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>
When the army crosses the river, rain is clearly falling into the water in the foreground but not in the background, which is glassy smooth. 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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Kenneth Branagh played Henry V at the RSC in 1984, with Adrian Noble directing. Clearly this was a watershed in his life as some of the ideas from that production transferred into his own film, five years later.
Branagh is a mud-spattered, ordinary Joe, a king who like nothing more than the blood and sweat of battle. No heroic 'St Crispian's Day' a la Olivier here. Taking Henry out of the confines of the play within a play (which tended to stagnate the 1944 film) was a good move.
This is definitely the best Shakespeare film to involve Branagh, standing head and shoulders above this bloated Hamlet, the crass Love's Labour's Lost, the trite Much Ado. In his cast are Derek Jacobi (a memorable Chorus), Emma Thompson (disappointing as the future Queen), Richard Briers (excellent as Bardolph), Ian Holm (reliable as Fluellen), and (inspired casting) Michael Williams as Williams.
A clever Henry V, then, with costumes for the period, but a relevance to the times. We might not engage in close combat any more, but this Henry gives a sense of the futility of war, not just its glories.
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