The King’s Screen: Anne Boleyn

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Emil Jannings and Henny Poten in ‘Anna Boleyn’

Ernst Lubitsch took on the story of Henry VIII and his ill-fated second wife in Anna Boleyn (1920), a German super-production with huge, impressive sets, thousands of extras and elaborate costumes.  Hilariously inventive camera framings cast Lubitsch’s royal imagery inside ovals, hexagons and even, at one point, a bishop’s hat. Lubitsch’s view of court life displays a lively energy, especially in the first half, and Emil Jannings makes for an appropriately greedy Henry VIII, even if this Henry becomes indistinguishable from Jannings’s usual masochistic roles toward the end of the film.

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