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King Henry V of England is insulted by the King of France. As a result, he leads his army into battle against France. Along the way, the young king must struggle with the sinking morale of his troops and his own inner doubts. The war culminates at the bloody Battle of Agincourt. Written by
Liza Esser <email@example.com>
Contains a flashback scene to (and a paraphrase of) Act 2, scene 4 of William Shakespeare's play Henry IV, Part 1, in which Falstaff jokingly tells Prince Hal (later to become King Henry V) that when he is king, he may stop socializing with all their other friends, but he shouldn't banish Falstaff himself from his company: "banish plump Jack, and banish all the world." See more »
One of the "dead" soldiers lying in the field after a battle winks. See more »
O! for a Muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention; A kingdom for a stage, princes to act and monarchs to behold the swelling scene. Then should the war-like Harry, like himself, assume the port of Mars; and at his heels, Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword, and fire crouch for employment.
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This film is a chef d'oeuvre, masterpiece, magnum opus, perfection. The battle scenes are exquisite, the soundtrack is spectacular. Mud & blood, sweat & tears, man & horse, all become one powerful force on the field of Agincourt.
Branagh, and the people he surrounds himself with, breathe life into Shakespeare's words.
When you watch Branagh, as Henry, deliver the Feast Of St. Crispian's Day speech to his weary band of brothers, you will be swept up in his passion, and find yourself cheering "let us fight" at your TV screen.
Branagh speaks the language of Shakespeare fluidly, naturally. It is the greatest language he knows, and upon entering his world, you too will know the glory of Shakespeare.
Non nobis domine, domine Non nobis domine Sed nomini, sed nomini Tu lauda gloriam
"O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention! A kingdom for a stage, princes to act, And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!"
"And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remember'd; We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother"
I love Branagh's Henry V because he incorporated all of Henry V's traits - the roguishly witty Prince Hal, the warmonger, the imperialist, the opportunist, the master rhetorician, the man with a miraculous ability to reason in divinity and to debate in commonwealth affairs and to exhibit military prowess, his piety, his administrative sagacity, political cunning, arrogance, his cruelty, his affability, all in all Branagh masterfully wears all the masks of Prince Hal/Henry V that Shakespeare created.
I love Branagh's version because he recreated as much as he could of the play and transformed it into an artistic cinematic presentation (the set designs and that battle sequence at Agincourt and the rich deep hues of burgundy and brown and sumptuous plums) instead of a staged presentation, because he remained true to Shakespeare's ambivalence towards Henry by allowing viewers to be critical of Henry's choices, he preserved most of the dialogue and presented the scenes in order, because of Branagh's unparalleled recitation of Shakespearean dialogue, and because of Patrick Doyle's rapturous, Proustian music which transports listeners to a paradoxical state of paradisial elysium and infernal, torturous pain, evoking times and places and battles and lives long forgotten, a remembrance of things past, a memories forever faded into royal genealogical charts and myths and legends.
The play is theatrically limited because the events in the play cannot be adequately represented on stage, which is one reason why Henry V is ironically one of the most theatrically expressive plays to perform - the production crew is forced to transcend theatrical convention in order to faithfully represent the play.
Theatre depends on synecdoche, meaning that what is presented on stage only represents part of the whole, and this is because of theatrical restrictions. What we watch is a shadow or illusion of the whole.
In Henry V, Shakespeare expected the audience to actively participate in the re-enactment of the events being staged.
Shakespeare addresses this throughout the Prologue and Chorus of the play, by constantly apologizing about the inadequate, confining medium being used to portray the spectacle before us.
Henry V is the crowning achievement of his Henriad (which spans from Richard II to Richard III) and of the English history play in general, and it is grandiosely resplendent with thousands of men and horses, full-rigged ships, the English fleet leaving Southampton and traversing the English Channel, and the brutal sacking of an entire town whose sacking is explicitly described in the dialogue - the firing of cannons, scaling ladders, town walls that must be physically breached on stage, characters that appear on the walls looking down at the siege, the town reduced to rubble, and the King boaring through the town with a massive army to make an extravagantly celebratory and unchallenged exit through the gates (is there any room on state for a set of gates?) of Harfleur.
Thank you Branagh for enriching our imaginations.
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