Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Director to Adapt Each of Shakespeare's Plays #10 -- HENRY VI directed by Shekhar Kapur

The Plot:

The great king Henry V is now dead the new guy on the throne just isn’t up to snuff. He’s got prophecy saying that he’s destined to lose all the territories his father won. He can’t even keep his own country on the same page, as differing factions bicker and wear different colored roses. When he gets a chance to wed a woman that will help ease tensions abroad, he decides to marry poor, insignificant Margaret instead. If all that weren’t bad enough, his troops are getting outmaneuvered by a teenage girl (a.k.a. Joan of Arc). The one thing everybody seems to agree on in that Henry VI isn’t fit to be king. Amidst the chaotic power plays, an ambitious man with a hump back and a pronounced limp positions himself to make a stab at the throne. Hmm . . . what ever happened to him?

Why Kapur?

As time goes by, it seems to me that the 1998 film that got robbed at the Oscars was not Saving Private Ryan or even The Thin Red Line, but rather Kapur’s Elizabeth. Kapur gracefully pieced together a drama detailing the intrigue and various plots surrounding Queen Elizabeth ascension to the throne. That film was the best kind of historical film – thoughtful, but never dull; gorgeous, but never shallow; gripping, but never intellectually lazy. At the end, as Elizabeth participated in the ceremony that would make her queen, I remember wishing that Kapur’s film could go on further into her life and show us more of her reign. Henry VI requires the same sort of gifts. There’s countless twists and turns as various factions struggle for the throne. It’s an ambitious play (or series of plays) and it needs a director that can keep things straight and keep things moving. Plus, Kapur has experience with burning people at the stake. I did not see Kapur’s The Four Feathers, so I’m not sure why it was not received very well, but based on Elizabeth, I will take my chances.

Kapur films I have seen:

1. Elizabeth ****


Anonymous monolith94 said...

And how, I prithee, would you deal with Shakespeare's scandalous treatment of "Joan Pucelle"?

1:48 PM  
Blogger Joel said...

A very good question. We are indeed much more inclined to sympathize with her than Shakespeare's audience was. Let me think on this and then get you an answer.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Joel said...

Well, clearly Shakespeare was playing to his audience at the time, which surely would have enjoyed seeing Joan depicted as a liar, a slut and a summoner of demons. Dreyer could be accused of manipulating in the other direction, lovingly depicting a divinely inspired Joan that would have resonated for audience members who had been alive to see her beatified. A modern-day director can do virtually anything to paint Joan one way or another. It's common practive to cut scenes outright in order to provide a shape that suits your vision. Beyond that, I would explore the drastic polarities inherent within Joan -- witch and angel, martyr and villian -- all the while attempting to underline the subjectivity of her depiction. It might be possible to suggest through filmic devices that she was a kind of chameleon, becoming what others think her to be. If you have an ax to grind one way or another, you can do enough manipulation to make that point. Personally, I would try to leave her definition provocative, yet elusive.

9:38 AM  

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