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70MM "Hamlet" in Ireland

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Brian Mac Eochaidhin / Brian Guckian, Ireland Date: 12.07.2014
35mm image by Brian MacEochaidhin / Brian Guckian.

Kenneth Branagh’s stunning, word-for-word adaptation of Shakespeare’s great work debuted for the first time in 70mm at the Irish Film Institute on June 30th [2014].

The showing attracted a large audience, most of who, going by a straw poll, had come because of the faithfulness of the adaptation and quality of the acting (performed by its grand ensemble cast that read like a “who’s who” of the profession). There was significant awareness of the 65mm format, with several people also referencing Paul Thomas Anderson’s recent “The Master“ (yet to be shown in 70mm here).

This is only the second time that “Hamlet" has been shown in 70mm on the island of Ireland, outside of its UK premiere at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 21st January 1997, for which Kinoton projection equipment, a screen and sound system were specially installed.

The print was in very good shape, and in addition to the film’s fine score and painstaking cinematography, art direction and costume design, what was noticeable again on this viewing was the superb editing, which maintained pacing and engagement in a way that remains surprisingly fresh even by today’s accelerated standards. Branagh’s masterful direction showed that it was possible to use the wide aspect ratio and high resolution of 65mm film to advantage for contemporary audiences, helped in no small part by the timeless subject matter, with its intense and wide-ranging themes. It is fair to say that it set a benchmark for artistic achievement that has seldom been equalled.
More in 70mm reading:

Odyssé til Aalborg

Todd-AO & Cinerama in Ireland

David Lean’s Film of “Ryan’s Daughter” Photographed in Super Panavision 70 by Freddie Young, BSC

Internet link:

One of a pair of Cinemeccanica Victoria 8 dual 35mm / 70mm projectors installed at the IFI in 2012, replacing a single DP70 which is now in storage. Illumination is via Strong Super 80 lamphouses running 4000W lamps. "You can never have too much light!" was the dictum of late, much-missed, IFI Cinemas Programmer Pete Walsh. The projectors came all the way from Canberra, Australia.

35mm image by Brian MacEochaidhin / Brian Guckian.

The film also stands as a testament to the enduring quality of film production arts and crafts expertise in Britain, which continues to draw major productions to its shores. The third Star Wars trilogy is of course currently shooting (partly in 65mm) at Pinewood Studios, which is also preparing for significant expansion of its facilities.

It was uplifting and enriching to experience real Cinema of this kind, in the way that it can and should be (although perhaps nothing can surpass the “ultimate” presentation of this film “on site” in Helsingør in 2013!) Praise is due to the Irish Film Institute, supported by their shipping sponsor Expert Air, for scheduling regular 70mm presentations (which recently included a crowd-pleasing showing of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, complete with a well-received “retro” pre-show 1980s trailers and advert reel). It also helps that the local audience is well-educated and cosmopolitan.

Does Branagh’s “Hamlet” remain a precursor for what Cinema could yet be, even now? From the play:

“Sure he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and god-like reason
To fust in us unused” (4.4.33)
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Updated 21-01-24