Mini-review of “Hamlet Goes Business”

I can always count on Finnish filmmaker, Aki Kaurismaki, regardless of what he takes on. And he’s taken on everything from Puccini’s “La Boheme” to the raucous and ridiculous Lenigrad Cowboys series (don’t ask, just watch). This time it’s Shakespeare and Kaurismaki slices away all the flesh of “Hamlet” to get to the wiry gristle at the core of the story. Here he’s taken the kind of license which others (Tom Stoppard, I’m looking at you) have but Kaurismaki has spun the story in a darker, leaner, much more nihilistic direction. From scene introducing our protagonist as he munches on a slab of ham over his dead father’s body to that surprise punch line at the end which owes nothing to the original, Kaurismaki makes the story his own.

Kaurismaki certainly isn’t the first writer/filmmaker to do Shakespeare cafeteria style but he’s certainly the first to kill off a major character by having Hamlet smash a radio over his head. There’s plenty of poison, betrayal, and melodrama to go around but this Hamlet is a product of the swamp in which he was born. Sharp, mean, and darkly funny, the real delight in “Hamlet Goes Business” is how Kaurismaki adapts the fundamentals of Shakespeare’s masterpiece to his own vision of corrupted power destroying itself. You’ll never look at a rubber duck the same after seeing this movie.

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