Grigori Kozintsev’s Hamlet (1964)

(Note: This has been cross-posted in Lovers of Shakespeare and Atheist Cinema.)

Just watched this DVD this morning. Frickin’ brilliant! One of the best productions of Hamlet I have ever seen.

Beautiful cinematography, wonderful costumes, spectacular sets, brilliant acting, this adaptation has it all. This is the finest work of Shakespeare I think I have ever seen.

This was not, however, an exact and faithful reenactment of the play (which actually did not bother me). First, they added many scenes and some dialogue. Most of the scenes did not alter the story in any way, but added background information, or included scenes that were retold on stage in the first place. Rather than retell them as written, Kozintsev’s simply showed them. For example, when Hamlet takes a ship to England, that scene is simply described. In this movie it was shown. Several of these scenes had no dialogue, and simply served the purpose of showing action or the passage of time.

Also, since the film was in Russian, I don’t think that they could do a literal translation of the play and keep the line meter, so perhaps they just translated it how it would sound right to a Russian audience. However, the subtitles were definitely different in some cases, but correct in other instances, and like I said some dialogue was deleted or added here and there.

About the only bad thing I can say about the movie is that I did not like the fact that they cut the ghost appearance scene when Hamlet confronts his mother in her closet and stabs Polonius. I think that was a mistake. Other than that, this was an absolutely astounding production of Hamlet. See it! I can’t wait to see his King Lear.

I scanned it the booklet that came with the DVD and have attached it here, though I have not yet read it myself. It's here if you want it.


Considered by many the finest screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s greatest work, Grigori Kozintsev’s HAMLET is a spare, haunting interpretation based on a translation by novelist Boris Pasternak. The malevolence afoot in the state of Denmark is magnificently captured by the foreboding black and white cinematography and the dark, dramatic score by composer Dmitri Shostakovich. In addition, acclaimed Russian actors Innokenti Smoktunovsky and Anastasia Vertinskaya offer stellar, award-winning performances. Kozintsev, a peer of Eisenstein’s who worked well into the 1960s, was a master of cinematic technique who finally achieved recognition at the end of his career for his stunning interpretations of Shakespeare. Leading film historian Richard Dyer wrote in the Boston Globe: "Paradoxically, the two most powerful films of Shakespeare plays [HAMLET and KING LEAR] were made not in Great Britain but in the Soviet Union."

Tags: Cinema, Elizabethan, Film, Hamlet, Movies, Plays, Shakespeare, Theatre, Tragedy

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Yes, I will definately have to watch this version!


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