Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, Sir Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet continues to be the most compelling version of Shakespeare’s beloved tragedy. Olivier is at his most inspired—both as director and as the melancholy Dane himself—as he breathes new life into the words of one of the world’s greatest dramatists. —The Criterion Collection
Laurence Olivier has been variously lauded as the greatest Shakespearean interpreter of the 20th century, the greatest classical actor of the era, and the greatest actor of his generation. Olivier was the son of an Anglican minister, who, despite his well-documented severity, was an unabashed theater lover, enthusiastically encouraging young Olivier to give acting a try. The boy made his first public appearance at age nine, playing Brutus in an All Saint’s production of Julius Caesar. Much has been made of the fact that the 15-year-old Olivier played Katherine in a St. Edward’s School production of The Taming of the Shrew; though, two years after The Taming of the Shrew, he enrolled at the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art, where one of his instructors was Claude Rains. Olivier made his professional London debut the same year in The Suliot Officer, and joined the Birmingham Repertory in 1926; by the time Olivier was 20, he was playing leads. His subsequent West End… read more
Mea culpa - truly, a captivating conjuring forth into the realm of cinema. Though previously figured a dip from the technicolor expanse (and hitherto standard) of Olivier’s Henry V, its fantasia only extends into the black-and-white, insular dread of his Hamlet, and whose melodrama begets - besides Olivier’s deliriously camp titular rendering - such ornate, acidic dialogue - those who subscribe to the aphorism of sarcasm embodying the lowest form of wit have clearly yet to indulge Shakespeare’s play, of which one definitive reading is realised here.
Like his glittering Henry V, Olivier’s sophomore work showcases fine cinematography, resembling a medieval noir in its B+W photography and evocative use of light, shadows and fog amidst a centuries-old setting. But like his later Richard III, it also walks a fine line between being a graceful, stately adaptation and just a plain turgid one. It’s a good thing though that the play is so sharp a piece of literature; and with the aforesaid aesthetics, this salvages itself to be a palatable outing.
Uninspired, dull, simplistic take on Hamlet. There is nothing more flatulent than this film and its inevitable supporters: stuffy, irrelevant academics and, even worse, high school English teachers, who delight in sucking all the joy and spectacle out of Shakespeare, reducing it to idiotic pseudo-Freudian nonsense. And the 'great' Olivier reduces some of the great lines of literature to unbearable nonsense.