|Tom Hiddleston as Henry V|
There is A LOT of extra-textual material in "The Hollow Crown: Henry V" (2013), from the framing device of Henry the Fifth's funeral - which is ahistorical, since Henry V died in France and only his bones were transported back - to additional shots of Henry riding a horse, shooting a long-bow, sailing on a ship, etc.. I can let some of those go as visual filler behind the Chorus, but there are also "meaningful" moments - glances exchanged (because they have no lines), or a bloodied scrap of cloth in the hands of the boy who "grows up" in the last moment of the film to become the Chorus.
|Kenneth Branagh as Henry V|
What the 2013 version does give you is a probably more historically accurate picture of Henry's army straggling back toward Calais and a sense of doom going into Agincourt. Hiddleston delivers his "St. Crispin's Day" speech to a small group of his top lords while the commoners are standing in formation elsewhere, and it is a quiet speech in comparison to Branagh's. Branagh pulls out all the stops with a musical score, moving among his men and gathering them together in rousing camaraderie that makes you want to stand up and cheer. It's easier to see how Branagh's band of brothers carries the day against the odds.
|Act V scene ii|
What I came away with was a History Play about a particularly ugly, bloody period of time. If they hadn't been fighting in the mud at Agincourt, they probably would have been fighting in the mud at Shrewsbury again, or somewhere else: a king's strength, a man's worth, is defined by his ability to outlast his opponent in a primitive and barbaric form of warfare. Perhaps this was the point that fit with the theme of "the hollow crown," but it was depressing rather than inspiring. It seems such a waste for Hal and all he claims to have learned from his past experience.
I had a follow up thought about some parts that got cut, chiefly the "traitors" scene (Act II scene ii) and the Welsh, Irish, and Scot captains at Harfleur.... I keep thinking about Henry IV's injunction to his son to "busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels," at that part of the traitors scene is to show that if he doesn't do something, 1) France is coming after him, and 2) he'll spend his kingship defending himself from treasonous uprisings the same way Henry IV found he had to. And I think the importance of the captains at Harfleur is showing the animosities (and occasional comedy) of the various parts of Britain, but united under Henry and his cause. The weirdest part of the traitor scene is Henry's condemnation of Scroop:
What shall I say to thee, Lord Scroop? thou cruel,
Ingrateful, savage and inhuman creature!
Thou that didst bear the key of all my counsels,
That knew'st the very bottom of my soul...
It goes on. The sense of betrayal is powerful and personal, but it doesn't really connect up to Henry IV does it? If this had been Poins, or Poins had been Scroop, it would make complete sense, but who has been so close to the king in friendship who was not in the Henry IV plays? I suppose a friendship that emerges in the time period between Henry's coronation and the events of Henry V, but it feels like such a lost dramatic opportunity.