Whether you think Branagh's Henry V is pro- or anti-war, there's no question but that he pulls out all the stops when it comes to the St. Crispin's Day speech. The music and the words build nicely from start to finish, the reaction shots of the soldiers (notably Brian Blessed) in careful comprehension of the argument, and the final, swelling, rousing cheer cannot fail to move—or manipulate?—us.
I recently bought Peter Babakitis' Henry V, partly because the following editorial comment at amazon.com caught my eye, my attention, my interest, and my remaining video budget:
"Wow," I thought. "Olivier directed his during WWII, Branagh directed his during the Faulkland Islands affair, and Babakitis is doing his during the Iraq conundrum. This will be interesting and relevant."Shakespeare's tale of England's legendary warrior king, in a new production that reveals the ruthlessness and blind ambition of England's folk hero, with parallels to the legacy of Western colonialism and the current Invasion of Iraq.
Naturally, I should have realized that "parallels to the legacy of Western colonialism" et alia need not be explicit in a production of Henry V—now that those thing have happened, they can be found implicitly in the text itself and in any production you'd care to name. I thought Babakitis might have some explicit commentary on the current world political situation, but he doesn't. Shakespeare has something to say about it—Babakitis does not.
In addition to lacking biting political commentary on the current state of affairs, it's a bad, bad film.
Brief Review: It's not quite up to current YouTube standards.
The Branagh St. Crispin's speech inspires us—even against our will.
The Babakitis . . . well, take a look below. Particularly dreadful are the reaction shots. One soldier (pictured above—you'll see him again below) seems to have fallen asleep during this rousing speech. In other instances, the soundtrack roar of the crowd (itself rather mild) overwhelms the speeches. Finally, any good director will tell you that a successful crowd scene can be filmed with a limited number of extras if you just pack them tightly together and film in extreme close up. Five people can look like a hundred! This director tries that . . . but five people end up looking like . . . um . . . five people. Five disinterested, disheartened, downtrodden people at that.
Links: The official site for the film. Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com (and to support Bardfilm as you do so). Or, really, have your library buy it—you don't want to spend that much money on this film yourself, though you would like somebody else to do so so that you can watch it and make fun of it!