30 July 2009

For Matthew.

I do love the classics, but in this case I prefer Branagh's Henry:


Zana said...

I'm with you on this one!

Dr. Mabuse said...

It's interesting to see how tastes change when it comes to drama. When I was a girl, Olivier was the ne plus ultra of acting, and especially of Shakespearean acting. I don't know just when the change came, but now I too find Branagh's naturalistic style more attractive. Olivier almost embarrasses me - he's got the clarity of enunciation on his side, but he seems to be standing for a portrait at every moment. Look at the background players - they might as well be a painted backdrop. They have no part in the scene, except as the target of Henry's speech. Now watch Branagh's version - closeups on the faces of the men, smiling as they hear their own names spoken, building excitement as the pep talk works, and they rev up to the battle ahead.

I think this revolution in taste occurs quite regularly in theatre. When I read about great actors of the past, like Garrick or Kean, I wonder how distasteful we'd find their performances if we could miraculously find them captured on film. I'm sure the people of that day thought it as fresh and moving as we today find Branagh's Henry V, but I suspect that taste has been through so many revolutions since then, we'd think it dreadful. (Though who knows? Maybe the wheel has turned completely, and we are back at the style of the 18th century again!)