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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: December ::
Re: Henry V
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2159  Tuesday, 7 December 1999.

[1]     From:   Richard Bovard <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 Dec 1999 10:55:24 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.2144 Re: Map of Henry V's Campaign

[2]     From:   Nicolas Pullin <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 Dec 1999 11:42:05 -0600
        Subj:   SHK 10.2149 Re: The Most Unkindest Cut

[3]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 Dec 1999 10:27:03 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 10.2144 Re: Map of Henry V's Campaign

[4]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Monday, 06 Dec 1999 12:07:30 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.2144 Re: Map of Henry V's Campaign


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Bovard <
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Date:           Monday, 06 Dec 1999 10:55:24 -0600
Subject: 10.2144 Re: Map of Henry V's Campaign
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2144 Re: Map of Henry V's Campaign

Here's a thought on Graham Bradshaw's comment about Henry V, "Alas, the
sentimental puerilities of Olivier's and Branagh's battle scenes distort
and obscure and pervert (money, money, money) what is so remarkable in
Shakespeare's play: there aren't any battle scenes."

I have always thought that there was one battle scene: Act 4, scene 4,
where Pistol is taken to be "the most brave, valorous, and thrice-worth
seigneur of England" (61-63).  The effect is the same one that Graham
mentions, of course, in a Shakespearean "challenge" to the Chorus and to
his audience.  It is hardly the Agincourt that we have been promised,
though we sometimes get around to "Minding true things by what their
mock'ries be" (4.Chorus.53).

Thankfully, Graham's comments on Act 5, scene 1, keep us alert to other
mockeries . . . in the text and in the cinema.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nicolas Pullin <
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Date:           Monday, 06 Dec 1999 11:42:05 -0600
Subject: Re: The Most Unkindest Cut
Comment:        SHK 10.2149 Re: The Most Unkindest Cut

As Graham Bradshaw points out under a different topic, the films of
Henry V by both Olivier and Branagh are full of unkind cuts, obviously
including some of Henry's more dubious actions on the battlefield, but
also the Pistol/Fluellen beating (see Bradshaw's lucid argument for this
"diptych") and "always already" the monetary discussions concerning the
Scottish invasion which follows the tennis balls' exit and which puts
the lie yet again to the notion of a united British force, this time
before the mission begins and before we meet Capt.  Jamy.

One could, of course, rifle the whole film adaptation library for
similar examples, though perhaps because Branagh is now the Hollywood
"master" of the form currently, he seems most apt to make such unkind
slashes.  In his defence, some of these slashes are made after filming
the scene, eg. the wedding morning scene in "Much Ado," another oft
excised but crucial moment, since it sets up the contrasting physical
reactions to love experienced by Beatrice and Benedick (modern
productions seem  consistently to attempt to erase any differences
between these two lovers, particularly in the two gulling scenes and the
subsequent soliloquies).  Branagh actually filmed this scene but later
cut it for reasons of flow (see his  forward to published screenplay).

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Monday, 06 Dec 1999 10:27:03 -0800
Subject: Re: Map of Henry V's Campaign
Comment:        SHK 10.2144 Re: Map of Henry V's Campaign

The highly respected Graham Bradshaw wrote:

> Branagh, the most puerile and unreflective of all
> revered Shakespeare film directors

My response is way out of the park as far as a discussion of maps for
Henry V's campaign is concerned, but here goes.

Branagh bashing is popular on this list.  Very popular, and sometimes
for good reasons.  Let's air a dissenting opinion.  Michael Billington,
critic for the Guardian, has a very informed opinion.  He may not be
scholarly in way that many members of this list are scholarly, but he is
very learned in his own field.  I think his view is worth reading.  The
following is from the Guardian.

Best,
Cut 'n Paste Jensen

>>> Shakespearian Hero

The Guardian (London), May 21 1999
by Michael Billington

Kenneth Branagh's screen versions of the Bard are better than Olivier's,
argues Michael Billington

How do you film Shakespeare? Clearly, there are as many approaches as
there are directors. You can treat the texts expressionistically
(Welles), romantically (Zeffirelli) or starrily (Olivier). You can see
the poetry as a visual springboard or as the core of the experience: at
one extreme, Baz Luhrmann*s Romeo And Juliet; at the other, Trevor
Nunn*s Twelfth Night. Always, however, one faces a key problem:
Shakespeare works primarily through words, the cinema through images. Do
you allow the poetry to paint the pictures? Or do you let the camera do
the work? The art of making Shakespeare movies, I suspect, is to strike
a balance between word and image and find an overarching visual metaphor
that unlocks the meaning of the play.

Watching Kenneth Branagh*s three Shakespeare films again * Henry V, Much
Ado About Nothing and Hamlet * in preparation for an NFT talk, it
strikes me he has had more success than most in realising Shakespeare on
screen. For a start, he has got the films made: no mean feat when you
think of the budgetary struggles Welles had in making Othello, or of the
cruel accountancy that stopped Olivier filming Macbeth. But, in addition
* and he is currently editing his fourth Shakespeare film, Love*s
Labour*s Lost * Branagh has found a way of giving the films a cinematic
rhythm, while preserving the text*s poetic values. His Henry V, made
when he was 27, is an astonishing achievement, and better, in almost
every respect, than Olivier*s.  We all know Olivier was making a
morale-boosting wartime propaganda film but, even so, treating the
French as effete ditherers (with the king himself as a male Margaret
Rutherford) undercuts British heroism. What you are left with * and it*s
a good deal * is the incisive glamour of Olivier*s presence and that
thrilling voice, with its Rossini-like gift for crescendo.
But Branagh*s film seems much closer to Shakespeare*s intention: a
complex study of the ambivalence of war and of a young king*s
self-discovery.

Olivier*s Henry exudes instant patriotic charisma; Branagh*s feels more
like the Hal of the previous plays, who, having lost his real father and
shed his surrogate one in Falstaff, is still coming to terms with his
own identity.

However, as well as tracing Henry*s enforced maturation, Branagh finds a
metaphor that sustains the whole film. He begins with Derek Jacobi*s
Chorus switching on the lights from an empty soundstage and then moves
to the back lot at Shepperton. Olivier gradually turns the Chorus into a
voice-over; Branagh keeps him as a visible, mufflered presence * a
reminder that we are watching a version of reality.

And where Olivier*s battle scenes have a rousing Technicolor excitement,
Branagh*s show the declension of morning glory into exhausted carnage.
Branagh*s film doesn*t just recreate Henry V, as many have suggested, to
match a mood of post-Falklands cynicism, it expresses Shakespeare*s own
complex feelings about heroism and sacrifice. Henry V is a masterly
movie * one that adapts the Brechtian stage idea of the Chorus to remind
us, all the time, that we are watching a reconstruction of reality. In
Much Ado, starting with the on-screen titles of sigh no more ladies, the
intention is clearly to explore the giddiness of love in the context of
a Tuscan f

 

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