William Shakespeare's Hamlet has been filmed and performed on stage numerous times. Often, when a movie is adapted from a play, there are several aspects which are adjusted or completely lost. This often depends on the director’s point of view as well as the casting director, the 1948 Laurence Olivier's black-and-white version of Hamlet starting Laurence Olivier and Eileen Herlie, is a classic film that is generally considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time. The Olivier version is a story as merely the centerpiece in front of a roving camera. It has been accorded numerous honors, including four 1948 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Actor, Art Direction-Set Direction, and Costume Design. In the year 2000, directed by Michael Almereyda, the newest version of Hamlet was released in theatres, this time starring popular actors Ethan Hawke and Julia Stiles, and set in the present day. The director takes a modern approach, retelling Shakespeare's classic 400 year-old play in New York City. Here is the stylish Hamlet, the modern take of a timeless story with a backdrop of high art. Director and screenplay adaptor Almereyda has taken Shakespeare's great tale of revenge, procrastination and mortality, and placed it in today's slacker world. Despite critical acclaim, this version of Hamlet is unsuccessful during its brief theatrical run. Even in some very beautifully mannered scenes, there is a note of clumsiness indicating something is missing or doesn’t match about this far-reaching production that borders on sentimental giddiness. The old-style English dialogue and the new visuals do not make for a coherent film. The visuals are spectacular and relevant while the dialogue seems to be from another planet. Almereyda's slimmed-down, updated version of the Shakespearian tragedy with Hawke in the title role is stylish, funny, and smart but only up to a point. Olivier has complete artistic control over every aspect of his version of “Hamlet”, including casting, screenplay, sets, costumes, editing, and music, and of course he directs and played the title role. Hamlet is presented in a full frame, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and is photographed in glorious black-and-white. The look of this film is decidedly black, with deep shadows, fog, and an overall gothic feel that evokes notions of darkness, haunted evenings at a castle by the sea. The dialog is clearly delivered, which is absolutely essential when it comes to presenting Shakespeare. Olivier has shortened the play from 4 hours to 2 hours 35 minutes by drastically abridging Shakespeare's text, even though this involved the cutting of significant characters (for example, Fortinbras, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern) and the elimination of important story elements (for example, Denmark's conflict with Norway and the rebellion led by Laertes). Olivier himself is very bright and intense, with a haunted look. The opening shots of swirling fog over an ancient castle set the mood; this Hamlet is of a tradition almost forgotten in our post-modern need to outfit pre-modern texts in more contemporary trappings. The omniscient director intones that we are about to see the story of "a man who could not make up his mind." Acting aside, though, Olivier's direction of the film is inspired. This 1948 version is easily the most fluid of all versions. Every single member of the cast is inspired, led by Olivier in the greatest role of his life. This is the most poetic and lyrical version of the play bringing the beautiful verse to life without becoming too bogged down to understand. The movie flows absolutely seamlessly from scene to scene. There's no break or breather in-between; it's not content to stop and pat itself on the back for getting through a scene. It just keeps moving. The camera creeps through the gloomy castle walls, climbing up staircases, and going in and out of windows. Olivier lets many scenes play out without cutting (or without...
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