Director's Notes

From the liner notes to the CD:

Last year, 1999, Carter Burwell completed four new soundtracks, moved a studio into his reconstructed apartment, and married a luminous young woman named Christine Sciulli. I feel privileged that he crowded this Hamlet score into a supremely eventful time, and that he achieved a soaring symphonic sound while crouching within our incredibly restricted budget. (I've watched him conduct an orchestra of ninety-plus musicians; it was heartening to see how brilliantly he could scale back. I'd like to thank Sandy Park, concertmaster, for being an essential part of this miracle. And Carter's music editor Todd Kasow for sagely presiding over the mix.)

Shakespeare's Hamlet has been a direct inspiration for an impressive range of composers. Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Gade, Liszt, and (on two separate occasions) Shostakovich. Much of this music is beautifully bombastic. I gave Carter a stack of CDs but, from what I can tell, he had the good sense to draw on his own resources, with superb and surprising results. Lush, resolute music about irresolution. Repeating melodies that circle a heroic ideal. Lucid chords describing a descent into madness, a man's mind resisting, and then riding, the sweep of fate, the coiling movements of love and loss. Tragedy rolling in like the tide. The rest is silence.

- Michael Almereyda

Ethan Hawke, Diane Venora, Kyle MacLachla

Film Info

Directed by Michael Almereyda
Produced by Andrew Fierberg and Amy Hobby

Composed, Orchestrated and Conducted by Carter Burwell
Music Editor: Todd Kasow
Music Scoring Mixer: Mike Farrow
Contractor: Sandy Park
Recorded at National Edison Studio, New York City

Starring Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Bill Murray, Diane Venora, Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Sam Shepard

U.S. Release May, 2000



Ethan Hawke and Liev Schreiber
Sam Shepard and Michael Almereyda


"... Carter Burwell's menacing neo-electronic music floats over the flat surfaces and bland handsomeness of the high-rise apartments and offices, which are both glamorous and unyielding in their lack of comfort." - David Denby, The New Yorker, May 15, 2000.

"... The movie has the benefit of Carter Burwell's lush, brooding score..." - J. Hoberman, Village Voice, May 16, 2000.

"Minimalist elegance is likewise key to John De Borman’s lensing. Carter Burwell contributes an urgent small-orchestral score that’s abetted on rare occasions by trip-hop and classical excerpts. All tech aspects belie budget limitations, or turn them to advantage. Indeed, pic is an almost airtight vessel..." - Dennis Harvey, Variety, Jan. 30, 2000.

Bill Murray
Bill Murray as Polonius
Bill Murray
Julia Stiles as Ophelia