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Henry V Movie Comparison, Thesis Paper Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1235

Thesis Paper

The play Henry V was set in England in the early fifteenth century at the time when England was under the tense political situation. Several brutal civil wars have left England devastated and torn. Unfortunately, King Henry IV dies, and his young son, King Henry V assumes the throne. However, at a tender age, he is aware of the task, and hence he is obliged to desist from his wild adolescent past. Unlike other Kings, he blends effectively with the soldiers and stages war with the French troop.  The war reaches the climax at the famous Battle of Agincourt, where the French outnumber the England soldiers[1]. Miraculously, the following morning after a brief motivational talk and prayer with the fellow soldiers, the England troop triumphs the battle over the proud French soldiers. Ideally, the two countries sign a peace treaty, and as one of the provisions of the agreement, Henry has to marry Catherine, the princess of France. As follows, their son will become the king of France. The marriage unites the two countries. The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast two film adaptations of William Shakespeare’s Henry V play.

Laurence Oliver’s Version

In 1944, near the climax of World War II, Laurence Oliver launched the first major on-screen pictures of William Shakespeare’s Henry V play. The timing of the release of Laurence adaption in 1944 was not a coincidence as he faced enormous pressure to simplify Shakespeare’s play to match the ongoing war. The British government allowed the release of the film because it was a patriotic film used for propaganda purposes.  Wisely, at the beginning of the movie, Laurence dedicates the film to the World War II heroes. Concerning setting, Laurence portrays the setting in an almost storybook-like scenario. In setting the background, he uses a large piece of cardboard and painted backdrops[2]. Notably, he does this to emphasize on characters and performance rather than the lavish empire as portrayed in the Shakespeare’s story.  In an attempt to attract the audience, Laurence gives the sanitized perception of war instead of employing Kenneth Branagh’s gore version.  However, at the beginning of the first scene, Laurence deviates from Shakespeare’s intention; he diminishes some of the French characters with a plan to justify why Henry V conquest was easy. Primarily, the core objective of Oliver’s film was to remind the British of their past glorious victories against their European enemies at the battle of Agincourt in 1415. Despite being his first endeavor at film producing and directing, the film won Oliver an academy award for distinguished accomplishment in acting, production and directing.

Kenneth Branagh’s  Version

Branagh released his version in 1989. He carefully desisted from duplicating Oliver’s version in this movie. To show the great art of originality and creativeness, Branagh begins the film with Derek Jacobi’s chorus on an empty soundstage. Unlike, in Oliver’s version, he takes the Archbishop’s discussion of the Salic law more seriously. Markedly, Henry responds to the French ambassador mocking with brewing but reinstated anger. Constructively, he employs some flashback styles in incorporating various scenes from Shakespeare’s narratives. For example, he uses the “wastrel” Harry’s nights with Falstaff to elaborate Henry’s transition from young prince to mature king. Furthermore, he adds an extra scene from the play that does not appear in Oliver’s film[3]. The scene features Henry uncovering the teachings three of his nobles. Intelligently, he sets them up to debate on the supposed punishment for the soldiers who oppose the king. Contrary to Oliver’s version, the Harfleur siege is shot at night and has a ghastly tinge to it. The breach scenario is more severe in this version than in Oliver’s version. Additionally, Branagh films Henry attempted rape and murder if the city does not surrender. Unlike Oliver, Branagh did not intend to sanctify Henry to heroic status for the British to appraise during the dark days of World War II. About the characters, Emma Thompson plays the role of Princess Catherine better compared to Oliver’s Renee Asheron. Also, Branagh includes mu and rain in the march to Calais to make it more realistic and the hanging of Baradolph for individuals who violated the no looting policy. Apparently, Branagh was determined to expose every complex aspect of Henry’s personality compared to Oliver’s goal for the film. Realistically, the night before the war shows hubris vividly in the French soldiers compared to gloomy British troop who keep on blaming the king. However, in Branagh’s version Henry speech is better orated with the classic pairing of words with music. The soldiers react integral compared to Oliver’s scene.

Henry V Movie Comparison

In the battle, Branagh depicts the chaotic nature of the medieval battle with a fog of war. Naturally, some of the actions filmed in slow motion; York dies a graphically violent death, unlike Oliver’s version where in this scene there is the only corpse. Accurately, Branagh shows how the French knights attack the train and kill the boys. Instead of the movie ending at this point but more time is given to denouement.

Even though wooing princess Catherine is quite similar in both the films, Branagh and Thompson make the conversation more genuine. Eventually, the play end and the movie do the best to reduce the troubling aspects of the whirlwind courtship. Evidently, up to this point, it seems Branagh’s film is superior; however, Oliver’s version is remarkable on certain scenes such as in the opening where Oliver wins big when he brilliantly decides to start the play from the globe theater. Secondly, Oliver uses humor when the archbishop explains the Salic law, especially when hamming the pistol up. Comparatively, Branagh’s version is more severe. Moreover, Oliver’s French king is more accurately added. Finally, Oliver does an excellent, imaginative transition from the globe to the sets based on the book of hours.

Overall, both versions are a masterpiece and stand of their directors.  Each director put his impact on the play. Remarkably, are the same regarding context could be so different and yet faithful to watch. Oliver deserves a better share of the credit for his unorthodox approach to the Bard, but Branagh receives the final credit with his decision to topple Oliver. Notably, each movie reflects its time[4]. Oliver intends to inspire the Englishmen to defeat the Nazis, while Branagh targets modern audience and his nuanced portrayal that the king was essential for 1989. Branagh’s conclusion and the addition of more scenes make his version more complete. Personally, I would recommend one to watch both as it would be unwise to watch one, nonetheless if one insist then watch the Branagh’s it is slightly superior.

Bibliography

Rothwell, Kenneth S. A history of Shakespeare on screen: a century of film and television. Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Jorgens, Jack J. Shakespeare on film. Vol. 234. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977.

Green, Douglas E. “Shakespeare, Branagh, and the’Queer Traitor’: Close Encounters in the Shakespearean Classroom.” The Reel Shakespeare: Alternative Cinema and Theory (2002): 191-211.

Blackwell, Anna. “The Contemporary Shakespearean Actor as the Site of Adaptive Encounter.” (2014).

[1]Kenneth, Rothwell, A History of Shakespeare on Screen: A Century of Film and Television.: A Century of Film and Television. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 42.

[2] Jack Jorgens, Shakespeare on Film (Lanham: University Press of America, 1991), 132.

[3] Douglas Green, “Shakespeare, Branagh, and the’Queer Traitor’: Close Encounters in the Shakespearean Classroom.” The Reel Shakespeare: Alternative Cinema and Theory (2002): 191-211.

[4] Anna Blackwell, The Contemporary Shakespearean Actor as the Site of Adaptive Encounter (2014)

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