Sunday, July 17, 2016

Henry V (1989)

Henry V marks Kenneth Branagh first cinematic foray into adapting the Bard, and almost seemed to encourage comparison to Laurence Olivier given that was his first film as well. Branagh seems to take a more straight forward approach. Of course the story requires a bit fourth wall breaking due to its introduction or else excise of the material. Branagh deals with rather quickly limiting this to the chorus which he keeps through a living narrator played by Derek Jacobi, who Branagh always seem to get his best from. Branagh makes a rather brilliant decision in terms of the written adaptation by including passages from Henry IV to further develop the King's relationship with Falstaff and his group of friends. This effectively realizes the transformation from the boy as a Prince to become the man as a King. This allows for one particularly powerful moment where Henry must proceed with the execution of one his former friends. Branagh crafts the arc well leading the origin which proceeds with his invasion of France. The invasion itself is handled with a focus on the often grim reality of battle, though Branagh does leave time for a bit of grandeur through the King's speech which is made particularly rousing due to the score by Patrick Doyle. It's a grand adaptation, it's not quite as strong as Hamlet mainly due to Branagh's own performance style is a better fit for Hamlet than Henry, but still a triumph.

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