Rarely seen in the US, Hamlet (or Gamlet, as it was known in Russia), Shakespeare's 17th century masterpiece about the "Melancholy Dane," was given one of its best screen treatments by Soviet director Grigori Kozintsev and scored by his frequent collaborator and friend, composer Dmitri Shostakovich.
Kozintsev's is a spare, haunting interpretation based on a translation by novelist Boris Pasternak. The malevolence afoot in the state of Denmark is magnificently captured by the foreboding black and white cinematography. Shostakovich’s compositions drive the epic with fierce outbursts of percussion and high skittering woodwinds emphasizing the imagery – stone, iron, fire, earth and sea – which, for Kozintsev, expressed the essential nature of Shakespeare’s poetry.
(USSR, 1964, 140 min, DVD, in Russian with English subtitles)
Scored by Shostakovich, Directed by Kozintsev
No other major composer devoted more of his career to film music than Dmitri Shostakovich, whose collaboration with Russian director Gregori Kozintsev spanned thirty years and seven films. In conjunction with The Soviet Art Experience and the Department of Music’s concert “Shostakovich's Late Film Scores: The Gadfly, Hamlet and King Lear,” we celebrate the work of these two great artists.