Laurence Olivier’s ‘Hamlet’ Bows at the Park Avenue Theatre — ‘Saxon Charm’ Seen
It is not too brash or insensitive to say that these eloquent plays, in their uncounted stage presentations, have been more often heard than seen. The physical nature of the theatre, from the time of the Globe until now, has compelled that the audiences of Shakespeare listen more closely than they look. And, indeed, the physical distance of the audience from the stage has denied it the privilege of partaking in some of the most intimate moments of the plays.
But just as Olivier’s great “Henry” took the play further away by taking it out into the open—and thereby revealed it visually—his “Hamlet” makes the play more evident by bringing it closer to you. The subtle reactions of the characters, the movements of their faces and forms, which can be so dramatically expressive and which are more or less remote on the stage, are here made emotionally incisive by their normal proximity. Coupled with beautiful acting and inspired interpretations all the way, this visual closeness to the drama offers insights that are brilliant and rare.
Further, a quietly-moving camera which wanders intently around the vast and gloomy palace of Elsinore, now on the misty battlements, now in the great council chamber, now in the bedroom of the Queen, always looking and listening, from this and from that vantage point, gives the exciting impression of a silent observer of great events, aware that big things are impending and anxious not to miss any of them.
They were only crazy about Olivier’s Hamlet because they hadn’t yet seen Branagh’s.
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