Henry V

A part of this viewing listCriterion Collection Spine #41: Laurence Olivier’s Henry V.

There’s an awful lot of British “Adieuing” in this play about the Battle of Agincourt. Had to get that out of my system. This is film that is best talked about in terms of its historical context, which Bruce Eder’s Criterion essay does and which you should read. I want to write about a few things that struck me most in this adaptation.

First off, the self-effacing introduction, which begs the viewers indulgence for the inevitable lacks of the stage-performance, rings doubly true and propagandic for the rationed and war torn Britain in which it was filmed and released. The film is the natural choice for rousing the martial spirit of Britain in a time in which it was sorely needed, and though the French are the enemy in the play, the audience could easily be expected to transfer that animosity toward the Germans. The fit of Henry V into the role of propaganda is almost unnatural in its ease.

Secondly, the production itself slowly draws itself away from stage play and into the thick of things, culminating in the exciting Battle of Agincourt itself. Then, just as gently, we’re drawn back into the stage play at the end of things. I thought this was a remarkably honest way of dealing with the issues that can plague an adaptation of a play into a film.

Finally, I wasn’t a fan of all the lovey-dovey with the French scenes. I recognize their importance as propaganda & the context within the play itself, but in terms of all that was excised from the play in order to make it fit into a film canister I think they could have made better choices. The politicking felt tacked on.