Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Henry V

Laurence Olivier, 1944, 135m

Of Shakespeare's ten or so dramas about English history this is one of the most popular, at least on the Isles. This filmed version was made in the thick of WW2, with support from the British government, including personal interest taken by Churchill. The film was intended to bolster the morale of the British public at a time of crisis. Shakespeare's play has a strong nationalistic streak, though it is nuanced by many negative aspects of the king's personality and deeds, which have been skipped. Keeping the purpose of war time propaganda in mind the drama has been pruned to half, portraying him as a popular paragon.

The film is in brilliant technicolor. It starts of as a play at the Globe theater. We see the boisterous Elizabethan audience and a hilarious parody of the opening as the chorus keeps forgetting his words and has to keep fumbling at the sheets of the script. There is a sudden downpour, which hardly dampens the spirits of either the audience or performers, the more or less open air nature of the theatre notwithstanding.The stage flavor is retained for much of the film and colorful backdrops are often used. But then it gradually expands to the open spaces of cinema and the battle scenes with the French adversary are brilliantly filmed. For all the staginess, there is an undercurrent of realism and urgency, considering the real war which was going on, and the the film's audience must have heard it's rumbling and echoes throughout

No comments: