I just finished watching Zefferelli’s Hamlet with Mel Gibson in the title role. It’s actually pretty impressive. The script editors have taken great liberties with the text, not only cutting large chunks, but putting some speeches in other scenes to move things along and make it all more intelligible. I don’t have a problem with this. It works well, and the overall effect helps drive the story along and increase the dramatic tension.
The whole cast is excellent, but Glenn Close’s Gertrude and Helena Bonham Carter’s Ophelia are especially fine. You can see her madness there from the beginning in her gaunt and haunted look. Zefferelli’s direction and cinematography never intrude and always contribute to the whole effect of the play. This shows Branagh’s film in a bad light because, while it is sumptious and wonderful to look at, you end up saying, “Gosh, the costumes! the sets! the filming! How terrific!” and while it is fun to enjoy all that, if they distract from the inner drama of the play itself it is second rate.
Most of all, Mel Gibson’s Hamlet is excellent. He is a strong, purposeful Hamlet, yet the motivation for his madness and indecision is believable and moving. I wonder if Catholic Gibson and Catholic Zefferelli knew of the ‘Shakespeare was a secret Catholic’ theories, and understood the Catholic subtext of the play….
Now if only I had thought to ask Mel that question the time we had dinner…