Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Director to Adapt Each of Shakespeare's Plays #9 -- HENRY V directed by Peter Weir

The Plot:

In the wake of civil war, England, under their youthful new king, is restless. But young Harry (now King Henry V) knows just the way to rally the citizens under one flag – start a war with the French. The English are hopelessly outnumbered, but Henry’s got charisma galore. He gets his troops revved up by giving the battlefield speech that, to this day, still puts all imitators to shame. England wins the day and Henry gets to marry the King of France’s daughter, Emma Thomp – err . . . Catherine.

Why Weir?

Let’s get this out of the way first. There is no way in hell that Henry V should be made again for at least another 30 years or so. Branagh’s version is that good. Whereas I felt that Branagh’s Hamlet left the door open for others to take a whack, with Henry V, he absolutely nailed it. Consequently, this decision was probably the most difficult one I had to make. And even now, I could probably be swayed to somebody else. I also considered Peter Jackson, whose ability to stage battle scenes that get the blood boiling made him seem like a worthy candidate. But, I just don’t know that Jackson would properly tend to the historical aspects of Shakespeare’s play. He still seems to me better suited for the world of fantasy. Weir, on the other hand, has the historical chops to pull it off, I think. I was not a huge fan of Master and Commander, but I did feel that the battle sequences were very well done and the historical details were given proper attention. I ruled out many other action directors because they simply do not have the sensitivity to handle the more quiet, thoughtful sections. Weir can handle it. My favorite film of his remains the vastly underappreciated Fearless in which an average man survives a plane crash and suddenly feels invincible. In his own way, Henry is able to summon up similar courage. Weir has the disadvantage of not being a dashing, young English acting prodigy like Branagh and Olivier were when they made their films. But the mixture of exciting and sophisticated films on his resume lead me to conclude that he just might pull it off.

Weir films I have seen:

1. Fearless ****
2. Picnic at Hanging Rock ***1/2
3. Witness ***1/2
4. Dead Poets Society ***
5. The Truman Show ***
6. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World **


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