I remember the first time I watched Hamlet.
The movie rental store down the street was one of those local independent shops that lets dogs in and carries all kinds of off-kilter movies, and ours was a store with one extra feature: the Shakespeare rack. I stood in front of it many times, reading through the titles, looking at the covers of Othello and Macbeth - this was probably in grade ten when my experience of Shakespeare was quite limited - thinking there was something there that I wanted to grasp.
My Dad and my sister are not Shakespeare people. Not to say they aren't deep or anything, or that they don't appreciate theatre - just, when they look for movies, at least back then, entertainment is number one. A Shakespearean tragedy just doesn't seem like it would make for a laid back evening. So, though mentioned a couple of times, off-hand like I didn't care, that maybe Romeo and Juliet would be good, we always went home with a comedy or a glitzy Hollywood musical from the fifties.
One weekend, however, the time-space continuum must have been broken, or Someone else must've seen me standing in front of the Shakespeare rack like a kid at 711 25 cents short for a slurpee, because I came out of that place holding a copy of Zeffirelli's Hamlet.
We maybe got through twenty minutes of it before my Dad switched it off. This would've been highly disappointing if not for the fact that the next day was Saturday, and I was home alone, two perfect conditions for film watching. And watch Hamlet I did. I didn't understand some of the words. I had no idea what Freudian interpretation was. I was just alone, in a dark basement, watching Shakespeare. It was one of the defining moments of my life.
This morning I woke up at 6:30 and watched Hamlet for the second time. I didn't feel the same way I did then, like there were worlds beyond that I couldn't reach but could see, like there was some mystery, some wonderful wordfull mystery - now I see the cues, what they've cut out, and I recognize Helena Bonham Carter. This is not a bad thing at all. Because now Hamlet feels familiar, and like something that is still worth discovering. And to think through it again, though "my wit's diseased", is a truly delicious gift.