"There is no mystery in a looking glass, until someone looks into it.
- Harold Goddard, The Meaning Of Shakespeare. .
There have been more than 50 films, either for cinema or television, of Shakespeare's most staged play, from Lawrence Olivier's 1948 Oscar-winning almost film-noir version to the parody of Kaurismaki's Hamlet Goes Business (1987). The latest is Michael Almereyda's Hamlet (2000), a contemporary realisation in a familiar New York whose visual style owes more to the fast cutting of MTV than the solidity of the stage. Unlike the satirical butchering of Kaurismaki's version (whose work uses not a single line of the original text), to which Hamlet (2000) owes much of its corporate setting, Almereyda presents a pared down and unadulterated adaptation.
Of course, in order to produce the 1 hour 15 running time, even shorter than Zefferelli's action-hero Hamlet (1990), which suffered as Vogue had it, not cutting but "axplay", much is removed. However, although shorter than Zefferelli's effort, the inclusion of the text's political aspect (in Fortinbras ) and the first scene (although reordered), excised from the 1990 film, leads to a far more effective, rounded and realised version. This is not to say that cutting has no effect on the nature of the piece. The loss of the scenes in which Hamlet's "madness" is constructed results in a change of emphasis in for the "Excellent well, you are a fishmonger" dialogue , which loses much of its effectiveness, Hamlet's behaviour seeming randomly erratic rather than calculated. .
Another noticeable cut is the removal of the players in preference to a more economical and filmic device (in keeping with the fascination with multimedia within the film, to which I will refer later), Hamlet's creation of the short art film - "The Mousetrap". The film achieves the same effect whilst reducing the required cast and running time and creating a pleasing translation of the "play within a play" device (often used in Shakespeare) to the "film within a film".