Hamlet is absolutely, positively a movie and not a filmed play. And movies always muck about with the source material, very much as Shakespeare mucked about with his source material. Even in the titles, it doesn't say "Shakespeare's Hamlet"; it says, quite honestly, "Based on the play by
HZeffirelli has excised scenes, moved scenes around, relocated scenes. Almost every fan of
Shakespeare's Hamlet will find a favorite scene missing or altered. There is even added material such as the executions of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and the death of Ophelia. These edits seem to me to be fully justified in the name of making a movie out of a play.
Firstly, Zeffirelli has a vast and dramatic visual sense, whether or not we can agree that he always uses that visual sense with the best of taste. He uses locales, sets, and costumes with extreme care. Which makes this movie, like his others very entertaining. His camera is busy, perhaps busier but is strictly necessary or desirable, to take long static shots of actors declaiming.
Secondly, another thing to appreciate about Zeffirelli's Hamlet is the diction of the actors. They speak their parts more naturally, less hurriedly, and swallow less of the words than is the general rule with Shakespearean productions. Even though Zeffirelli cuts out many of the words in
Hamlet, it does not seem like he did in the Shakespearean productions. Other then the fact that his films are shorter.
Without a doubt, I understand Hamlet better now that I've seen Zeffirelli's version. For example, just as the play-within-the-play mirrors the major action, so too does Laertes mirror Hamlet and his situation when he lets Claudius manipulate him into killing Hamlet, but with the telling
difference that Laertes never questions Claudius's honesty or motives and proceeds without…