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Henry V (Widescreen) (Sous-titres français) [Import]
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Very few films come close to the brilliance Kenneth Branagh achieved with his first foray into screenwriting and direction. Henry V qualifies as a masterpiece, the kind of film that comes along once in a decade. He eschews the theatricality of Laurence Olivier's stirring, fondly remembered 1945 adaptation to establish his own rules. Branagh plays it down and dirty, seeing the bard's play through revisionist eyes, framing it as an antiwar story. Branagh gives us harsh close-ups of muddied, bloody men, and close-ups of himself as Henry, his hardened mouth and willful eyes revealing much about this land war. Not that the director-star doesn't provide lighter moments. His scenes introducing the French Princess Katherine (Emma Thompson) are toothsome. Bubbly, funny, enhanced by lovely lighting and Thompson's pale beauty, these glimpses of a princess trying to learn English quickly from her maid are delightful.
What may be the crowning glory of Branagh's adaptation comes when the dazed, shaky leader wanders through battlefields, not even sure who has won. As King Hal carries a dead boy (Empire of the Sun's Christian Bale) over the hacked-up bodies of both the English and French, you realize it is the first time Branagh has opened up the scenes: a panorama of blood and mud and death. It is as strong a statement against warmongering as could ever be made. --Rochelle O'Gorman
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Although studded with a fine array of subsidiary characters, "Henry V" is essentially a one-man play, and Branagh's performance informs and naturally influences all of the rest. His character has most of the lines, and he delivers them with a refreshing naturalism and candor that re-infuses the humor into the funny bits and cuts a lot of the potential for stilted jingoism out of the patriotic and warlike ones. If the real Henry's delivery of the St. Crispin speech was anything like Branagh's, it's no wonder the English won.
Slogging through the mud and rain of Harfleur and Agincourt with Branagh is a masterful supporting cast, including the incomparable Judi Dench as Mistress Quickly, Brian Blessed as a marvelously solid Exeter, and Ian Holm, wonderful as the irreverent and sarcastic Fluellen. On the French side, Paul Scofield's King is weary and indecisive rather than weak and mad; Michael Maloney's Dauphin is entertainingly arrogant, and Emma Thompson delivers a small but charming performance in playwright-broken English and much better French than Shakespeare likely spoke. Tying it all together is Christopher Ravenscroft, who invests the herald Mountjoy with a sympathy that extends to both sides, and a phenomenal showing by Derek Jacobi as the earnest, mocking and informative Chorus.Read more ›
The movie is brilliant from start to finish. Branagh is magic, a sorcerer conjuring in others the ability to follow "his pied piper". It just does not get any better than this. And Derek Jacobi is Branagh's match.
Sigh, why can they not do all Shakespeare's works on film with the same power?
One of the problems of Shakespeare on the silver screen is that the situations, settings, and acting often ends up somewhat contrived. That rarely happens here, because of this remarkable team.
The principle writing credit of course goes to William Shakespeare, but as is always the case, the play is recast to make the film medium more natural for the story. Kenneth Branagh is the one credited here, and has shown himself several times after this film as a master of adapting Shakespeare faithfully to the screen.
The play itself is one of Shakespeare's history plays -- remember the broad three categories of Shakespeare: history, drama (some say tragedy), and comedy. Like most of the history plays, there is creative license taken with the actual history, as it is invariably adapted to make the present regime look good, credible and more legitimate.Read more ›
And yet it is the story which compels, and with a little concentration, even the youngest novice quickly gets into the 17th century English and the compelling plot it reveals. Shakespeare takes us through the manipulation of King Henry into war with France (one of the later conflicts of what is collectively called The Hundred Years War), ostensibly to assert his rightful claim to the French crown. We see the increasing maturity of the young King (and the effect of that growth on his friends from Henry IV), the rooting out of treason in the camp, the initial invasion ("Once more into the breach...!"), the march across Northern France toward Calais, and then the trapping of the English army by a French force three times its size at Agincourt, where Henry's army slays 10,000 Frenchmen, losing only four knights and 25 regular troops of its own.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I love this portrayal of Shakespeare's play. Branagh did a fantastic job as an actor and as a director. His St. Crispin's Day Speech is amazing. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Judy Richardson
I've been a Shakespeare fan since I first saw "King Lear" as a child. My favourite plays by Shakespeare are "King Henery IV" part one and two culminating in this... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Sharpe Fan
I love Shakespeare and this is a wonderful account of the Battle of Agincourt. Nice to have it on bluray as the last time I saw it it was on a tv screen on VHS. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Warmonger
Great movie but there is a mastering defect that the disk will not play in all blu-ray players. I confirmed this with the manufacturer.Published 15 months ago by MD
This movie is clearly not for everyone. Of the three Kenneth Branagh Shakespeare films, this is the least enjoyable; still it is probably the best Henry V movie available to date. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Demetrios Angelis
There are several film versions of Shakespeare's "Henry V" available and it may be best to view each of them. However if time or money is short then this is the one to watch. Read morePublished on Oct. 25 2013 by Bernie
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