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Hamlet Goes Business (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on November 22, 2012

“Can you see the North Star there between the clouds?”
“Yeah.  Want to kiss again?”

Hamlet (Pirkka-Pekka Petelius) finds himself the majority shareholder in his father’s manufacturing corporation when the old man gets poisoned.  The culprits are his mother Gertrude (Elina Salo) and her lover, Hamlet’s uncle Klaus (Esko Salminen).  Hamlet’s something of a spoiled imbecile, and is interested in little beyond his next meal and trying to get into the pants of his best friend’s sister Ophelia (Kati Outinen), daughter of the company’s manager, Polonius (Esko Nikkari).  But then he’s visited by his father’s ghost, who has a plan for revenge, starting with shutting down Klaus’s dreams of cornering the rubber duck market.

Kaurismaki’s noir-styled take on Shakespeare’s most revered play has a lot of funny, clever stuff in it.  Hamlet gnawing on a slice of ham as he discovers his father’s corpse, or kicking a jukebox into life in a moment of sexual frustration, or being confronted by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in a seedy dive (with a punk band).  It’s got Kaurismaki’s distinctive deadpan stamp on it, and all the actors are game.  It’s a fun concept.

But the gag does wear thin after a while, and towards the end the film seems to meander a bit.  I was really looking forward to revisiting this one, but now I feel it’s not quite as amusing as I remember.  And although much of the black and white photography is gorgeous and stylized, Kaurismaki seems to have a hard time fully committing to the aesthetic.  He occasionally falls back on his usual stripped-down look, leaving some scenes feeling flat… and not in a good, Kaurismaki-esque way.

Still, for the most part it’s pretty enjoyable.  The ending wraps things up with a triumph for the proletariat, fitting with the director’s sensibilities as the clueless, self-absorbed corporate fatcats all destroy each other.  Sure, it’s all a little too high-concept, but in general the execution is enjoyable.  Rating: Good (74)

IMDb

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