A screen adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy.
The somber Elsinore Castle that keeps secrets of many a crime is looming over the rocky coastline. Prince Hamlet once again puts the question: “To be, or not to be?” He is the first thinker in the line of warriors, a poet and a philosopher, a character so close to future generations. In the utterly corrupted kingdom, a lone hero is bound to take up arms to avenge his father’s death. This film became a champion among Lenfilm Studio’s prize-winning motion pictures – 23 awards in four years. The musical score was written by the great Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich.
Arguably the finest screen Hamlet of all time, even though the language barrier does somewhat moot comparisons between Smoktunovsky and Olivier, Kozintsev’s film won a special jury prize at the Venice Film Festival and, in 1967, was nominated for a Best Foreign Picture Golden Globe. By no means a “filmed play,” Kozintsev’s HAMLET is profoundly cinematic; it is also swept clean of Freudian accoutrements and treated with somber fervor closer to Orson Welles’ Macbeth. Boris Pasternak’s modern-language translation is used for the dialogue. The tradition of the “active” (read: dissident) HAMLET, with his fixation on the imprisonment motif, would culminate 15 years later at the Taganka Theater, when national folk-singing icon Vladimir Vysotsky (see BRIEF ENCOUNTERS) displaced Smoktunovsky as the ultimate Russian embodiment of the part.
Featuring a positive hero (predictably, the ‘Now might I do it pat’ soliloquy of prevarication has been cut), the action unfolds between shots of lowering rocks and turbulent seas, with Hamlet pattering through a very tangible Elsinore of massive portcullises, stone walls, endless corridors and chunky oaken furniture. A little monolithic in theory, but it works magnificently because Kozintsev has thought his interpretation right through to the end with complete consistency, and gives the film a genuinely exciting epic sweep. What one remembers, though, is the superb marginal detail: the appearance of the Ghost on the battlements, vast black cloak billowing in the wind, like a Titan striding across the sea; the dying Polonius pulling down the arras to reveal row upon row of tailor’s dummies in Gertrude’s wardrobe; above all, the wonderfully moving conception of Ophelia as a frail blonde marionette, first seen jerked into motion by the tinkling music of a cembalo at her dancing lesson, and gradually becoming the helpless plaything of court politics. There’s a genuine cinematic imagination at work here.
— Tom Milne (Timeout Movie Guide)
1964 Special Jury Prize of Venice Film Festival (Won) – Grigori Kozintsev.
1964 Golden Lion of Venice Film Festival (Nominated) – Grigori Kozintsev.
1964 Best film on the Wiesbaden Shakespeare Film Festival.
1964 On the All-Union Film Festival
Special Jury Prize for The outstanding realization of the Shakespeare’s tragedy and best music – Dmitry Shostakovich.
Prizes of the Soviet Union of Painters – E. Yeney, S. Virsaladze.
Prize of the Soviet Union of Cinematographers – Innokenty Smoktunovsky.
1965 USSR State Prize (Won) – Grigori Kozintsev, Innokenty Smoktunovsky.
1966 BAFTA Award for Best Film (Nominated) – Grigori Kozintsev.
1966 BAFTA Film Award for Best Foreign Actor (Nominated) – Innokenty Smoktunovsky.
1966 Special Jury Prize of San Sebastian Film Festival (Won) and Prize of the Nation Federation of film societies of Spain.
1967 Golden Globe for Best Foreign-Language Foreign Film (Nominated).
1. Interview — Grigori Kozintsev & Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy
2. The Making Of
Subtitles:English, Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, German (idx, sub), English (srt)