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Release of "Hamlet" in 70mm

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Issue 48 - March 1997
Why "Hamlet" Went 70mm

"Hamlet" is the first British film in 25 years to be filmed in 65mm. The man charged with capturing the look of the film was cinematographer Alex Thomson. The chance to use the 65mm format was irresistible for Thomson. He had been preparing to shoot "Nostromo" in 65mm for David Lean when the director died.

"The fabulous advantage of 70mm is the sharpness of detail it gives, which can look three-dimensional at times," says Thomson. "This film has glorious sets and costumes and the widescreen format really brings them out".

"Why did you [Kenneth Branagh] choose to film "Hamlet" in 65mm?

"The glory of 70mm is the sharpness of the images it offers. With 70mm, we get a chance to go from what is essentially a personal, domestic story about a family and its' problems to the epic dimension that reflects the effects of those problems on the nation. We can go from the very intimate events in the court to the plains of northern Europe and see Fortinbras for the opportunistic leader he was, ready to invade with thousands of soldiers. 70mm is able to give that tremendous sweep so you feel the impact of the story, but it also has an incredible delicate touch, too."

"Hamlet" Opening Dates

February 6 (Holland), February 14 (England), February 15 (South Korea), February 21 (Turkey), February 26 (Belgium), February 28 (Brazil, Columbia & Mexico), February (Spain), March 3 (Sweden), March 7 (Italy), March 20 (Australia), February/March (Bolivia), March 26 (Venezuela), March (Croatia, Greece), April 4 (Denmark), April 24 (New Zealand), April (France), May 16 (South Africa), May 17 (Taiwan), May 21 (Switzerland), May (Singapore).

Quotes from the "Hamlet" reviews

This is the first feature film shot on 65mm stock and projected in 70mm since "Far And Away" in 1992, and the result is a stunningly handsome production with tremendous visual clarity and depth. Cinematographer Alex Thomson has collaborated very creatively with Branagh to keep the film visually stimulating for four hours, shooting the cascade of dialogue scenes in different ways, often circling the action and making good use of the mirrors that panel the principal set of Tim Harvey's sumptuous production design. Todd McCarthy, Variety, December 9, 1996.

The picture was shot in 70mm, curious for a film lacking in spectacle and with so much time spent in close-up. The UK`s stately home Blenheim Palace makes an impressive Elsinore, but some of the artificially created exteriors - the wood, the snowy plain - are unfashionably unconvincing. Mike Goodbridge, Screen International, Friday December 20, 1996.

128 votes: 9,4 rating out of 10. (10 = excellent) Internet Movie Database February 14, 1997.

The cast is mostly excellent, with Crystal a nice surprise as the gravedigger and Richard Briers rescuing Polonius from amiable fuddery; this old man is as much plotter as plodder. If there is a lapse, it is in the central performance. Spuming his lines with catarrhal intakes of breath punctuating the bolts of rhetoric, Branagh is a whiz at making the poetry colloquial and intelligible; he spits out the 400-year-old verse like a rapmaster. But he cannot so easily make it poetic. Richard Collins, TIME, January 13, 1997.

Kenneth Branagh's four hour Hamlet proved a mighty entertaining movie for the starry audience at last night’s celebrity preview. Some admitted they had gone with trepidation and some doubted the mass audience appeal of so long a film, but almost all emerged from the Curzon Mayfair singing its praises. [Actor] Richard E. Grant was equally impressed. "Excellent, incredibly moving and the clearest Hamlet I have ever seen", he said. Robin Stringer, Evening Standard, Friday January 17, 1997.

"Hamlet" Is Big Box Office

In the week of January 17, - 23, 5 weeks after a limited 3-screen release, "Hamlet" had the highest screen average on Variety Box Office list. $ 35.915 per screen.

"Hamlet" OSCAR Nominated

Tuesday February 11, 1997, "Hamlet" was nominated with the following result: Best Screenplay Based On Material Previously Published, Best Achievement in Art Direction, Best Achievement in Music Original Dramatic Score and Best Achievement in Costume Design.

More in 70mm reading:

"Hamlet" to be filmed in 70mm

“Hamlet”: The North American 70mm Engagements

Kenneth Branagh's "HAMLET" on 65mm

Internet link:

Issue 49

“Hamlet” let down

I am writing to you regarding the film “Hamlet” in 70mm. We saw a lot of advertising both on the television and movie magazines saying how good it was and that it was in 70mm. So naturally we were really looking forward to it. So imagine our disappointment when we found it was only opening at one cinema in greater Manchester (in 35mm, editor). That was at the Odeon and they have not got a 70mm screen. I rang our local multiplex “Warner Brothers” and got the excuse they couldn’t cope with the intermission. They hadn’t the facilities.

Yours Terry Later, 26 Mosley Avenue, Bury, Lancs BL9 6PQ, England.
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Updated 21-01-24