Pentlow Film Club – November 2012

The weather was dreadful: a night full of darkness and November fog, but even so people came to see Hamlet. With a difference, in that it was in Russian and played in some castle or other that was most definitely not Elsinore, beside a  grim and furious sea. Cold rose from every scene like the mist swirling around the Village Hall.

Pasternak translated the play, but the subtitles were mainly by Shakespeare. I still think it is one of the best productions of Hamlet I have ever come across, in spite of its age (1964); the combination of Kozintsev directing, Pasternak translating and arranging and Shostakovich writing the music is a winner. The haunting use of bells within the score reminded me of how much Russians love their sound. The music for Ophelia, discordant, tragic and occasionally tender: music for a helpless broken puppet, brought out a theme in the play that was part of Pasternak’s view of it as a political thriller where every character plays a part in a vicious dynastic struggle moving towards the final tragedy. The film is more active, less meditative than the original play, and Hamlet less of a dreamer, yet, however different, it works magnificently. I again delighted in the absolutely wonderful playing of the Ghost at the beginning; I have never seen it done better: the cloak should have been given a credit.

The same extraordinary team of Kozintsev, Pasternak and Shostakovich have also made a film of King Lear. I have not seen it, and it may not turn up at Pentlow, but for people who loved   the Hamlet, it would be worth a look.

Don’t forget our December showing, on the 14th. It is suitable for older children, as well as adults. Hope to see you then.

Isobel Clark

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