Hamlet (Michael Almereyda's 2000 film)
Written by
Barbara Morrison
September 2011
Written by
Barbara Morrison
September 2011

What an interesting film! Almereyda has set Shakespeare’s play in a modern urban landscape, such as New York City, where all the surfaces are smooth and slick. Young Hamlet (Ethan Hawke) is home from school and trying to come to terms with the changes in his family. Hamlet’s father (Sam Shepherd) is dead and Claudius (Kyle MacLachlan) has not only taken over his brother’s role as king and CEO of Denmark Corporation but has married Gertrude (Diane Venora) his brother’s wife. Hamlet’s bewilderment turns to anger after a visit from the ghost of his father and, absorbed by his own thoughts, he ignores his girlfriend Ophelia (Julia Stiles) whose father Polonius (a restrained Bill Murray) and brother Laertes (Liev Schreiber) warn her to stay away from him.

It’s surprising that I never tire of this play. As an usher at Center Stage in my teens, I saw it so many times that I had the entire play memorised. Since then I’ve seen many productions. I remember sitting in the theatre as Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 film started and thinking that I couldn’t bear to sit through the whole thing again; I just knew it too well. I gathered my things and prepared to leave. Then the first scene started and I was hooked all over again.

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