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Henry V

Wednesday, December 8, 2021, 7:30 p.m., Dryden Theatre

(Laurence Olivier, UK 1944, 137 min., 35mm)

Fascinating not just in its approach to Shakespeare’s original verse but also for its unique portrayal of the diversity of the English monarch, Laurence Olivier’s Henry V has the director-actor more athletic and heroic than ever. The film, released during the Second World War, was calibrated for propagandist purposes, reinforcing the importance of Britain as a cultural melting pot—a discourse already dominating Shakespeare’s text and amplified by Olivier. Beginning and ending as if it were a performance at the Globe Theatre, Henry V salutes Shakespeare’s London in a classic theatrical style juxtaposed with a dynamic treatment of visual composition and movement as Henry reaches Northern France. William Walton’s score, as eloquent as Shakespeare’s verse, beautifully fuses with the images, revealing an amalgam of fantasy, battle scenes, and pageantry that have since become synonymous with film versions of Shakespeare’s plays.

 

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