday everything feels when set against such colourful lighting but also capturing some really beautifully orchestrated shots with bathed in colour and effective lighting.

McKellen continues their surprising yet successful inflections from their first outing here which captures closenesses and eccentricities (for better or worse) born upon words heavy delivered lightly whilst also imbuing these unknown speeches although still packed full of worth and exploration even to those most knowing with significance otherwise reserved only for oft-spoken lines. It’s a bloody weird move by Mathias and McKellen but one that pays off massively; especially when performed so closely alongside every inch of this mainly closeup shot hidden away in every nook and cranny of the theatre production.

In terms of the physicality, the film suffers from its attention to detail and drawn-out sequences where Mathias’ direction fails to keep up with the longsomeness of the play. It is helped, if only slightly, by the movement direction and decisions to try injecting more momentum (McKellen does a sporty job at pushing himself into exerting impressive energy). However smarter choices are made also in regards to movement as a performance that gradually shifts closer to cinema’s ability to drive emotion tightly with the brave decision being taken here of offering a lens through which truth might be seen thereby enabling terrifically insightful performances such as Jonathan Hyde who uses camera as mirror or sorts reflection his conscience haunted guilt ridden Claudius.

Another strong member among cast is Alis Wyn Davie’s Ophelia, who carries out an enormous compassion and growing resistance/insightfulness with a great presence that appears more like playing for invisible stage audience than screen but it turns out brilliantly enhances McKellen’s Hamlet. Polonius played by Steven Barkoff military blusteringness absorbs every wink or nudge moment away from camera they can get their hands on while still remaining within reach; this may seem like cliché acting however he manages not only make fun himself but also take advantage opportunities when given them so why not? And although Emmanuella Cole Laertes was stand-out role sometimes even more so than headlining one played by McKellen himself she delivered performance which grabs hold rhythmic nature poet-bard writing: touching controlled all at once.

Hamlet’s ‘theatricalness’ is under constant scrutiny here Shakespeare most performative piece has never been brought close enough till now with Mathia’s film-theatre hybrids beasts of two forms that become one. One could also argue features some among Mckellens least showy performances (with lovely fluffy jumpers and wonderfully extravagant costumes provided Loren Elstein) in a part seeming to tap into some kind personal reflection if not resignation about age even though movie (and play’s) aims are meant against them. It steadies an experimental film ship while showcasing beauty and power of each medium without sidelining any one over another. Only playing cinemas for single night on February 27th, Hamlet gives chance see still things heaven earth which industry can work together within itself rather than compete

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