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Henry V

Henry V

Genders: Action, Drama, Biography

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Writer: William Shakespeare (by), Kenneth Branagh (adapted

Actors: Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh, Simon Shepherd, James Larkin

Year: 1989
Run time: 137min
IMDB score: 7.8
Updated: 2 years ago

Movie infomation

Movie name: Henry V

Genders: Action, Drama, Biography

Imdb Score: 7.8

Runtime: 137min

Released: 08 Nov 1989

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Writer: William Shakespeare (by), Kenneth Branagh (adapted

Actors: Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh, Simon Shepherd, James Larkin

Company: MGM Home Entertainment

Imdb Link

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Trailer


Review

A Kingly Feast for the Eyes and Ears

10/10 "Henry V" marks Kenneth Branagh's greatest achievement to date. Branagh not only directs this rich and visually stunning film, he stars as the title character. The movie opens with Derek Jacobi (Branagh's Shakespearean mentor) in modern garb passionately delivering the prologue. Then we are taken into the dark, dank rooms of Henry's castle. The king makes his dramatic entrance, complete with a Darth Vader style cape.

The entire film is filled with grandeur and pomp, with any faults in the story line being attributable more to Shakespeare himself than Branagh. Henry V as I remember it from my college English class is a decidingly pro-British play (and film). There is little question that France should be conquered, and Henry speaks of his war against France as if it were France that attacked England. Indeed, Henry's famous "St. Chrispin's day speech" is so rousing, that it has been quoted often and inspired the name of the "Band of Brothers" miniseries about World War II. This is no surprise, since Shakespeare's prose is famously beautiful.

There is definitely a difference in the way that both sides of the conflict are presented. The French, at least in Branagh's movie are presented as arrogant (and somewhat effeminate), while on the side of the English, even children are filled with manly courage. Henry is presented as noble, fair, and merciful. True he threatens the mayor of one French town, telling him that if he does not surrender the town, the English will do terrible things to its residents, but does not carry out his threat. He also hangs the one English soldier who steals from a French church, refusing to show favoritism for him just because he was his friend. Apparently mercy towards your own countrymen was not a virtue that Henry saw particularly important.

The films greatest attribute is its soundtrack, particularly the use of music in the scene following the battle of Agincourt in which the warring parties collect their dead for burial.

All in all, a fascinating look inside the mind of a king.

2 years ago

A Worthy Successor After 5 Decades

5/10 Let's get one thing straight: It was Olivier who finally cracked the concrete heads of film producers open and proved that it was possible to put the bard of bards on screen without even an American audience falling asleep after 10 minutes. Sure, after all this time his Henry looks ancient, pretentious and artificial, but so will Blade Runner after 50 years, and still both mark a watershed after which none could be done like anything before. Odd comparisons? Maybe. But fitting.

Branagh's Henry finally set a tone worth to succeed the initial awesome blast unleashed by the most powerful actor for generations, and I'm sure Branagh would be the last to deny Olivier's version the place it deserves in British movie history. Times were ripe for another tone - but times before had needed Olivier as much as the following ages will need Branagh.

I'm an obsessive fan of both versions - both for entirely different reasons - and both merging perfectly what I love most about Shakespeare's eternal works.

Branagh's film is timeless - of this time - without ever being trendy. Olivier's is timeless - as well as of its time - as long as we keep an understanding of its time.

Olivier praised the eternal flame, the eternal smell, of Shakesperean theater, as always reaching far beyond the confinds of its subject - beyond the confinds of the wooden circle of 'The Globe'.

Branagh went right for the jugular, without ever loosing grip on what makes this play a play beyond its subject, and THE play about that subject.

Has anyone considered the vital difference between Branagh's and Olivier's versions? I doubt it. Where Olivier conjured up the intoxicating smell of fresh 15th century glue from the sets rising into the audience's noses, come here straight from the bear fights, whore houses, sermons of zealots and whatever had to flee London's stern moral walls of those times, Branagh cut right to the bone of any hardened 'modern' movie goer.

Behold: Derek Jacoby's prologue is a piece of speech which will forever haunt, enchant and cover me in goosebumps - firing me up to see what comes as well as see what Olivier as well as Branagh had done with the only play ever to merge humanity's lust as well as dread for the subject of war.

Of course, Olivier's version couldn't even dream of matching the intimate intensity of Branagh's. But how could it?

Ok, I won't further dwell on it, but for the last time, consider the father to fully understand the son.

Now, having shed the overpowering shadows of the past, Derek Jacoby steps into the dark of the expecting stage - striking a match...,

"Oh, for the muse of fire..." ... and off we are, lured into the torrent of the bard's unique and eternal magic.

I consider Henry V the best of Branagh's Shakespeare adaptations, even though I wouldn't want to be with any of the others on pain of death. This one's flawless, perfectly cast, perfectly executed and perfectly acted by Branagh himself.

From Burbage to Garrick to Keane to Inving to Olivier to Branagh... it is a glorious lineage to follow in love and admiration for the bard of Bard's ambassadors.

Schogger13

2 years ago

Once seen never forgotten

9/10 This film surely must be in the frame for a number of best ever categories - best Shakespeare film adaptation, one of the best ever war films AND one of the best ever performances by a male actor. It's truly stunning to see how Shakespeare's words, which seemed dull and difficult to understand at school, can be spoken as passages of such depth, beauty and power. Not one in a thousand actors could do this convincingly - but Kenneth Branagh can.

I think this far outshines the Olivier version from 1944 (very good though that was). Branagh convinces (where Olivier does not always) as he gives a wider range of emotional responses to Henry - self questioning, compassionate, sad at the harsh realities of life. You can really believe that here is a young man who used to be a playboy now faced with having to grow up and behave as a king of England. As others have said, he gives such fire and charisma to the battle speeches that you want to march straight into battle yourself! And importantly, Branagh also convinces utterly in the romantic wooing of the French princess.

Naturally enough, the film focuses on the main actor playing Henry, but the supporting actors are also excellent. Derek Jacobi, particularly, does wonderfully in a difficult role. If I had to give one very slight caveat however, it would be that Emma Thompson (who I love as an actress), does not quite convince as a native French speaker, though she makes a good try at speaking the language rapidly. Perhaps Juliette Binoche would have been better here? But overall the obvious rapport between Branagh and Thompson (who were married at the time) is more important than any slight problems with the accent.

The only Shakespeare performance that tops this movie is seeing Branagh give a live performance on stage - I was privileged to see him (with Emma Thompson) perform Much Ado About Nothing in the late 1980s, and that's still the best I've ever seen.

Don't just see this - buy or record a copy. If you see it once, you will most likely want to see it over and over! 10/10

2 years ago

Mastepiece

10/10 This film is a chef d'oeuvre, masterpiece, magnum opus, perfection. The battle scenes are exquisite, the soundtrack is spectacular. Mud & blood, sweat & tears, man & horse, all become one powerful force on the field of Agincourt.

Branagh, and the people he surrounds himself with, breathe life into Shakespeare's words.

When you watch Branagh, as Henry, deliver the Feast Of St. Crispian's Day speech to his weary band of brothers, you will be swept up in his passion, and find yourself cheering "let us fight" at your TV screen.

Branagh speaks the language of Shakespeare fluidly, naturally. It is the greatest language he knows, and upon entering his world, you too will know the glory of Shakespeare.

Non nobis domine, domine Non nobis domine Sed nomini, sed nomini Tu lauda gloriam

"O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention! A kingdom for a stage, princes to act, And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!"

"And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remember'd; We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother"

I love Branagh's Henry V because he incorporated all of Henry V's traits - the roguishly witty Prince Hal, the warmonger, the imperialist, the opportunist, the master rhetorician, the man with a miraculous ability to reason in divinity and to debate in commonwealth affairs and to exhibit military prowess, his piety, his administrative sagacity, political cunning, arrogance, his cruelty, his affability, all in all Branagh masterfully wears all the masks of Prince Hal/Henry V that Shakespeare created.

I love Branagh's version because he recreated as much as he could of the play and transformed it into an artistic cinematic presentation (the set designs and that battle sequence at Agincourt and the rich deep hues of burgundy and brown and sumptuous plums) instead of a staged presentation, because he remained true to Shakespeare's ambivalence towards Henry by allowing viewers to be critical of Henry's choices, he preserved most of the dialogue and presented the scenes in order, because of Branagh's unparalleled recitation of Shakespearean dialogue, and because of Patrick Doyle's rapturous, Proustian music which transports listeners to a paradoxical state of paradisial elysium and infernal, torturous pain, evoking times and places and battles and lives long forgotten, a remembrance of things past, a memories forever faded into royal genealogical charts and myths and legends.

The play is theatrically limited because the events in the play cannot be adequately represented on stage, which is one reason why Henry V is ironically one of the most theatrically expressive plays to perform - the production crew is forced to transcend theatrical convention in order to faithfully represent the play.

Theatre depends on synecdoche, meaning that what is presented on stage only represents part of the whole, and this is because of theatrical restrictions. What we watch is a shadow or illusion of the whole.

In Henry V, Shakespeare expected the audience to actively participate in the re-enactment of the events being staged.

Shakespeare addresses this throughout the Prologue and Chorus of the play, by constantly apologizing about the inadequate, confining medium being used to portray the spectacle before us.

Henry V is the crowning achievement of his Henriad (which spans from Richard II to Richard III) and of the English history play in general, and it is grandiosely resplendent with thousands of men and horses, full-rigged ships, the English fleet leaving Southampton and traversing the English Channel, and the brutal sacking of an entire town whose sacking is explicitly described in the dialogue - the firing of cannons, scaling ladders, town walls that must be physically breached on stage, characters that appear on the walls looking down at the siege, the town reduced to rubble, and the King boaring through the town with a massive army to make an extravagantly celebratory and unchallenged exit through the gates (is there any room on state for a set of gates?) of Harfleur.

Thank you Branagh for enriching our imaginations.

2 years ago

Henry V

5/10 Excellent return to Shakespeare's young King Henry with 28 year old Branagh perfectly filling the shoes Olivier tried so hard to fill 40 plus years before. Branagh, who also directed, brings the film to life with exciting battle scenes, a first rate supporting cast that features the fine Shakespearean veteran Jacobi as the Chorus. Also with Holm, Bannen, the always reliable Brian Blessed and Emma Thompson. The story is better told and moves about at a much better pace than previous Shakespeare films. Branagh started an incredible trend with this film. (Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Othello) He was Oscar nominated as Actor and Director for his work here. The film won for Costuming.

2 years ago