Shakespeare in Film – Part 9 – Henry V – Branagh’s 1989 Version

Sunday, I wrote the review of Olivier’s Henry V.  I watched Branagh’s version that night.  I watched a while ago but I wanted to have it fresh in my mind especially because I would be contrasting it to Olivier’s film.

When Branagh’s movie came out in 1989 it made him a star.  He was a young dynamic character and the world wanted to believe in heroes again.  He was married at the time to Emma Thompson and she played Katherine to his Henry.  They were seen as an exciting couple in Hollywood circles and there was great interest in their films together.  Putting all that aside, people were ready to take a fresh look at Shakespeare.  Branagh adapted the play for the screen and directed himself in the lead.  Branagh was young enough and active enough to make King Harry believable.  The movie was a critical success.

Interestingly, Branagh’s Henry V left in some of the smaller incidents that Olivier omitted.  The three conspirators who planned to assassinate Henry on behalf of the French are duly exposed and condemned.  The hanging of Bardolph, one of Prince Harry’s former companions is a stark reminder that King Henry is a changed man.

But the major thrust of the film of course runs in the same vein as Olivier’s.  And yet there are clear differences in tone and emphasis.  Despite the theme of war Olivier’s play is the more light hearted and optimistic of the two by far.  A good point of comparison is the St Crispin’s Day speech.  When Olivier gives the speech, he exudes confidence and a controlled enthusiasm.  But when Branagh speaks he impresses on the audience the sense of passion and energy he feels.  It’s a rush of adrenaline that he captures in words.

And the action of the play mirrors this same difference.  Olivier’s cinema is typical of what the 1940s would do to portray the late middle ages.  It reminds you of how Hollywood would give us Robin Hood or Ivanhoe.  It was a sunlit world of grassy fields and picturesque castles with banners flapping in the breeze high above the fields.  Branagh gives us explosions, fire, battles in the dead of night and lots and lots of mud.  Mud on the ground, mud on the soldiers and mud on the King.  And he keeps some of the lines on the war that Olivier left out.  When the English besiege the city of Harfleur, Henry harangues the town elders with the horrors that resisting the besiegers would entail if they failed to surrender in advance.  He mentions rape, plunder and the vicious destruction of human life from the youngest infant to the oldest inhabitants.  So, we can see that Branagh has made the more accurate version of the play.  He’s left all the warts in plain sight.

Now in addition to the grittier nature of Branagh’s production it should be said that his handling of the romance between Henry and Katherine is also more naturalistic.  Branagh has an earthier, more openly comical approach to Henry attempting to woo Katherine in terribly halting French.  Olivier’s approach is calmer and more restrained.  So, all in all let’s call Olivier’s a more formal and austere approach to the story and Branagh’s a more naturalistic and emotional version.

How do they compare?  In my opinion they are both excellent films.  And they have different strengths.  I watch the Olivier version when I want to enjoy Olivier’s language.  He is the gold standard, in my book, for what Shakespeare’s dialog should sound like.  No one else makes the text sound real the way he does.

But if I want to see the story of the war, I will watch Branagh’s version.  Branagh and his excellent cast bring the war to life.  By the end of the battle of Agincourt you can feel the exhaustion that the English feel as they struggle to bury their dead.  Even the miraculous victory they’ve won is almost beyond their strength to grasp.  Branagh has done a very fine job of making a Henry V that is faithful to the text and conveys the reality of a King going to war in the Hundred Years War.

My Take on Yarvin’s Essay “The Deep State vs The Deep Right”

Last night I clicked on the American Mind website and saw that Curtis Yarvin (aka Mencius Moldbug) had a new post up.  The title was “The Deep State vs The Deep Right.”  I find Yarvin’s ideas interesting but at the same time in some ways obscure.  In this new essay he states that the only way to overthrow a regime you live under is to undermine its authority with a more attractive idea.  He puts this in terms of aesthetics.  His case in point is the Czar.  According to Yarvin the Russians overthrew their government by first convincing everyone including the Czar that they needed to adopt the British outlook on life.  And since socialism was the religion of the British elites at that time what better way to emulate them than by taking their ideal and turning it up to eleven via Marx’s writings.  Yarvin’s point is that art (in this case the 19th century Russian novelists) had prepared the Russians for the replacement of the monarchy long before the Bolsheviks came on the scene.

Yarvin’s idea is that what is needed to overthrow the current neo-liberal order is an aesthetic to replace the aesthetic our current elites espouse. This is the confusing part.  When he talks of aesthetics and art he’s talking about books and music and movies.  You are probably asking yourself how does this get Nancy Pelosi off of the Speaker’s podium?  And that’s a fair question.  As much as I’d love to write the ultimate science fiction novel that shifts the balance of power from the Left to us, I don’t see how that happens.  Yarvin points to Bronze Age Mindset as a sort of first attempt at moving the aesthetic in our direction.  And maybe it is.  Apparently, it was very popular with younger men and showed there is a market for dissident ideas out in the real world.

Okay, so why should I care about any of this?   Well, because I kinda know what he’s saying.  The people who want to tell us what to do, say and think aren’t going to believe us when we say their ideas are wrong.  They think that what we believe and who we are is stupid.  They are convinced that what they believe and who they are is smart.  We are going to have to make our case in the court of public opinion.  We are going to have to show them that our ideas are better and stronger than theirs.

From the point of reason, it shouldn’t be too hard to convince people that things like screwing up the hormones of an eight-year-old boy and then castrating him is not sane.  But remember, we don’t have the microphone so we don’t get to tell the story on tv.  We’ll have to work on back channels like blogs and self-published books and podcasts.

But of course, that isn’t enough.  What I’m hearing from Yarvin is we’ll need to convince and recruit the intelligentsia in order to get the microphone we want and need.  That’s a pretty tall order but I think Yarvin’s got something there.  We have to get people who speak their language, academics and artists to make the case that our world view is sane and theirs is crazy.  Specifically, we’ll need some medical doctors and psychiatrists and ethicists to expose the nightmare logic at work.  We’ll need documentary and dramatic filmmakers to sway public opinion.  But first we’ll need judges and lawyers and cops and even politicians to have the courage to confront these lunatics who defend these practices and hold them accountable.

So, there’s the pipe dream we need to dream.  We have to turn the world upside down, or right side up if you look at it from our point of view.  And the first step is to identify the weakest points of the current system and attack them.  And to attack them we have to show the world what we would put in its place.  I would say that the beginning of such an enterprise requires a lawfare approach.  We’ll need a Circuit Court with jurisdiction over a blue state that has adopted the most flagrantly perverse law and have a lawyer challenge that behavior at the Circuit Court level and have it struck down.  That would trigger a storm that would catch the attention of national press and allow public opinion to hear our side of the story from the judges and the plaintiffs.  After the dust settles it will make a good book, an interesting documentary and maybe even a decent movie although we probably wouldn’t be able to get any A-listers involved.  But it’ll be a good start.

This idea highlights why it is such an important thing to have President Trump appointing judges to the Circuit and supreme Court in the numbers he is doing.  He is close to flipping the Ninth Circuit and that court rules over California and the rest of the Left Coast.  That is a place where a lot of wonderful damage can be done.  I think I see what Yarvin is talking about.

 

Now what do you think?  If you agree or sort of agree or even strenuously disagree, I’d like to hear from you.  This site is to allow me to have my say but also to here what everybody else thinks.  Leave a comment in the section below and get to have your two cents.

07APR2020 – Quote of the Day

“We begin well, sir,” the fat man purred … “I distrust a man that says when. If he’s got to be careful not to drink too much it’s because he’s not to be trusted when he does. … Well, sir, here’s to plain speaking and clear understanding. … You’re a close-mouthed man?”

Spade shook his head. “I like to talk.”

“Better and better!” the fat man exclaimed. “I distrust a close-mouthed man. He generally picks the wrong time to talk and says the wrong things. Talking’s something you can’t do judiciously unless you keep in practice.”  …

Now, sir, we’ll talk if you like. I’ll tell you right out – I’m a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk.

Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon)

 

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Mencius Moldbug Has a New Essay on American Mind

Here Mencius is continuing on his theme that the only way to overthrow the current order is to change the aesthetic we live by.  And the only way to change the aesthetic is to live the one you believe in and prove that it is stronger.  Always thought provoking.  See what you think.

The Deep State vs. The Deep Right

Perhaps the Scope of the COVID-19 Crisis Won’t Be as Bad as Predicted

The “Murray” model is the one being used by the White House task force.  But it seems to be overestimating the numbers.

“The discrepancies are also stark when looked at on a state-by-state basis. The model estimated that 65,434 patients would need hospital beds in New York State on Friday. In reality, there were 15,905 hospitalizations in that state by Sunday morning, according to the COVID Tracking Project.”

“The forecast predicted, for example, that the United States would need around 164,750 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients on Saturday. Yet the COVID Tracking Project, a team of journalists and data analysts who collect and tabulate coronavirus data from state tallies around the country, reported only around 22,158 currently hospitalized coronavirus patients nationwide on Saturday.”

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