Projections - Movie Reviews

Hamlet Hamlet (2000)

A new age Hamlet portrayed in despondency within the corporate Y2K arena of Times Square?  Yes, this is the third revision of Shakespeare's famous work in the last ten years and something is rotten in the contemporary Big Apple.  Some may think it's Ethan Hawke too allayed embodiment of a modern shirking Dane whose anxieties emanate from the demise of his father, "the CEO of Denmark Corporation."

Not that Hawke's mannerisms differ much from his recent works like Snow Falling On Cedars
and Gattaca where he exudes a mental ambiguity that pervades their elegiac tones, even done in Great Expectations with Gwyneth Paltrow.  Maybe director Michael Almereyda figures a more ponderous, somber Hamlet often in black with a knitted, brimless cap, and sunglasses, expresses with scornful pleasure an experimental film maker and musician as a goateed, distant man.

But if Hawke's neo Hamlet is too passive, Almereyda has a showy texture on view that's never listless even if it isn't truly absorbing.  Ironically, Hawke's not so appealing demeanor again empowers those acting opposite him and somehow enriches the director's staging of corporate duplicity, as Almereyda slyly uses the liberal concepts of "Hamlet Goes Business," a 1987 hailed Japanese work.

Within the current electronic superhighway medium of multimedia outlets to transfer information, Hamlet philosophizes from his laptop, and after visual presence in his mind of the doomed King (Sam Shepard) who is soon detected on elevator cameras in spectral form, in a basement Pepsi machine, and finally at Hamlet's dorm like flat, averring in his death by a media stalwart, his VP, Claudius (Kyle MacLachian) to be avenged.

Of course, the TV coverage of regal widow Gertrude (Diane Venora) to be wed to Claudius with business and domesticity being a little fishy considering her sudden loss.

Hamlet always tries to be daring with the use of the Bard's language to give meaning to cinematic lyricism involving realities of politics and consumerism.  Julia Stiles' testy Ophelia from the East Village is Hamlet's inamorata, but he, along with father Polonius (Bill Murray) and brother Laertes (Liev Schreiber) becoming a part of the attempt, to "catch the conscience of the king."

Hamlet's artistry occurs not just at Blockbuster, but in a revealing video which is a comedic variation of Safe.  And the production values befit the daintiness of latter day Scandinavia.

Even though tragedy has farcical overtones as the diagrammed narrative is well trimmed and smartly paced, this minimalist, yet new wave update doesn't match the indecisive protagonist with the forcefulness of Venora, MacLachian and the normally understated Shepard or the distorted technical panache which ultimately isn't "true to thine own self."


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