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 Post subject: 41 Henry V
PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2005 8:50 pm 

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Henry V

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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 re-creation of the battle of Agincourt, and Sir Laurence in his prime as director and actor.

Disc Features

- Audio commentary by film historian Bruce Eder
- Theatrical trailer
- Shakespearean Royalty: A chronology of England’s rulers
- Stills galleries: the “Book of Hours” and production photos
- Subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
- Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition

Criterionforum.org user rating averages



Available individually or as part of the Olivier's Shakespeare collector's set


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 13, 2005 11:37 am 
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How does this compare to the CC Richard III (one of the best discs in the collection IMHO)? Is it great cinema? or more of a great document of the times, reflecting WWII agenda? Haven't taken the bite yet and want to know if it's worth the steep price, especially as it is an older CC title.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 13, 2005 12:11 pm 
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Better than Richard III, this film is probably the best film version of Shakespeare ever. Really astounding and innovative.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 13, 2005 4:36 pm 
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And if you've ever wondered where the "swarm of arrows" effect that has been done to death of late (Hero, Lord of the Rings. . .) originated, look no further. The first time I saw this on the big screen I gasped. A large part of that was probably due to the context Olivier provides for the moment.

The film's brilliant gimmick (derived from Shakespeare's Chorus) is that is begins on the stage of the Globe Theatre, but with each successive scene becomes less stagebound and more 'real'. You pass through increasingly elaborate sets, false-perspective backdrops, and eventually end up on a battlefield among hundreds of soldiers. Then the process reverses itself.

By incorporating that trajectory into its structure (and it's a structure that is only possible in the movies), Olivier provides the perfect alibi for the inevitable studio staginess of the in-between scenes, and as such I find this a more satisfying film cinematically than Richard III, which is more like a record of great performances that only intermittently takes flight as cinema.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2005 1:40 pm 

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I agree that it surpasses Olivier's Richard III (and Hamlet). It's a brilliant film and one of the jewels of the collection. I only wish it had a technicolor transfer as gorgious as WB's Adventures of Robin Hood. The commentary from Bruce Eder is very good.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 27, 2005 10:24 am 
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Just got my second copy of this, and it has the same playback problems as the first copy - lots of video freezes/jumps during 61:10 to 64:40.

Possibly a Denon incompatibility: it happens on my R0 (originally R2) Denon DVD-2900 and my R2 Denon ADV-M71, but not on my older R2 Pioneer DV-737 and R0 DVD-ROM.

Oh well, as long as I can watch it somewhere....


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2007 10:07 pm 
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The copy I took out of the library had one skip in the region which you specified, Paul. I wonder why it does that.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2007 1:48 am 
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Similar problems on my DVD. One player, a good one (LG which tends to play even problematic disks pretty flawlessly) freezes up for about a half an hour (occassionally playing normally for a few seconds)

At first I assumed it was the beginning of layer rot (given that the problem starts just after around the half-way mark,) but after reading a few reviews here I suspect it's something else.

Plays fine on my X-Box HD-DVD drive (everything does) but if it's a problem on my LG then I imagine it's also a problem for most other DVD players.

About the DVD itself; this is, without a doubt, the very worst Criterion disk I have ever bought (take that as you will.) I know Criterion has produced far worse DVDs (Kwaidan, the original Yojimbo and Sanjuro, the horribly interlaced Alexander Nevsky) but fortunately I haven't bought those.

Those three-strip technicolor films are tricky things, and while there are elements of the image to admire (some of the colors (constumes especially) truly are vibrant and detailed, but other elements fail miserably (blacks are very muddy looking, there's a lot more print-damage than one expects on a Criterion DVD) some of the flaws are the fault of the (unrestored) film, but just be warned this is by no means 'Criterion quality'
Then, there's the NTSC judder. I've only seen this kind of juddering on my Fitzcarraldo DVD, and there it was darn near unwatchable. Add that to the problems discussed earlier and I would certainly wish this was the very worst of Criterion (sadly, I'm probably wrong)

Also, not Criterion's fault by any stretch, but worth noting; there's currently a proper restauration of this film underway, so it's probably worth waiting for that. (Or getting one of the far cheaper DVDs of Henry V in the meantime).

Fortunately, Richard III was always my favourite Olivier, anyway. :wink:


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2007 9:26 am 
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I have both this -- and most of the other contenders for "Criterion's worst" -- and think that the DVD of "Good Morning" is the easy winner of this dubious distinction. ;~{


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 1:12 pm 

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Well, it's certainly superior to Richard III, and also just pips Olivier's Oscar-winning Hamlet. But i find it indebted to Alexander Nevsky (the similarities may be coincidental but are still striking), e.g the build-up to the horses charging, the score, national propaganda. While admiring the colour and pageantry, interesting mix of theatre and outside space (which phased me somewhat in my early teens and wasn't quite what i was wanting), in some ways, i prefer Branagh's longer, more private and emotional version, which also makes less play on patriotic flourishes, with a balancing focus on the harsher side of warfare, and acknowledges Henry as a Welshman, not merely a victorious figure for England's eternal glorification.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 1:21 pm 
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Kenji wrote:
But i find it indebted to Alexander Nevsky (the similarities may be coincidental but are still striking)

The similarities are most definitely not coincidental. It's been pretty well established that Olivier was borrowing ideas from Eisenstein.

I'm surprised so many of you prefer this to Richard III. I always found Henry V to be the weakest of Olivier's "Shakespeare Trilogy." Of course, that may be because I saw Branaugh's version first, which I prefer. (It's odd how watching a "remake," so to speak, can color your opinion of an earlier version negatively.)


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 7:35 am 
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Curiously, it was only after watching Branagh's version again some time ago that I really began to appreciate Olivier's. There is too much of the 'grand gesture' typical of Branagh for me (witness among other things, the relentlessly playing big orchestra soundtrack), whereas Olivier's is played with much more restraint and detail. The attention to emotion and inner ambivalence in "Hamlet", on the other hand, I find more effective in Branagh's "Hamlet" than in Olivier's, for the same stylistic traits and differences as in their two versions of "Henry V." It's a shame that Branagh's version of "Hamlet" is still not available anywhere on dvd.

Back to topic: Shakespeare, I believe, was not interested in dwelling on the emotional side of Henry as much as Branagh is. Thus Branagh may be stressing aspects of the character that often are little recognized in the play, but somehow I feel that Olivier is closer to the propagandistic spirit of the play (and the play indeed seems to be a blatant piece of propaganda for the Tudor monarchy, despite its being set some 150 years earlier). The Eisenstein comparison is very intriguing and to the point, though Olivier doesn't quite reach the immense pictorial intensity of "Nevsky".

Though I also would say that "Hamlet" is by far the best and most 'concentrated' of the three Olivier films (despite my preference for Branagh here), I found Olivier's "Henry V." always much more convincing than his "Richard III." which I find incredibly dragging in places, though I cannot pin down exactly where this impression comes from. I don't have the Criterion disc of "Henry", for the reasons mentioned in this thread, so is there any alternative that looks significantly better?


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 1:23 pm 
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Tommaso wrote:
There is too much of the 'grand gesture' typical of Branagh for me (witness among other things, the relentlessly playing big orchestra soundtrack), whereas Olivier's is played with much more restraint and detail.

Well, I'll admit that it's hard to beat Walton's score for Henry V; it's got to be one of the best of the decade. The passacaglia for Falstaff's death is incredibly powerful -- whether underscoring the scene as intended or by itself as "absolute" music. Nevertheless, I really find Patrick Doyle's score for the Branagh almost as good in its own way. If you think it's too "relentless," you should definitely check out the way Doyle scores the night sequence just before the Battle of Agincourt; it's both intense and yet restrained. By the same token, however, I'm also a sucker for the sweep of Doyle's cue for the Crispin's Day speech. (The French horns are truly gorgeous there.)

Quote:
I found Olivier's "Henry V." always much more convincing than his "Richard III." which I find incredibly dragging in places, though I cannot pin down exactly where this impression comes from.

Well, Richard III is certainly longer.... It's at least 20-25 minutes longer, so that may have something to do with it. Regardless of however much text there is in a Shakespeare play, they were never meant to last longer than two hours, by law ("two hour's traffic of our play"). Maybe why I like Richard III so much is that I find the performances, by and large, better than in Olivier's other two films. Of course, the cast in each is extraordinary, but there's something special in seeing all of the "big three" (Olivier, Richardson, and Guilgud) in the same film.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 9:43 am 
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tryavna wrote:
Well, I'll admit that it's hard to beat Walton's score for Henry V; it's got to be one of the best of the decade. The passacaglia for Falstaff's death is incredibly powerful -- whether underscoring the scene as intended or by itself as "absolute" music. Nevertheless, I really find Patrick Doyle's score for the Branagh almost as good in its own way..

Probably only a matter of taste. In a hard to define way, Walton's music or Vaughan Williams' score for "49th parallel" sound distinctively 'English', powerful but still 'restrained'. Doyle's music strikes me as going much more 'to the full' in typical Hollywood fashion. It's always too present in a way that for me does not serve the film very well, not just in Branagh's "Henry V", but also in his "Frankenstein" and "Hamlet". Perhaps it's a conscious stylistic device in Branagh, I don't know. I'm only glad that his latest film is "The Magic Flute" with the sublime music by Mozart...

Which reminds me (going off topic here, sorry): I read on imdb that he did a film version of "As you like it" last year, apparently only shown in Italy so far, but coming to the UK at least in September. Do you or anyone else know anything about that film? Sounds highly interesting, as I absolutely loved his "Much ado about nothing". No sign of a dvd anywhere apart from Italy (though "Hamlet" is coming! And best of all, also Reinhardt's "Midsummernights' Dream"!)

tryavna wrote:
Well, Richard III is certainly longer.... It's at least 20-25 minutes longer, so that may have something to do with it. Regardless of however much text there is in a Shakespeare play, they were never meant to last longer than two hours, by law ("two hour's traffic of our play").

Quite right, but then both Olivier's and Branagh's "Hamlet" are much longer and never lose their grip. Perhaps it's just that the play isn't overly dramatic and rather episodic, and Olivier's version is too theatrical, too 'static' to retain interest. Somehow I think that the Eisenstein comparison made with respect to "Henry V" would also apply here, though the reference would be "Ivan the Terrible" rather. Both films depict a man who cannot cope with his position and increasing need for power, but Eisenstein makes his history far more interesting. It's also theatrical, but in a much more varied and of course very operatic way.

tryavna wrote:
Maybe why I like Richard III so much is that I find the performances, by and large, better than in Olivier's other two films.

Agreed, though I can't see any serious flaws in his "Hamlet" in that respect. Jean Simmons as Ophelia is debatable, but lovely.

tryavna wrote:
Of course, the cast in each is extraordinary, but there's something special in seeing all of the "big three" (Olivier, Richardson, and Guilgud) in the same film.

Yep. And don't forget the sublime Pamela Brown, even if she doesn't utter a single word...


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 12:44 pm 
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Tommaso wrote:
Quite right, but then both Olivier's and Branagh's "Hamlet" are much longer and never lose their grip. Perhaps it's just that the play isn't overly dramatic and rather episodic, and Olivier's version is too theatrical, too 'static' to retain interest. Somehow I think that the Eisenstein comparison made with respect to "Henry V" would also apply here, though the reference would be "Ivan the Terrible" rather. Both films depict a man who cannot cope with his position and increasing need for power, but Eisenstein makes his history far more interesting. It's also theatrical, but in a much more varied and of course very operatic way.

Hmmm.... I'd never thought about an Eisenstein connection in regards to Richard, though I find it intriguing -- especially viz. the widely accepted connection between Henry and Nevsky. (Embarrassing disclosure: Despite all this rambling on about how much more I like Richard, it's been a longer time since I've seen Richard than Henry. You're just giving me a good excuse to revisit Richard.) However, I suppose that the static qualities of either Richard or Ivan are a matter of taste. For instance, I much prefer Ivan part II to Ivan part I. I find the first part surprisingly un-compelling.

Also, as much as I like Branagh's Hamlet, I would never say that it "never loses its grip." I find Branagh's dogged fidelity to the entire text a bit much after a while. For every extremely powerful scene (Ophelia's burial, Heston's surprisingly good Hecuba soliloquy, etc.), there are scenes that do nothing for me and seem to be there just because of the "stunt" of filming the entire play (the flashbacks that involve Fortinbras and Old Norway, etc.). Of course, I have to say that I've always found Welles' ruthless approach to Shakespeare far more cinematically successful than either Olivier's or Branagh's.

And by the way, surely Olivier's Hamlet isn't longer than his Richard III, is it? (I always thought that Richard was easily the longest of the three.)

Quote:
Probably only a matter of taste. In a hard to define way, Walton's music or Vaughan Williams' score for "49th parallel" sound distinctively 'English', powerful but still 'restrained'. Doyle's music strikes me as going much more 'to the full' in typical Hollywood fashion. It's always too present in a way that for me does not serve the film very well, not just in Branagh's "Henry V", but also in his "Frankenstein" and "Hamlet". Perhaps it's a conscious stylistic device in Branagh, I don't know.

I think you have a point. I find Doyle's scores for Hamlet and especially Frankenstein a little too bombastic -- though he strikes a nice note of whimsy in his score for Much Ado. Perhaps there was a certain amount of pressure on Doyle from Branagh to be more "Hollywood." Certainly, Doyle's scores for other composers can be far more subtle: Alfonso Cuaron's A Little Princess, Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility, Robert Altman's Gosford Park, and (of all people) even Brian de Palma's Carlito's Way.

I suppose the only other thing I can say in support of Doyle's score for Branagh's Henry V is that I keep finding quotations/paraphrases of one of my all-time favorite choral works: Faure's Requiem. If it's intentional, then it displays good taste on Doyle's part.

BTW, as a Scotsman, Doyle might resent being compared to "English" composers....

Quote:
I read on imdb that he did a film version of "As you like it" last year, apparently only shown in Italy so far, but coming to the UK at least in September. Do you or anyone else know anything about that film?

Sorry, I'm afraid I can't help you there. I heard about it, too, but know nothing else about it. I'd also be interested in hearing more.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 8:46 am 
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tryavna wrote:
Hmmm.... I'd never thought about an Eisenstein connection in regards to Richard, though I find it intriguing -- especially viz. the widely accepted connection between Henry and Nevsky.

Well, when I think of it now, there cannot be a real connection between "Richard" and "Ivan" at least, because Ivan apparently was shown in the West only by the end of the 50s, later than "Richard". Of course the style of "Ivan" is not THAT much different from "Nevsky", so there might be a general influence on Olivier's films.

tryavna wrote:
(Embarrassing disclosure: Despite all this rambling on about how much more I like Richard, it's been a longer time since I've seen Richard than Henry. You're just giving me a good excuse to revisit Richard.)

I, on the other hand, should watch "Henry" again. I only have it on an old VHS tape somewhere, and I almost never watch tapes nowadays....

tryavna wrote:
Of course, I have to say that I've always found Welles' ruthless approach to Shakespeare far more cinematically successful than either Olivier's or Branagh's.

Much seconded. It is just the difference of a filmed play (however well it may be filmed) and a film carrying the spirit and sometimes also the words of the play, but after all being a film first and foremost. Thus, for all their 'ruthlessness' in approach, I cannot think of more compelling Shakespeare adaptations than those by Kurosawa or Greenaway's "Prospero". Branagh,on the other hand, has often been called the legitimate heir of Olivier, or is at least often seen as following the Olivier and partly Reinhardt tradition.

tryavna wrote:
And by the way, surely Olivier's Hamlet isn't longer than his Richard III, is it? (I always thought that Richard was easily the longest of the three.)

Henry: 135 min., Hamlet: 155 min., Richard: 165 min. (approximately). Thus Richard IS the longest, but not with such a great difference in running time one might assume from just watching it. Much shorter than Branagh's "Hamlet", of course, but for me the extreme length works very well there, despite some of the unnecessary scenes you mention. I think Branagh even cut out a scene with the old Gielgud in a very small role.

tryavna wrote:
BTW, as a Scotsman, Doyle might resent being compared to "English" composers....

Well, I didn't think of this... But does he really feel better being compared to the Americans?:wink:

As to Branagh's "As you like it": I will be in Italy next month, and will try to get the dvd there. I'll report back then.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 8:14 pm 

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tryavna wrote:
Regardless of however much text there is in a Shakespeare play, they were never meant to last longer than two hours, by law ("two hour's traffic of our play")

I'm curious about this statement, because I don't recall having heard this before. (Although with my memory, I probably saw irrefutable proof of this last week and then immediately forgot it.) Can you provide a source for this?


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 9:01 pm 
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Ishmael wrote:
tryavna wrote:
Regardless of however much text there is in a Shakespeare play, they were never meant to last longer than two hours, by law ("two hour's traffic of our play")

I'm curious about this statement, because I don't recall having heard this before. (Although with my memory, I probably saw irrefutable proof of this last week and then immediately forgot it.) Can you provide a source for this?

If you have a copy of the Riverside Shakespeare handy, I'm sure it'll be mentioned in the introduction. I believe that it was Alfred Hart who first conclusively proved that Elizabethan plays ran about two hours. So if you have access to JSTOR via a university library, you should be able to access PDF files of his two key essays on the subject, both of which were published in volume 8 (1932) of Review of English Studies: "The Length of Elizabethan and Jacobean Plays" and "The Time Allotted for Representation of Elizabethan and Jacobean Plays."

If you don't have easy access to any of those sources, you can also read this article from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, reprinted on Bartleby.com. Unfortunately, that book was published before Hart did his research, so they rely primarily on Shakespeare's own playful self-referentiality:

[quote]The references in the prologue to Romeo and Juliet to “the two hours traffic of our stage,â€


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 9:23 pm 

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Thanks, Tryavna, that's fascinating--this actually seems like crucial information for understanding the structure of Shakespeare's plays, yet I don't recall ever having run across it. Excellent!


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 10:08 pm 
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And with a play that's as long on paper as Hamlet, this raises all sorts of questions about the status and source of the text that has come down to us.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 10:52 pm 
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Theatre culture has changed: I regularly see plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and only the modern plays (roughly 90 pages) ever clock in at two hours. Everything else, from Chekhov to Ibsen and Wilson to Wilde, runs over two hours. Shakespeare settles routinely at three, although I've been to a performance of The Winter's Tale that was slightly over three hours.

This also goes for almost every high school, college, and amateur production of any modern, Shakespeare, or musical play that I've seen. Theatre today lasts two and a half hours, and sometimes three...at least in Oregon.

I think part of this is deference to the text (as was the case for Branagh's Hamlet), and the other part is economy: plays are expensive compared to movies, and over two hours feels meaty and deserving of the money.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 10:22 am 
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On the subject of Hamlet's text's authenticity, I seem to recall as a kid noticing that different historical sources (folio or quartto or something) present one of the most famous lines differently ("There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your/our philosophy)
So there's really not much in the way of definite, unaltered texts.

About Sir John Gielgud in Hamlet, he does have an incredibly small, non-speaking role in the 4 hour cut; that's Gielgud and Judi Dench as Priam and Hecuba in the flash-back during Heston's speech(!)

Always thought that was exceedingly odd casting. Even amongst the film's largely esteemed cast (Derek Jacobi, etc.) Gielgud is probably the biggest name (in Shakespeare) and he gets literally less than a 30 seconds of screentime and no lines.
There's probably some kind of reason for it (Branagh trying to impart extra significance to the subject matter? Giving it it's own reality with actors who could easily carry a whole film about Troy?)


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 10:47 am 
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Darth Lavender wrote:
There's probably some kind of reason for it (Branagh trying to impart extra significance to the subject matter? Giving it it's own reality with actors who could easily carry a whole film about Troy?)

Perhaps it's more simple. Gielgud was a very, very old man at the time, and probably his contribution was simply a gesture of reference to him on Branagh's part (or on Gielgud's, vice versa). I'm not sure if Gielgud would have wanted a big role at age 92.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 11:49 am 
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Darth Lavender wrote:
On the subject of Hamlet's text's authenticity, I seem to recall as a kid noticing that different historical sources (folio or quartto or something) present one of the most famous lines differently ("There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your/our philosophy)
So there's really not much in the way of definite, unaltered texts.


This is true. In fact, most of the earliest quartos are significantly shorter than and different from the versions contained in the First Folio. Although some of these quartos are often referred to as "bad quartos," because they were not authorized and display evidence of corruption, it's been hypothesized that they result from either (1) short-hand transcription of actual performances or (2) dictation taken from some of the principal actors who were trying to remember the plays aloud. Either way, and despite their corruptions, they do tend to reinforce the notion that Shakespeare's plays were drastically abridged for live performance.

Also, it's worth keeping in mind that, next to Ben Jonson, Shakespeare wrote the longest plays of the Elizabethan/Jacobean era. Statistically, Shakespeare's and Jonson's plays average several hundred lines longer than nearly all other writers' plays. Thus it's been suggested that, unlike most other dramatists of the period, they wrote with an eye on publication, knowing that their works would be abridged in performance but hoping that they would find a secondary audience in print.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 8:30 pm 

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From the recent Network DVD release of the film, "taken from a brand-new digitally-restored High Definition print."

Image

Image

Image

These screen caps look quite good, but on playback I'm actually seeing a lot of artifacts.


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