Branagh vs. Olivier

from The Atlantic Online:

I thought his (Branagh's) Henry V better than Olivier's

Well, I did mention that Branagh had the advantage of being able to use the more ambivalent portions of Henry V while Olivier stuck to the patriotism. Also, Branagh is less obviously a hero than Olivier, and he knows this, and he uses this to his advantage; when he does something noble or kingly, it comes off as a real surprise.

That said, there are two things I prefer in Olivier's: the battle sequence is superbly done in the sense of clarity and structure and editing, from the opening charge by the French and the answering hail of arrows by the English (historically the French were beaten because they depended on mounted armor, which the English archers punctured with their longbows), all the way down to the one-on-one duel in the end (exciting bit of dueling, what). Branagh's is a pale if fair imitation of Welles' Battle of Shrewsbury sequence in Chimes of Midnight.

Second is his camera style with regards to the soliloquies. The tendency is to home in just when the speaker is building up to a rhetorical frenzy, and the effect is to push the camera up when you want it to back off (in the climax of the St. Crispin speech Branagh resorts to a medium shot, which does nothing either way). Olivier ends his soliloquies witht the camera rising away from the ground and the speaker, giving you a kind of lift and giving the speaker the kind of room he needs to shout to the rafters, so to speak.

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