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Henry V [Import USA Zone 1]
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Description du produit
England 1415. Der junge König Henry V. von England zieht mit seinen Truppen gegen Frankreich in den Krieg. Das militärische Abenteuer droht jedoch an der von Krankheit und Hunger zermürbten englischen Armee zu scheitern. Bei Azincourt treffen sie auf eine 10-fache französische Übermacht. Auf der einen Seite stehen die siegessicheren Franzosen, auf der anderen ein zerlumpter und frustrierter Haufen. Getrieben von Ehrgeiz und Verzweiflung gelingt es Henry V. rechtzeitig seine Leute zu übermenschlichen Leistungen anzuspornen. Ein grausamer und blutiger Kampf beginnt...
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One of the problems of Shakespeare on the silver screen is that the situations, settings, and acting often ends up somewhat contrived. That rarely happens here, because of this remarkable team.
The principle writing credit of course goes to William Shakespeare, but as is always the case, the play is recast to make the film medium more natural for the story. Kenneth Branagh is the one credited here, and has shown himself several times after this film as a master of adapting Shakespeare faithfully to the screen.
The play itself is one of Shakespeare's history plays -- remember the broad three categories of Shakespeare: history, drama (some say tragedy), and comedy. Like most of the history plays, there is creative license taken with the actual history, as it is invariably adapted to make the present regime look good, credible and more legitimate. This explains why Richard III in Shakespeare is far more villainous than in actual life; in Henry V, the country had a great and (for the period) uncontroversial hero - the last king of England to be acknowledged the dominant power in Britain and in France, succeeding in unwinnable situations, and, as befits a good historical hero, dies young before he has the chance to destroy his image. The play has always been popular in times of national crisis - see Olivier's production of Henry V during World War II depicting the king as a national saviour against continental foes.
The action of the play and film turns on the legitimacy of Henry's rule in France (an issue still for Elizabethan audiences, as Elizabeth was crowned with supposed rights to France). The French are depicted as haughty and disdainful of the young king (interesting how some things don't change), and the battle lines are drawn. The film here sets the stage for a far more ambiguous justification for war than is often depicted in the play, leaving the viewer wondering if, for all the glory of the battles, was there a real point, or was it legalistic/diplomatic trickery?
There is also the interesting scene with the conspirators against the king, unmasked as the forces are about to depart for France. Cambridge, Scrope and Grey are exposed, but the dialogue and acting hints as a more intimate relationship with Henry V - possibly this references obliquely the rumours of homosexuality, or at least bisexuality, in the historical Henry.
The players are excellent here, from Branagh himself as Henry V, and Brian Blessed his strong right arm Exeter. Paul Scofield (Thomas More in 'A Man for All Seasons') plays the ancient French king, Charles VI, and his son the Dauphin is played by Michael Maloney. This is, on the whole, a rather 'young' film, as Branagh himself was not yet 30 at the time of production, and most of his aides and friends in the play are similarly young, save for a few senior advisors. Emma Thompson, a staple in Branagh's films, plays the only significant female role, the princess Katherine, to whom Henry will be wed. Her part is almost entirely in French. Her maid, Alice, is played by Geraldine McEwan (perhaps best known from 'Mapp & Lucia').
The famous speeches here are preserved; Branagh does a fantastic job with his spirit-raising monologue for the troops prior to the battle of Agincourt, on Crispin Crispian day. The speech on horseback in the early seige of Harfleur, 'once more into the breech!' is also remarkable. The lines delivered by all the actors are done with care and precision - Exeter's report to Henry at the opening ('tennis balls', said with great sneer) and to the French party ('scorn', said with so much scorn the word need not be spoken) are but a few examples of this.
The film expands upon the play's use of Falstaff's companions as a comic relief, by incorporating what would be flash-back scenes from events in the Henry IV play cycle, premonitions of events currently in the play. Robbie Coltrane turns in a good performance as Falstaff; look for Judi Dench in a minor role as the Mistress, and a very young Christian Bale as the boy.
The music for the film is triumphant, foreboding and dark. This is a wonderful score produced by Patrick Doyle, known for work on other Branagh films such as 'Dead Again' and 'Much Ado about Nothing', as well as other films such as 'Indochine' and literature-based films like 'Gosford Park' and 'Great Expectations'.
Derek Jacobi, veteran Shakespearean, portrays 'Chorus', the narrator of the action, one who casts the right spirit from beginning to end, and appears throughout. There are few Shakespearean asides done by the actors here (a few under-the-breath comments that might qualify), but Jacobi's role is always directly to camera, directly to us as the spectators. The ending portrayed by Chorus is both victorious and tragic, much as the cycle of history must be.
This is a glorious film.
The BBC is more complete and closer in verbiage to the original play versions. So if you miss the BBC version you will want to be sure to read the play first. Lawerence Olivia was force to cut out much of the play because of time constraints and because of the time of the production Henry V could not look like a tyrant and they had to justify the war so it would coincide with the WWII war effort.
However Kenneth Branagh, Making his directing debut, pulled out all stops. He may have missed a few lines here and there but replaced them with visuals and innuendos. There was more reliance and background music which is indispensable in today's movies.
The film was as usual in Branagh movies and in many Shakespeare adapted movies packed with known stars of the time. The only person in this one that did not come up to snuff was Emma Thompson who just did not cut it as Princess Katherine de Valois. Ian Holm was excellent as Captain Fluellen. The real hinge point is the selection of Derek Jacobi as Chorus whom caries the story forwarded between scenes.
This story is based on prior works but can stand alone very well as what history of Henry is needed is mentioned in the play. Henry V was a sort of playboy (probably by cunning design) as a youth and when becoming king has decides to acquire France that is his heritage. In the process he must prove his ability to understand and lead people. One of his first tests is to detect treachery and remove it. Laurence left it out. The BBC Play executes the detection as written. But Branagh really articulates the treachery and its solution.
May of my favorite Shakespeare quotes come from this play. And even in the early stage in his career Branagh is the master of soliloquy.
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