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Production designer Tim Harvey, an Oscar® nominee for Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (1996) is a constant collaborator with the wunderkind of British theater and, since the late 1980s, cinema. Harvey also contributed his striking designs to Branagh's films Henry V (1989), Dead Again (1991), Peter's Friends (1992), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Frankenstein (1994), Hamlet (1996) and Love's Labour's Lost (2000). For Hamlet , the first film shot in 70mm since Far and Away (1992), adapter-director-star Branagh moved the action of Shakespeare's 1602 tragedy to a 19th-century setting.
Critic Kim Williamson wrote in Box Office magazine that Harvey 'makes superb thematic use of both the icy exteriors shot at Oxfordshire's Blenheim Palace (standing in for Elsinore) and the mirror-laden, secret-revealing interiors filmed at Shepperton [Studios in London].' In The Chicago Sun Times, Roger Ebert wrote, 'The movie's very sets emphasize the role of the throne as the center of the kingdom. The sets put much of the action onstage (members of the court are constantly observing) and allows for intrigue (some of the mirrors are two-way, and lead to concealed chambers and corridors).'
In its full length of 238 minutes, Branagh's Hamlet became the second-longest major Hollywood production, clocking in a mere minute shorter than Cleopatra (1963). In spite of the highly praised performances, especially by Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Derek Jacobi and Branagh himself in the title role, Hamlet's only other Oscar® nomination was for Branagh's adapted screenplay. That nomination was a source of controversy, since this was the first of the more than 20 film versions of Hamlet to use Shakespeare's full text ' leaving little need for adaptation. In addition to an all-star cast in principal roles, Branagh peppers his film with guest appearances from the likes of John Gielgud, Judi Dench, Richard Attenborough, Gerard Depardieu, Jack Lemmon and Billy Crystal.
Producer: David Barron
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay: Kenneth Branagh, from William Shakespeare play
Production Design: Tim Harvey
Cinematography: Alex Thomson
Costume Design: Alexandra Byrne
Editing: Neil Farrell
Original Music: Patrick Doyle
Cast: Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet), Julie Christie (Gertrude), Kate Winslet (Ophelia), Derek Jacobi (Claudius), Brian Blessed (Ghost), Richard Briers (Polonius), Nicholas Farrell (Horatio), Rosemary Harris (Player Queen), Charlton Heston (Player King), Michael Maloney (Laertes), John Mills (Old Norway).
by Roger Fristoe