Made at the height of the German blitz, this dazzling British adaptation of Shakespeare's classic tale of victory in the face of overwhelming odds brought new hope and resolve to embattled Britons who saw it in 1944. Filippo del Giudice, an Italian lawyer who had fled Mussolini's rule,
persuaded Laurence Olivier to undertake the project, and when William Wyler, Carol Reed, and Terence Young were unable to helm the film, Olivier not only took on the title role but the director's mantle, performing both roles magnificently.
Innovatively structured, the film begins with a 17th-century staging of Shakespeare's play at the Globe Theatre; then, gradually, the proscenium disappears as the film moves toward a more realistic presentation of the story, with stylized sets giving way to the real-life scenery of the impressive
re-creation of the Battle of Agincourt. Finally, Olivier brings the film full circle, back to the stage of the Globe.
Set in 1415, HENRY V chronicles the invasion of France undertaken by the 28-year-old English king in an attempt to consolidate his power at home. After a number of costly victories drastically deplete Henry's army, it is besieged by French forces that outnumber it nearly five to one. Under the
king's courageous leadership, however, the English triumph at Agincourt.
Olivier, who was mustered out of the navy to make the film, collaborated with movie critic Alan Dent on the adaptation, and editor Reginald Beck helped with direction chores when Olivier the star was in front of the cameras. Though given a large budget considering the wartime circumstances, the
production was continually forced to cut corners, and its wonderfully realized costumes and sets are testaments to the ingenuity of the film's designers.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Made at the height of the German blitz, this dazzling British adaptation of Shakespeare's classic tale of victory in the face of overwhelming odds brought new hope and resolve to embattled Britons who saw it in 1944. Filippo del Giudice, an Italian lawyer… (more)