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Henry V (1989)
"The day is yours"
Kenneth Branagh made his trio of Shakespearian masterpieces with three films- Hamlet, Much Ado about Nothing and this- his first film, Henry V. For a first time directer, and this being his third film that he ever performed, Branagh certainly did a brilliant job. With a cast which would leave the jaw of any theatre buff laying on the ground- Derek Jacobi, Judi Dench, Ian Holm, Paul Schofield, Emma Thompson, and of course Branagh himself. This is not to be missed. Shakespeare was of course intended for the stage, but film allows his plays to be taken to a completely new level. Unlike Olivier's film, Branagh was not asked by Churchill to make a pro-War film to conjure up patriotism.
Branagh's Henry V is full of condradictions- a most complicated character which was really the beginning of MacBeth and the aftermath of Richard 3rd. Many of the soliliquies and speeches removed from Olivier's version have been put back in to make a more complete film. This includes the famous St Crispin's Day speech, which established rousing speeches before battles. For those who thought Braveheart was the beginning of it all. It also includes Henry's soliliquy the night before the St Crispin's battle. The films soundtrack by Patrick Doyle, also making his first attempt at film, elevates the action to a new level. And of course one should not forget that the film contains as Branagh called it 'the worlds longest tracking shot'. An almost 5 minute tracking shot which slowly reveals the aftermath of a battle, aided by the lone Patrick Doyle singing Nos Nobis Domine. There is no question of the comment Branagh was making on War.
The moment of the film which makes it truly brilliant is Branagh's reaction when the French messenger tells him. "The day is yours".
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)
This film is for everyone- Under rated and Under appreciated jewel.
I have read the novel of Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley. It was a terribly philosophical book, and is an emotional read. Like Branagh always does- he has taken Frankenstien to a new level and made it accessible to those who would not read the novel. I believe this is the only version of Frankenstein that is really true to Shelley's novel. Branagh successfully shows Frankenstein's obsession with preventing the deaths of his family, by creating life and the ironic turn that this attempt takes. And it's not just a monster movie, the rest of us will be drawn in by the romantic story between Victor and Elizabeth. Helena Bonham Carter is stunning as Elizabeth and Branagh looks pretty good himself. Robert DeNiro is slightly out of place, but his performance as the monster is also very good. Finally we see the monster as he was intended- not as a green man with bolts on either side of his head. Terrribly underrated. Don't listen to the critics- rent it and see for yourself.