Monday, January 26, 2009

Non Nobis: Branagh's Henry V

Henry V. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, and Judi Dench. 1989. DVD. MGM, 2000.

I've written about this scene before, but a comment from Alex Bledsoe made me revisit the scene.

Earlier, I was interested in the women who approach Henry in the middle of the scene; this time, I'm interested in the long, tracking shot that takes us over the exhausted battlefield (the movement from left to right after the battle is a mirror image of the movement from right to left in Olivier's Henry V before the battle) while the Non Nobis swells in the background. Take a look:

Now that you've seen that, think about the purpose(s) behind portraying the scene with that music and those words (Non nobis, Domine—Non nobis, sed nomine tuo de Gloriam:  "Not to us, O Lord, but to your name be glory") over it. Could it be that this Henry V is passing not only the responsibility of the victory to God—"Praised be God, and not our strength, for it" (IV.vii.86)—but also the blame of the battle's many dead—"Take it, God, / For it is none but thine" (IV.viii.112-13)?

Perhaps that case would be easier to make if they were singing Non nobis, sed nomine tuo de culpa, but I'd like everyone to consider the possibility at least.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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