National Theatre Live: Hamlet full movie review - Blown away
This hugely anticipated broadcast opens with Hamlet sitting by a chest of clothes listening to Nat King Cole's Nature Boy on a small phonograph, in mourning for his father. This is complicated even further by the fact that his mother married his uncle in less than a month after his death.
Speaking to Horatio and then delivering his first soliloquy, Benedict's Hamlet is a grief-stricken child who has lost his innocence. His eyes are full of tears, which stream down and mingle with sweat, his hand shakes and his voice breaks as he speaks. I was completely hypnotized. Putting all of that real emotion into a performance, on stage or on screen, a method of acting called "in the moment", is something all actors should follow, in my opinion.
Hamlet then meets his father's ghost, who tells him that his uncle Claudius murdered him for the throne. This is the moment where he supposedly goes mad. However, it is very clear in this production that he is simply faking it for others to see. Benedict demonstrates his comedic skills in the scene where he dresses up as a toy soldier, strutting wildly across the room, feigning madness in front of Polonius, before succumbing to sadness once he leaves. This is when the famous To Be Or Not To Be soliloquy comes to light. The "Get Thee To a Nunnery" scene was rushed and didn't linger too much on the extreme harshness of the words.
Benedict's Hamlet is very easy to root for, despite the many crimes he commits, such his cruelty to his mother Gertrude and Ophelia, and the killing of Polonius, and subsequently driving Ophelia mad. The profound misogyny demonstrated by Hamlet is somewhat spirited away by his faked madness. This and other confrontational acts are not as physically demonstrated like in many other productions.
Now for the rest of the cast, they all did pretty well. Sian Brooke as Ophelia was the perfect portrayal of a delicate innocence destroyed by the senseless (and unexpected) murder of her father. She shines brilliantly in the second half when she goes mad; she has patches of bald on her head, she cries while singing, and her mental instability is also physical, as she walks with a limp across the stage. Anastasia Hille as Gertrude was also incredibly amazing, and her speech to Laertes about the accidental (or suicidal) drowning of his sister Ophelia is heart-breaking.
I didn't get emotional at the action-packed tragic ending, because I knew already what was to come.
Whenever I watch a version of Hamlet, I'm reminded of course, by The Lion King, which was loosely based on the play. Claudius is Scar, by comparison, though in this play, he is not as evil, regretting his crimes a little.
Another thing I enjoyed the most in this production is the use of slow motion by the actors. When Hamlet delivers a speech during a dinner at the beginning, the rest of the actors carry on slowly in the darkened background.
The set was absolutely beautiful, making use of a chandelier at the beginning and then reducing part of the set in ashes and dust by the second half.
All in all I was utterly blown away by the play. I had once before seen only Kenneth Branagh's four-hour cinema version of it, and I must say it fails in comparison to Lyndsey Turner's shortened and modernized version.
After the whole cast took their bows, Benedict took a moment to urge the audience to donate money to the Save The Children foundation, to aid the refugee crises. It's yet another reminder that the actor is completely selfless and wants to use his fame to highlight important and tragic issues going on in the world. It was an unforgettable experience. Too bad I can only see it once.