Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 123. Friday, 5 June 1992.
From: 		Michael Dobson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Friday, June 5, 1992, 10:01:52 CDT
Subject: 3.0122  Branagh *Henry V* (Continued)
Comment: 	Re: SHK 3.0122  Branagh *Henry V* (Continued)
Dear SHAKSPEReans --
A quick note simply to assure Wiliam Proctor Williams that my intense
dislike of Branagh's *Henry V* has nothing to do with its popularity.
I just don't think it's a very intelligent film; it replicates and
endorses its protagonist's egotism in a far less inflected manner
than any *stage* production of the play ever could.  This does seem
to me one of the crucial differences between film Shakespeare and stage
Shakespeare, and it's especially highlighted in the case of *Henry V*
because the script is so clever about the potential bathos of stage
representation.  Being asked to imagine Agincourt in a series of
contradictory ways and being asked to enjoy watching various knights
hacking each other to the accompaniment of swelling fake Elgar are very
different experiences.  But before the discussion continues to concentrate
on the battle scenes to the exclusion of all else (and the fact that so far
it has done so says much about the film), I would like to record that I
personally found the film's glib and coy depiction of Catherine
(or at least its uncritical repetition of the original's glibness and
coyness on the subject, minus any recognition of her status as a trophy)
equally regrettable.  A view I would hold even if large numbers of
cinemagoers did so too.  Of course, Shakespeare was, and should be, popular
culture; but there's surely plenty of room for debate and discrimination
within that category, just as there always has been.
As I've already remarked, my own experience suggests that that
Shakespeare's plays make actually bad films, but I'm always willing to be
surprised. Jane Howell's TV versions of *Henry VI* still strike me as well
worth watching again, but otherwise even a fairly incompetent stage
production is likely to do more than even a well-acted film -- just as
actually visiting Margate is likely to be a lot more interesting than
looking at somebody else's home movies of Venice.
     Best regards --
			Michael Dobson

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