'Tis in my memory locked,
and you yourself shall keep the key of it .

The following are excerpts from the film diary kept by Russell Jackson, on the set of Kenneth Branagh's filming of Hamlet. They may be found at the end of the published screenplay for the Branagh film, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare: Screenplay, Introduction and Film Diary. W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-31505-3 (pbk.) ISBN 0-393-04519-6 (limited ed.)

The Film Diary

Written by Russell Jackson
Text Consultant on Hamlet

Hugh Cruttwell and I have worked with Kenneth Branagh for some years on various projects, including his Shakespeare films. Hugh has a watching brief on Ken's own performance and is also part of the support system for the actors in general. I'm there to help with textual matters, which range from queries about specific words and lines to broader questions of interpretation affecting speeches or scenes. These can't (or shouldn't) be divorced from matters that are, strictly speaking, Hugh's department: we work together, as extra eyes and ears for the director. Most of the time during shooting, our place is by the video monitors, and what follows is largely Hamlet seen from that point of view - or, in the usual abbreviation, p.o.v.

We're in the elegant board-room of the old house, round a long green-baize covered table. First session is with Derek Jacobi (Claudius) and Julie Christie (Gertrude), plus Ken, Orlando Seale (his 'acting' double) Annie Wotton (Script Supervisor), Simon Mosley (First A.D.), Hugh Cruttwell.

Ken distributes phials of a herbal 'Rescue Remedy' (only half a joke, admitting nervous apprehension). Everyone reads the screenplay, and the actors have already had some discussion of their roles with ken, but these days of rehearsal before we begin shooting will give everyone time for reappraisal, adjustments and (most important) finding out how the story will be told by this company of actors, in these circumstances. We won't start with a read through: better to edge towards the play. We discuss royal families (including the current one), privacy, politics, and draw towards a reading of the scenes when Claudius and Gertrude are together. There's talk about the issue of complicity between them (not at all, so far as murder is concerned) and the 'essential' Claudius, which she took (and part of him still takes) as loving, kind, a 'good' man. Derek goes along with this, though he and Hugh Cruttwell remind us of Hamlet's very different point of view. Gertrude and Claudius feel responsible for Hamlet, but Claudius has another agenda she knows nothing about--concerning the potential threat posed by her son.


For more about Hugh Cruttwell, RADA and UAYD news, go here.

For an interview with Kenneth Branagh during the film production of HAMLET go here.

For an account of the London screening of Hamlet to benefit the Panico Media Workshop, go here.

For "The Readiness is All: The Making of Hamlet" go here.

For a review of "Discovering Hamlet" a short film which documents Branagh's early take on the stage role under the direction of Sir Derek Jacobi, go here.

For a New York Times article on the last major production of Hamlet before the year 2000, at the Joseph Papp Public Theater, go here.

For the Guardian interview with Kenneth Branagh at the NFT Retrospective, go here.

For the National Film Theatre Programme Notes for the Kenneth Branagh retrospective, go here.

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