King Henry V of England (Sir Kenneth Branagh) is insulted by King Charles VI of France (Paul Scofield). 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The French herald, Montjoy, is with Henry V when he receives the lists of the dead. This is immediately followed by the tracking shot of Henry walking over the battlefield, part-way through which he passes Montjoy who bows to him. Unless Montjoy did some pointless off-camera sprinting, he could not have got ahead of Henry in time. 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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Powerful ode to St. Crispian's Day: 'We few, we happy few'...
While not much of an historical expert on Henry V and not having even personally read Shakespeare's play, I presume this film, from its appearance, to be quite a stellar adaptation. Battle movies, whether Shakespearean based or not, are not normally my favorite genre though this tale seems very well executed. I found the actual battle scenes quite long and graphic with plenty of mud, sweat, blood, and tears, even though it was doubtless exactly thus at Agincourt in 1415. The scene where the surviving soldiers from each side collect their dead from the battlefield for burial is a vivid depiction of the tragedy of war.
This Shakespearean play made for all time, whether accurately or not, a noble and just hero out of the historical figure Henry V (just as Shakespeare firmly established Richard III as a villain). From my amateur perspective, Kenneth Branagh gives a brilliant performance in all facets of the king's action, whether back in England dealing with political / military issues following an insult by the King of France, eventually at the end wooing the French princess (daughter of said French king), and most especially rallying his weary, demoralized troops at Agincourt.
Of course the English victory at the bloody Battle of Agincourt, despite superior numbers of French forces, is legendary. Henry's rallying St. Crispian's Day speech prior to the battle is, from my standpoint, a fitting example of Shakespeare's genius. I can still picture 'We few, we happy few, we band of brothers...', delivered by Branagh with such eloquence and intensity.
The scene in which Henry refuses to spare his friend, who has been caught stealing from the French church, is also dramatic and shows the king's efforts, undoubtedly painful to him, to remain impartial when disciplining his troops. This soldier was in fact Falstaff, whom I recall vividly as 'Prince Hal's' (later Henry V's) friend from the earlier play, Henry IV, Part I, which I DID read in school, so found the incident particularly touching.
However, for me the scenes of Henry hobnobbing incognito with his troops before the battle, his own conflicted emotions about his military decisions, and the subsequent rousing St. Crispian's speech are indeed the definite highlights in this memorable adaptation.
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