Hamlet (1948)

Hamlet is one of the world’s most famous plays. I bet many of you didn’t even know that William Shakespeare’s masterpiece was actually the Best Picture winner in 1948. I will be honest, I didn’t. I was also surprised to learn that there is a 1996 version of Hamlet with Kenneth Branagh as the lead! It seems every time I pop in an Oscar winner from Golden Age of Hollywood, I found myself on Wikipedia learning things I never knew about the industry.

I believe somewhere in my pile of high school essay papers, I wrote something about Hamlet when I was forced to read it in the 11th grade. I can safely say that in 2021, I have no memory of the story and like the majority of the population, I only know the famous line “to be or not to be.” I don’t think I am alone in my forgetfulness because we tend to forget the details of certain things unless we are actively interested in them. I’m not a huge stage play guy, so those memories got replaced with hundreds of sports statistics no one really cares about.

I can’t quote Romeo and Juliet, yet I can describe the major points of the story. I can not do the same for Hamlet, and if this 1948 version of the story is the only thing I got to work with, I would be a terrible person to ask for a recap.

I thought this classic black and white film was garbage. My lack of knowledge may have affected my enjoyment of the story because I was so confused. I didn’t understand why there was a ghost and why everyone was terrified. It didn’t make sense because everything was black and white, and nothing about the sequence really stood out. 

Then I spent a good portion of the film reading the plot synopsis because I didn’t understand the dialogue for the life of me. The king was dead, his son Hamlet (Laurence Oliver) was upset and wanted revenge, then there was a love angle with Ophelia (Jean Simmons), who also dies. Hamlet then organizes a play and changes the production to reenactment his father’s death. None of what was going on made sense to me, which took away my enjoyment of watching this tale come to the big screen. 

I won’t rain down anymore hate for the picture, which is probably still loved by many. Unfortunately, this version of Hamlet did not find a new fan with me. 1/10


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