Henry V: The Criterion Collection
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Olivier mustered out of the navy to film this adaptation of Shakespeare's history. Embroiled in World War II, Britons took courage from this tale of a king who surmounts overwhelming odds and emerges victorious. This sumptuous Technicolor® rendering features a thrilling recreation of the battle of Agincourt, and Sir Laurence in his prime as director and actor.
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And lest you're expecting a camera pointed at a stage, don't worry. Olivier, who produced and directed most of his Shakespeare films, has actually used the film medium to enlarge his plays' visual scope, while maintaining the intimacy that is the essence of live theatre. Moreover, Olivier is mindful of how daunting the language of Shakespeare is for modern audiences and has modified much of the original script to be more comprehensible, while preserving the feel of Elizabethan English.
Olivier's "Henry V" was to England what Eisentein's "Ivan the Terrible" was to Russia - a familiar history rendered as a national epic, for morale purposes, while audiences were fighting off the Germans during World War II. There are other parallels. For example, both use static, formalized composition, in Henry V's case, meant to resemble the images in medieval illuminated manuscripts and books of Hours. (In Ivan's case, according to Kael, like Japanese Kabuki.) Thus, a soundstage "exterior" backdrop becomes a tableau that serves to enhance, with its flat perspective and subjective scale, the view we have of that fabulous Age of Chivalry, for which the play's Battle of Agincourt was the closing act.Read more ›
During WWII, Olivier was told to make Henry V into a propaganda film that would boost English spirits during their darkest days. So, there was a little creative editing.
Gone are any lines (in fact a whole scene) that refer to Henry's "English Traitors"...one of which was his first cousin! Gone is the six-month long seige of Hafleur (including Henry's violent but empty threat of doing awful things to old men, women and babies if the town didn't surrender). Gone is any doubt about the struggle and massive odds the English faced at Agincourt. The message is "Rule Britainia" from the start.
I wish Olivier could have made this movie in another time. It would have been one of the greatest movies ever made. However, taking it as it is...it's a great film. But I would take Kenneth Branagh's epic and true version of Henry V first.
Most recent customer reviews
A newly anointed king must prove his mettle, weed out treachery and go to war to gain his just territory. Read morePublished on Oct. 26 2013 by Bernie
I've seen this movie only once, and what thrilled me was the design -- the colors, the costumes, the amazing sets. Read morePublished on May 15 2004 by Clifford Story
From various reference sources, in brief, here's the historical background both to Shakespeare's play and to this film. Read morePublished on Feb. 26 2004 by Robert Morris
My parents bought this DVD for my brother for Christmas, an acting major at the time and a huge fan of Shakespeare. Read morePublished on Jan. 28 2004 by Taryn
This is described often as the first successful screen version of a Shakespeare play. I'd have to disagree, there is a Max Reinhardt version of A Midsummer Night's Dream... Read morePublished on Nov. 4 2003 by R. Albin
This is significantly Olivier's first play, and it was made unfortunately in Pro-War times. An examination of the script shows that Shakepeare was trying to show Henry to be a... Read morePublished on Oct. 16 2003 by Drew
Sir Laurence Olivier's 1945 version of Henry V was not the first attempt to bring Shakespeare to the screen, but it was the first to be successful. Read morePublished on Jan. 28 2003 by P Magnum
I'm sure I'm going to get a lot of flack for this, but am I the only person can't figure out why eveyone loves Laurence Olivier?? Read morePublished on Oct. 28 2002 by Caren
Stung by the lack of commercial success of As You Like It, Olivier undertook to make a popular success of a film version of a Shakespeare play. Read morePublished on Jan. 25 2001 by Scooter
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