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November 1994, Week 5


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 30 Nov 1994 12:08:37 -0600
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Shawn Levy writes:
comes to expect such awkward inclusions from Branagh, who made a "Henry
V" that had as its emotional core a battle scene that Shakespeare
couldn't have scripted and that not only included material from the "Henry
IV" plays and actually rewrote some of it -- Falstaff is nowhere to be found
in Shakespeare's "Henry V", but he is seen in flashback in Branagh's,
and, worse, reciting a line to Prince Hal ("We have heard the chimes at
midnight") that he spoke in a completely different attitude and context to
Shallow in "Henry IV, II".  And Branagh is supposed to be
reinvigorating our cultural respect for Shakespeare?)"
Actually, there is a time-honored (or dishonored, depending on your POV)
tradition of altering Shakespeare in many ways.  HENRY V was altered in
some similar ways by Olivier, who did his own highly stylized staging of
Agincourt in ways Shakespeare could not have dreamed of as well as a
Falstaff flashback to HENRY IV.  And then there's Orson Welles's CHIMES
AT MIDNIGHT, which cuts and pastes several plays to refocus the drama as
Falstaff's tragedy.  I saw Branagh as paying respect to those versions, as
well as using the interpolations to humanize King Henry, who--as critics from
Mark van Doren on have complained--is a bit of a stick.  Branagh, I think,
directs HENRY V as the education of a king, taking a man who came to the
throne with a great deal of youthful guile and impetuousness and learning
lessons of maturity and leadership, with a number of mistakes along the way.
My own feeling is that Shakespeare is just a museum piece if presented in
a purely formal way.  That can have its value for classroom purposes, but
any director--stage or screen--is going to "reinterpret" the Bard in ways
that will not suit a "pure" reading of the works (and a good thing too, or
we'd all be Elizabethans!).
This says nothing about FRANKENSTEIN, which I have yet to see.  If Branagh is
not God, neither is a hack.  PETER'S FRIENDS was light but pleasant; DEAD
AGAIN an interesting twist on certain film conventions.  Neither what I
consider to be *great* films.  If FRANKENSTEIN is a flop, I suspect it's for
a variety of reasons, but I'll see and judge for myself once quarter grades
are in!
--Don Larsson, Mankato State U., MN