The King’s Screen: Henry V

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‘Henry V’

During the middle of World War II, Laurence Olivier directed a film version of Shakespeare’s Henry V, a rousing, colorful production that was meant as a boost to wartime morale and a sop to British patriotism. When Kenneth Branagh filmed the play in 1989, he stressed the mud and dirt of war, so that the play’s pro-military angle became much more ambiguous. Both versions hold up well, but Olivier’s Henry V is a brighter and more commanding figure than Branagh’s tight-lipped, angry King.

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