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Henry V
IMDB Rating: 7.3/10 from NOT RATED votes
Release: 17 Jun 1946 /

Henry V

Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Director: Laurence Olivier,
Stars: , ,
Synopsis: In the midst of the Hundred Years' War in 1415, the young King Henry V of England embarks on the conquest of France.

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Critic Reviews


This is a brilliantly conceived movie-within-a-play-within-a-movie that showcases the genius of Laurence Olivier. Today's audiences are exposed mainly to Olivier the movie actor. But if you want to see a purer form of acting, see Olivier the stage actor. This is possible by watching his Shakespeare plays on film. And these films are by Olivier the "auteur," long before the term was coined. Olivier's is the legacy to which Branaugh and others, who essay Shakespeare on film, must live up to.

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. Also, 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 Pauline Kael, like Japanese Kabuki.) Thus, a sound stage "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.

I've always scoffed at the extravagant accolades which show business gives its own. But after seeing this film, or his equally brilliant "Hamlet," I can understand why Laurence Olivier was so good, that a knighthood wasn't enough, and so he was raised to the peerage.

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