Already one of the most accomplished cinematic adapters of Shakespeare, actor-director Kenneth Branagh has literally gone to greater lengths with this lavish production. Unlike other filmed versions, which are typically abridged, this Hamlet features the complete text, even incorporating passages found only in an early edition. As a result the film runs over four hours with an intermission. Fans of this classic won't complain, however, as Branagh's cast combines familiar faces - Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Charlton Heston - with accomplished Shakespearean performers and presents this tragedy in unprecedented detail. Hamlet (Branagh), Prince of Denmark, is distressed because his mother, Queen Gertrude (Julie Christie), is marrying his uncle Claudius (Derek Jacobi) just two months after the death of Hamlet's father. Hamlet is further horrified when his father's ghostly spirit appears, reveals that he was murdered by Claudius and asks for revenge. Hamlet must confirm that the ghost was telling the truth, fearing it might be an evil spirit trying to deceive him. He asks some traveling thespians to perform a play about a similar murder, and Claudius' reaction to these scenes convinces Hamlet that his stepfather did perform the foul deed. As he plots his revenge, Hamlet commits an accidental murder, setting in motion a series of tragic events. Branagh's ingenious staging is gorgeously photographed and well-acted. Purists may scoff at the Americans in the cast, but Crystal and Heston in particular add additional appeal to an already dynamic and entertaining production.
The play has a few crude words, along with some violent content that's dramatized. Hamlet's murder of Polonius gets slightly gruesome, as a pool of blood collects around the body. The climax features a sword fight where both participants receive small cuts and Claudius is struck by a falling chandelier. During dialogue about their relationship, very rapid glimpses of Hamlet and his lover Ophelia unclothed in bed are seen. Their bodies are intertwined, so there is no breast or genital nudity, although there is some side near nudity. The ghost is portrayed neutrally and appears on his own, not summoned by anyone. Because of the bloody murder and brief sexual content, we recommend Hamlet only to older teenagers and adults.
Columbia Pictures (Castle Rock Entertainment), 10202 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
Several (5) times - Mild 2, Moderate 3
Several (5) times - All Exclamatory (Oh G)
Many times - Moderate and Severe (murder with poison, imagined stabbing, brutal stabbing leaves pool of blood, slap to face, fall from balcony, rough sword fight with small cuts, military attack, stabbing with thrown sword, man hit by falling chandelier)
Implied once by couple seen in bed
None; near nudity with side view of couple unclothed in bed together
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog:
Once (passionate kisses and embraces)
Several times (smoking, alcohol drinking)
Ghost of dead king appears
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