Sir Nicholas Kenyon CBE on Kozintsev's 'Hamlet'
Apr 30, 2013
I can remember vividly the day I saw the powerful 1964 film of Hamlet by Grigori Kozintsev -- twice. I was a 13-year old in a suburb of Manchester, keen on Shakespeare in a rather English sort of way. The films we had access to were Laurence Olivier's: Henry V of course, and his very internalised and rather precious Hamlet. (I think I had a Pollock's toy theatre with sets from that film.)
But this Russian Hamlet was something else: Hamlet on a massive elemental scale, with the force of nature, the sea, storms, and seabirds as the backdrop to a vivid and brutal story of personal gilt and revenge. The Russian language only served to enhance the grandeur and intensity of it.
I had asked my mother to take me into town to see it that afternoon. It was such a knockout that we went home and I begged my father to take me back for the evening showing. And looming over it all was the powerful, hard-hitting musical score by a composer of whom then I knew all too little: Dimitri Shostakovich. That was a real marker for the future and I never forgot that day.