“Patrick Cook’s Cinematic Hamlet combines the anthropologist’s thick description with the latest in film theory from Bordwell, Carroll, McGinn, Sharff, Thompson and Thomson to produce challenging and provocative assessments of four major Hamlet films by Laurence Olivier, Franco Zeffirelli, Kenneth Branagh, and Michael Almereyda. Cook has new and interesting cinematic ideas to share about all of these films, especially Almereyda’s Hamlet, where his chapter is impishly longer than his already exhaustive treatment of Branagh’s four-hour film of the play. Cook provides a fresh new voice in the ever expanding field of Shakespeare on Film.”
Samuel Crowl, author of Shakespeare at the Cineplex: The Kenneth Branagh Era
“A ramble through the notes (of Cinematic Hamlet) leaves one with the impression that Cook has read everything of relevance and can be trusted when correcting the wayward critic. His approach is generally thorough, fluent, and smart. Summing Up: Highly recommended.”
“Cook gives us a book which deftly leads the reader through the labyrinths of cinematic art and craft and also provides foundational lessons on how to see a film as a film.”
“The text is precise, detailed (in relation to textual, visual, and aural decisions), and eminently readable.”
Years Work in English Studies
Hamlet has inspired four outstanding film adaptations that continue to delight a wide and varied audience and to offer provocative new interpretations of Shakespeare’s most popular play. Cinematic Hamlet contains the first scene-by-scene analysis of the methods used by Laurence Olivier, Franco Zeffirelli, Kenneth Branagh, and Michael Almereyda to translate Hamlet into highly distinctive and remarkably effective films.
Applying recent developments in neuroscience and psychology, Patrick J. Cook argues that film is a medium deploying an abundance of devices whose task it is to direct attention away from the film’s viewing processes and toward the object represented. Through careful analysis of each film’s devices, he explores the ways in which four brilliant directors rework the play into a radically different medium, engaging the viewer through powerful instinctive drives and creating audiovisual vehicles that support and complement Shakespeare’s words and story.
Cinematic Hamlet will prove to be indispensable for anyone wishing to understand how these films rework Shakespeare into the powerful medium of film.
Patrick J. Cook is an associate professor of English at George Washington University. He is the author of Milton, Spenser, and the Epic Tradition. More info →
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Samuel Crowl's Shakespeare at the Cineplex: The Kenneth Branagh Era is the first thorough exploration of the fifteen major Shakespeare films released since the surprising success of Kenneth Branagh's Henry V (1989). Crowl presents the rich variety of these films in the “long decade: between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.”
Shakespeare in Production examines a number of plays in context. Included are the 1936 Romeo and Juliet, unpopular with critics of filmed Shakespeare, but very much a “photoplay” if its time; the opening sequences of filmed Hamlets which span more than seventy years; The Comedy of Errors on television, where production of this script is almost impossible; and the Branagh Much Ado About Nothing, a “popular” film discussed in the context of comedy as a genre.
A comprehensive treatment of Shakespeare’s plays, The Practical Shakespeare: The Plays in Practice and on the Page illuminates for a general audience how and why the plays work so well.
In Shakespeare the Illusionist, Neil Forsyth reviews the history of Shakespeare’s plays on film, assessing what filmmakers and TV directors have made of the spells, haunts, and apparitions— Puck and the fairies, ghosts and witches, or Prospero’s island—in his plays. A bold step forward in Shakespeare and film studies.