Nicol Williamson : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread

Has anyone seen the Nicol Williamson video of Hamlet? I was thinking of buying it at Amazon, but don't want to waste the money if it is too far off the mark. Branagh's Hamlet is so beautiful that all the others that I have seen only make me cringe (except Jacobi's which just made me feel vaguely uncomfortable). I guess it was the stagey bombast of the time for many versions which is so off-putting. Zeffirelli's was just bad. Bad, bad, bad. Really bad. But I digress. So- Williamson. Any opinions?

-- mikken (, December 09, 2000


I haven't seen it either so I can't help you there (I've seen almost everyone else's though...). I've heard that it's mainly a filming of the stage performance so not much in terms of cinematography. Hamlet also looks a good deal older than either Gertrude or Claudius, but Williamson's performance has been praised. Let us know if you do see it and your thoughts!

-- Virginia (, December 15, 2000.

Found a copy at my not-so-local Hollywood Video (they had LLL too!). It was not bad. They cut alot of the dialog (and in some places actually made up their own!) and did some unusual scene shuffling (not bad, just strange). Hamlet's relationship with his mum was completely platonic (what a relief!), but Laertes and Ophelia were a little too close for comfort (bleh - those brotherly kisses last a bit longer than one would think proper). Yes, Williamson does appear to be older than Gertrude, but when he's being petulant, you almost don't notice it. He is definitely the best in the cast and considering the time it was made, was a very respectable Hamlet. I recommend seeing it if only to see the differences between Williamson and Branagh. Rent it if possible, don't buy it. Save your money for Branagh's DVD when it comes out.

-- Mikken (, January 13, 2001.

I rather liked Williamson's Hamlet -- mostly for Williamson. Marianne Faithful, as I recall, does Ophelia.

The Nunnery scene is particularly interesting -- half the scene is a flirtation: "get thee to a nunnery" is said in the tone of voice one might tease a lover. Then Hamlet sees Polonious and things get ugly.

This film came out after Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet. The poster -- a classic -- reads "From the author who gave you Romeo & Juliet -- the love story of Hamlet and Ophelia"


-- Tom Owens (, June 01, 2001.

Hi Casey, I've just read that and you always make me laugh. I think Williamson's was the first HAMLET I saw, oh, too many years ago. What I remember most was, too old, squeaky voice. But I know someone who said it's his favourite. But he hadn't seen the Jacobi one. The Jacobi one's quite a nasty, nasty one isn't it, except for Ophelia who's just so simple. But I liked it. I thought Jacobi was mesmerizing - such an intelligent Hamlet, and every thought connected so logically, and the way he plays with words and phrases! Olivier's, well, sort of Hamlet playing Olivier rather than the other way around. Zeffirelli's, yep, bad, really bad.

But Branagh's ... ah ... the whole thing. And yep, beautiful.

On 'The love story of Hamlet and Ophelia' - actually, the more I look at the play, the more I'd go with that. It's as big as the revenge story, and for my money, more moving.

-- catherine england (, July 12, 2002.

Nicol Williamson as Hamlet might look older than Gertrude - but he wasn't. He was about 30, but he always looked about 50... His performance was controversial, but I think it's the best Hamlet. Williamson always had a raw emotion as an actor, that is really powerful. The surrounding performances are, unfortunately, pretty ordinary.

-- David Allen (, September 05, 2002.

I was watching this last night. I don't agree with it all. But some parts are so stunning that they crush Branagh's. Most notably the "How all occasions do inform against me" solilique. I have NEVER seen this done better. He deliver's it (as he does his other solilique's) straight to the camera. It is a beautiful moment. Anthony Hopkins' "My offence is rank" speech is beautifully played, and framed hauntingly beneath a cross in the pitch black of the church...Nicol's heart-rending closet scene (heavily cut, sadly), sobbing beside his mother on the bed, was very powerful. As I said. I don't agree with all of it, but some of it betters Branagh's Hamlet a thousandfold.

-- Patrick Walker (, December 29, 2002.

Dont miss Nicol Williamson in anything. His Hamlet is a superior cat playing with mice. Any line that can be played for sarcasm is. This Hamlet's tragedy is not that he could not make up his mind, but that his intelligence couldn't save him from his character. Black humour is the most credible.

-- tony lehman (, April 09, 2003.

The Williamson video is also notable for the very young Michael Pennington (sweet 21!) as Laertes. Nicol Williamson should have worn a toup.

-- Teresa O'Brien Stephens (, April 17, 2003.

Williamson is a fabulous Hamlet in my opinion. In my opinion he is one of the better Hamlets I've seen.

-- John Robert Paepke (, February 08, 2004.

It has already been said, but let me second it... Williamson is THE best analysis, interpretation and (therefore) performance of this character. Toweringly superior to Branagh's and I loved Branagh in Henry...just needs a different director perhaps...Branagh was too caught up in the scenery (lovely) to notice the character...phoned it in...what do I know about just IS...Buy it now... And what is Williamson doing now? There is a whole generation of superb actors wandering around taking parts in SPAWN and Supergirl...what's up with that?

-- B. Loewen (, May 01, 2004.

For no particular reason, found myself thinking this morning about Nicol Williamson's Hamlet, and what a profound effect it had on me in my early 20s. I was moved to tears when I saw it, without quite knowing why - tragedy of the human condition and all that. He was also brilliant in John Osborne's 'Inadmissible Evidence'. I was lucky enough to see both performances on stage and screen, and will never forget them.

-- K. Sullivan (, January 16, 2005.

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