Three Days (of Hamlet): Film Review

Three Days (of Hamlet) Poster Art - P 2013

 Three Days (of Hamlet) Poster Art - P 2013

This psychologically probing documentary proves as much of a folly as the chaotic stage production it chronicles.

Alex Hyde-White's documentary concerns his efforts to stage a production of Shakespeare's tragedy with only three days of rehearsals.

Depicting the chaotic efforts to stage a performance of Shakespeare’s classic with only three days of preparation, Alex Hyde-White’s documentary Three Days (of Hamlet) proves as much of a folly as the concept would indicate. While it does offer some genuine insights into the play, its attempts to examine the difficult relationship between the actor/filmmaker and his famous character actor father Wilfrid Hyde-White through the prism of Shakespeare’s tragedy quickly prove strained.

Richard Chamberlain and Stefanie Powers, playing Polonius and Gertrude respectively, are among the big names recruited by Hyde-White for his unorthodox Los Angeles production of a streamlined version of the lengthy tragedy. The reasons for the production’s truncated rehearsal time are never satisfactorily explained, although it does provide the opportunity for some colorful comments from the participants.

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“Doing Hamlet in three days has turned out to be a very chaotic experience,” says Chamberlain in typically understated fashion, while another of the actors is rather more explicit in his bafflement.

“I never knew Alex before, so I don’t know if he lost his mind or never had it,” he says.

The film alternates between segments depicting the chaotic rehearsals and ones exploring Hyde White’s difficult relationship with his late father--famed for his stage work and memorable turns in such films as My Fair Lady—who once told him that “true talent skips a generation.” The two are seen interacting in an old clip from The Merv Griffin Show that reveals little of the angst that the son now expresses.

That the 54-year-old actor--whose extensive credits include Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Pretty Woman--was making this film even as he was frantically preparing to both direct and star in his vanity production no doubt accounts for its extreme choppiness, not to mention such poor sound quality that some of the interview subjects can barely be understood.

It’s a shame, because the numerous scenes from the play itself indicate that the actor/filmmaker seems to possess the dramatic chops necessary for the difficult role. And judging by his stirring rendition of the famous “To thine own self be true” speech, the ever-reliable Chamberlain would make for a moving Polonius. Perhaps someday we’ll have the opportunity to see him perform it under more fortuitous circumstances.

Opens April 19 (Fenix Pictures)

Production: Martindale Group

Director/screenwriter: Alex Hyde-White

Producers: Alex Hyde-White, Louis Yansen, Chris Stevens, Mara New

Director of photography: J. Kent Inasy

Editors: Edward Brizio, Sharon Rutter

Composer: Jonathan Beard

Not rated, 84 min.