Monday, February 2, 2009

Darth Vader and Henry V

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

Star Wars. Dir. George Lucas. Perf. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and James Earl Jones.

Allusions in film are tricky. Is one film alluding to another? It is paying it homage? It is plagiarism? Or is it all in the mind of the viewer?

In these two scenes, I think that Branagh is making an allusion to Star Wars:

When I asked my students whether they got a sense of Darth Vader's entrance (without showing the two clips side-by-side), they thought it extremely likely.

But I don't yet know whether the allusion is more purposeful than giving us a powerful entrance—one which, in Henry V's case, is undermined somewhat by his extreme youth and small stature. Shakespeare's Henry has a dark side that Branagh's usually lacks. Is the visual allusion to Darth Vader an attempt to present this aspect subtly? Or is it just kind of neat?

Links: Star Wars at IMDB. Henry V at IMDB.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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