|Kozintsev's Hamlet (Soviet version, 1964)|
information regarding Kozintsev's film version
Kozintsev later produced a screen version of Hamlet with, incidentally, the original Shakespearean ending. It was the most popular Soviet film of 1964. This film, though well-known throughout Europe, has remained relatively unknown here. One rumored explanation: it was released shortly before the planned premiere of Richard Burton’s Hamlet. In order to minimized competition, this rumor holds, the Russian film was scheduled for previewing at the same time as other films the critics would consider essential. I was asked to attend and review Kozintsev’s Hamlet because a film-critic friend felt obliged to attend another screening at the same time.
aim was to "emphasize man’s essential dignity in a world
representing his indignity: and to "’make visible’ the poetic
atmosphere of the play." He explained that he did not want to a
castle setting which was too realistic "because the ultimate prison
for Hamlet was not made up of stone or iron, but of people."
Kozintsev cuts Hamlet’s advice to the players (Which was perhaps too
removed from the film’s central emphasis). The King is seen at
prayer, but Hamlet does not appear and make his vengeful speech.
Fear, the film suggests, brought Claudius momentarily to his knees.
Another comment on religion may be seen in a glimpse of Laertes
dedicating himself silently to revenge, sword in hand, before an
The New York Times review:
The second New York Film Festival got off to an impressive start last night with the screening of a soviet-made version of "Hamlet" in Lincoln Center's Philharmonic Hall.
The attraction was appropriate to the occasion, for this "Hamlet" is a vast and regal show of strong cinematographic values that was entirely congenial in the air of esthetic zeal and festival ardor that filled the well-packed hall.
According to the festival management, there was a capacity audience in the 2,500 seat theater when the lights were dimmed and Grigory Kozintsev, the director of "Hamlet," was introduced from the stage.
This was considered a banner beginning for this year's festival, which will show more films (26) and run three days longer than last year's successful event.
As for the Soviet "Hamlet." It is a spectacle, in the main—a large, mobile, realistic rendering of the melodramatic action of the play—that depends entirely for its impact upon its striking scenery, the physical sweep of its performance and the grand effects that the camera achieves.
Since the dialogue is spoken in Russian and the English subtitles are slim—just few words each time, from Shakespeare's text, to cue the audience in—it goes without saying that the dialogue, the verbal poetry, means little in the film. It doesn't even have a noticeable cadence to rouse the emotions through the car.
But the lack of this aural stimulation—of Shakespeare's eloquent words—is recompensed in some measure by a splendid and stirring musical score by Dmitri Shostakovich. This has great dignity and depth, and at times an appropriate wildness or becoming levity. In the scene of Ophelia's burial, for instance, it is light but significantly weird, carrying on with a new note of poignance the strain from Ophelia's mad scene.
However, it is clear that the director—who may be remembered, by the way, for his direction of the brilliant "Don Quixote," with Nikola Cherkasov, a few years back—is not dependent on aural stimulation. He is concerned with engrossing the eye. And this he does with a fine achievement of pictorial plasticity and power.
His Hamlet is straight from the shoulder, a strong, literal-minded young man who is angry more often than moody and fixed by his father's ghost. When he follows the spirit on to the ramparts, wild horses break from their stalls and strange noises shriek around the castle, which is a genuine old stone castle in the Crimea.
Mr. Kozintsev has made a big production of the arrival and performance of the Players, and Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy is spoken—or rather walked — along a rocky, surf-pounded shore. Other scenes of minor importance are played in the angry outdoors. When Ophelia goes mad, she races among a troop of soldiers in the castle's great hall.
Landscape and architecture climate and atmosphere play roles in this black-and-white picture that are almost as important as those the actors play. And the latter are excellent—all of them—in their movements, expressions and passionate moods.
This film has been acquired by Walter Reade-Sterling for later in New York. For the present, it has got the festival off to a spanking start.