By analyzing and studying the main themes (war, leadership, relationships between human being) developed in both the films (and the interpretation made by the two directors), we will see that, although adapted from the same play, the potrayal of Henry is quite different. In both versions of the play (as in the plays itself!), Henry V, after the intervention of the chorus, begins on conflicts (conflict between the church and the king, conflict between England and France), conflicts that will lead to a war, but this path towards war is different in Olivier's and Branagh's version.
[...] It doesn't mean that Olivier's Henry V is a bad movie, it just means that, compared to Branagh's one, it cannot survive outside this peculiar context of propaganda. Branagh's version is obviously more universal. But, I also think the two films cannot really be compared. Olivier, in 1944, couldn't do anything else than a patriotic movie, and therefore, I think he chose to make a film on theatre and on Shakespeare. I had seen Branagh's version before, and, when seeing the first part of Olivier's Henry I was first astonished and disappointed by his beginning in the Globe Theatre. [...]
[...] The arrival of the king is treated in a very clever way, which is both full of suspense and ambiguous: we just see a figure, lighted from behind (which underlines a man of strength and power) and we can only observe the lords' reactions. We discover the face of the king when he sits down and its youth (he has no beard for example) brings on a contrast with what was suggested before. Besides, from the first scene, we have the image of a challenged king. [...]
[...] Branagh insists on the difference between Harry, the man, and Henry, the king. For instance with Falstaff (he laughs and then says know thee not old or Bardolph shall be hung”). He is in a perpetual development: the Henry of the tennis balls has nothing to do with the witty Henry of the final scene with Katharine. He has changed. Men at war When Olivier shows men at war (such as Pistols, Nym, Bardolph, Len, MacMorris), it is a way to introduces comical scenes in the film. [...]
[...] On the contrary, Branagh gives them a real part to play: the part of Henry's past (for Pistols, Bardolph ) and the part of Henry's present, the part of politics and war (for MacMorris, Jamy But with the scene of the treachery in Southampton (which is particularly strong, when Henry speaks with Scroop and is nearly crying, holding the traitor in his arms as in a love scene), he underlines that the English side is not completely loyal, that it is not perfect and that it does not guarantee a certain morality. [...]
[...] Men and women: a survey of people A leader The two versions also differ in their treatment of the main characters and their psychology. The most important character in the play is obviously Henry himself and the differences observed do not spring from the fact that they're played by two different actors (both interpretations are of quality) but from the very view they have of the character. Oliver's Henry is not a king, he is the king. And nearly nothing else. It is known from the beginning, when the audience applauds at his arrival. [...]
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