DVD/Blu Ray

Hamlet (12) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir: Sean Mathias, UK 2024, 117 mins.

Cast: Ian McKellen, Jenny Seagrove, Jonathon Hyde, Alis Wyn Davies, Frances Barber, Francesca Annis, Emmanuella Cole, Ben Allen

Review by Carlie Newman

This is HAMLET starring 84 year-old Ian McKellen as Hamlet, not the filmed version of the stage play that McKellen was in in 2021, but a completely new film set in the Theatre Royal Windsor, which stands in for Elsinore Castle. The play is filmed in different parts of the Theatre, including, at one point, Hamlet in the male toilet area!

Director, Sean Mathias, has not only gone for age-blindness – two actors are in their 80s – but gender-blind casting as well. Laertes, Ophelia’s brother has been transformed into a female (Emmanuella Cole) while the Player King is performed by Frances Barber and the Ghost of the dead King by Francesca Annis.

The King’s brother and murderer remains definitely male and is played with authority by Jonathon Hyde and Hamlet’s mother Gertrude by Jenny Seagrove, who uses a rather strange Danish accent – the only cast member not to have a British accent! While Hamlet is (and looks) elderly, his university friends and Ophelia are played by young actors. A rather strange mixture.

The production brings out the character of Hamlet very well and in the close-ups of the people involved in his story as well as seeing Hamlet close to, we can see the thoughts behind the words.

Shakespeare’s words are spoken throughout with a lovely cadence and the rhythm is always present. No one is better than McKellen at putting across lines and he is, indeed, excellent in the role. Dare I say that sometimes it is even better to hear without watching. Shutting one’s eyes gives you the full glory of McKellen’s interpretation of the man who hesitates too long.

The photography is good, acting throughout of a very high standard, the film is always good to look at and even better to hear!

Hamlet will be available on DVD, Blu-ray & Digital Download from 8th April