In which I watch “Hamlet” starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart

A friend of mine who works for a British company had to spend a few months in England at one time.  Lucky woman, she was able to see David Tennant as Hamlet, with the Royal Shakespeare Company, live and in person.  I had to wait for the DVD of the movie made about six months after the play’s run ended, and then make time to watch it when I was in the right mood for it.  It was worth the wait.  Patrick Stewart completely owned the role of Claudius, and Tennant’s Hamlet felt, to me, more like a real person than I was accustomed to in performances.

I chose a snowy afternoon after I’d been out and about in the cold. I made myself a large bowl of buttered popcorn and settled in to watch.

“Hamlet” was the first Shakespeare I ever saw live. I was in high school, and went to the theater on a class trip. I remember loving the swordfight at the end. Over the years, I’ve seen a couple of different movie versions in theaters: the Mel Gibson version from 1990 with Glenn Close as Gertrude, and the Kenneth Branagh full version from 1996. This new version is my current favorite, edging out the Branagh.

The play is performed in modern dress; for a good portion of it, David Tennant is barefoot with jeans and a t-shirt, or barefoot with a tuxedo. He’s a very physical actor, not just when he’s making Hamlet-is-crazy faces, but when he’s flinging himself around a room. The motion helped me to feel Hamlet’s turmoil, as if it was too much for his body to contain. Yet in other scenes, such as some of the soliloquies, he’s so still that the air seems to vibrate with tension instead. I think playing to a camera rather than an audience made a difference to me, because the camera could catch every nuance of expression, both physical and vocal. I strongly suspect those close-ups gave a very different feeling than the same speeches would have in live performance. Overall, the tension was incredible throughout. I kept realizing that I was leaning in close to the screen.

All the performances were excellent; of the actors that were new to me, I particularly liked Edward Bennett as Laertes. Coincidentally, I had seen him recently in the movie “War Horse.”

Rather than me going on and on, you can watch the movie online for yourself at PBS.org, and I think a few other locations.

Published by Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s writing showcases her voracious lifelong love of books. She reads over 120 new books each year, especially historical romance, fantasy, and space opera, and incorporates these genres into her erotic fiction. Her first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. When not writing, Victoria conducts research in libraries and graveyards, lectures about writing and selling erotica, and speaks at literary conventions on topics such as paranormal romance, urban fantasy, erotic science fiction/fantasy, and the empowerment of women through unconventional means. Her daily writing blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and author interviews. She also guest blogs for Heroes & Heartbreakers and The Criminal Element. She lives in Philadelphia.