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Media Comparative Essay: Concerning the 2 well known film versions of Shakespeare's Henry V of Olivier (1944) and Branagh (1989)

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English/ English Literature Joint Coursework Folder 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 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 this comparison we can contrast the various aspects, which the 2 film versions apply to (with respect to their individual histories, styles and purposes.) Olivier's version (1944) released in wartime delivered a message that seemed appropriate behind the propaganda cause of WW2. ...read more.


It attains the symbolic meaning of how their lives and cares seem to be firmly held in the security of the king. With no dubbing effect, Branagh is successfully free to deliver all the emotions and expressions the self-reflection may require. In turn he may generate more audience interest in the scene than Olivier's mainly inert one. A surprising patriotic element appears at Henry's pause in front of a Royal emblem. A subtlety brought about to remember the effect of warring as a nation not just an army. The last but not least important effect for Branagh in this scene is the dubbing of music gradually into his speech. Branagh incorporates the stirring Marshall music track (a sign of preparation for the cause of war) employed later in the battle scenes. Switching onto the consecutive scene we encounter the subtle changes and effects between night and day and more specifically the handling of light between them. Each film's transition holds their own contrasting effects generating their own individual success. Olivier's change from night into day is very distinctive and effective in its own self-contrast. A very clear and static night scenery lit by the intentional flickering of the fire with its interesting facial reflection is sharply contrasted after a scene fade out to a rebirth of the "awakening" light of day. In itself it has much symbolism relating this to be patriotically read as: "The Emerging of an English Army who arise through the darkness of fear, attachment and tire to overcome the arrogance of the French and become the victors of the day!" This interpretation in wartime converts as a realistically vague but morally supportive account for the real English troops. Branagh's version creates an almost opposing image to Olivier. A vastly mysterious and hushed night, flooded with mist and fog supplemented with the strange beams of bright moonlight in a surreal atmosphere. ...read more.


This crudely suggests Branagh to merely construct an emulation for his own suiting; as the film society aptly describes Branagh trying to "make a name for himself". It is plainly obvious, on closer inspection of the films, more issues and cinematic techniques appear - each for its own individual purpose. In several times of mention, the 2 films created have been constructed over the edifice of their original styles and purposes. Olivier wanted to depict war as an inspirational event to augment the morale of each soldier. The root of this idea bloomed very much in Olivier's portrayal of Henry as an "epic leader" who spurs his men to go once "more onto the breach". Branagh's significant purpose in the assembly of this film and an important factor in his variations from Olivier is Brannagh's belief of Olivier's unsuitable presentation as Henry. Branagh wanted to deliver a Henry of intimacy and fellowship in his deeper, long standing version of war. He wanted to show the image of a "king as but a man" amongst his "happy few". 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? 1 Anand Pandit ...read more.

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