R: Hay Plumb. D: Johnston Forbes-Robertson, Alexander Scott-Gatty, Gertrude Elliot, Walter Ringham, Adeleine Bourne. P: Hepworth Manufacturing Company. UK 1913
Print: BFI National Archive
“Hay Plumb‘s Hamlet (1913) made for the Cecil Hepworth company, marks a definite step forward for British Shakespeare films in that it attempts not only to present an entire play but also has cinematic ambitions over and above just pointing the camera at a reconstituted stage production, the method adopted by most of its predecessors. Sourced from a 1913 Drury Lane stage production, it was partly shot on location in Dorset, with interiors created in Hepworth’s Walton-on-Thames studio.
Running approximately an hour (depending on projection speed), it gives a rather more extensive overview of the play than that offered by previous British Shakespeare films, with most key scenes present and correct, supplemented with intertitles conveying brief two or three-line excerpts from the original text.
That said, although still fairly primitive – most scenes are still presented as single-shot tableaux – Hamlet does at least make some use of the cinema’s grammar. The camera occasionally moves, several scenes are shot on location, the ghost is conveyed through double exposure and there’s even a brief instance of cross-cutting, as Ophelia’s corpse is discovered while Laertes talks to Claudius.”
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