A Comparison of Olivier and Branagh's Adaptations of Henry V

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A Comparison of Olivier and Branagh's Adaptations of Henry V

Media Comparative Essay: (in the medium of film) concerning the 2 well

known film versions of Shakespeare’s Henry V of Olivier (1944) and

Branagh (1989) in the specific scenes of “A Little Touch of Harry in

the Night” and “The Crispin Crispian Speech”

A comparison of these scenes in the two film versions of Henry V

indicated above in a discussion of all the major cinematic issues in

integrating a story like Shakespeare’s and to include some discussion

of the relative success in conveying to a cinema audience the

director’s message.

“…We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today who sheds

his blood with me shall be my brother. Be he ne'er so vile, this day

shall gentle his condition, and gentlemen in England now abed shall

think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhood’s

cheap whilst any speaks, that fought with us upon St. Crispin's day!”

Henry V Act 4, Scene 3

There is no more stirring summons to arms in all of literature than

Henry's speech to his troops on St. Crispin’s Day. Such words have

been acted and recited to their own epic proportions in the numerous

times they have been performed. How could an extract so uniformly

expressed since its Shakespearean origin, be so modified in conveying

a totally antithetical message? What would be the effect in displaying

such a contrasting portrayal to cinematic thousands rather than

theatrical hundreds?

When 2 films of diverse qualities are constructed, both aimed at the

same theme of Shakespeare’s illustration of Henry V, a natural

comparison is made between them. It is under thi...

... middle of paper ...

... war. Higher techniques involved in

conveying a typical style in the films are largely shrouded in the

capabilities of the main actors. If unwrapped we arrive at the

comparison of vocal abilities of the actor/directors. We have found

Olivier does without the music in these self-centralised scenes. He

releases a voice of skill and enigma to his listeners. Music in

Branagh is creative and at many times very appealing. But to what

extent is music appealing when the strained words underneath carry

little value? Olivier, who was 37 in 1944, wrote that Henry V was the

kind of role he couldn't have played when he was younger: "When you

are young, you are too bashful to play a hero; you debunk it." For

Branagh, 29 was old enough. However how much was Branagh’s youth and

vocal inexperience charged for, in the price of success?

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