3 October 2016

The Hollow Crown Henry VI Part 1

The Hollow Crown – Henry VI Part One
  • Director: Dominic Cooke
  • Based on the plays by William Shakespeare
  • Cast: Max Bennett, Hugh Bonneville, Adrian Dunbar, Michael Gambon, Philip Glennister, Sally Hawkins, Anton Lester, Laura Morgan, Sophie Okonedo, Tom Sturridge, Stanley Townsend, Ben Miles, Samuel West
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Max Bennett – Endeavour
    • Hugh Bonneville – Downton Abbey, Lost in Austen, Bonekickers, Daniel Deronda, Notting Hill, Tomorrow Never Dies, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
    • Anton Lesser – Endeavour, Wolf Hall, Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides, The Girl in the Café, Twelfth Night, King Lear,
    • Adrian Dunbar – Richard III, The Crying Game, Morse, My Left Foot
    • Michael Gambon – Fortitude, Quirke, The Quartet, Harry Potter 3-8, The King’s Speech, The Book of Eli, Brideshead Revisited, Cranford, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Being Julia, Angels in America, Gosford Park, Longitude, Sleepy Hollow, Mary Reilly, A Dry White Season
    • Philip Glennister – Cranford, Kingdom of Heaven, Island at War, The Calendar Girls, The Other Boleyn Girl,
    • Sally Hawkins – Jane Eyre, Never Let Me Go, An Education, Happy-Go-Lucky, Little Britain, Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky, Vera Drake, All or Nothing
    • Sophie Okonedo – The Slap, Skin, Hotel Rwanda, Dirty Pretty Things
    • Tom Sturridge – Far from the Madding Crowd, The Boat that Rocked, Being Julia
    • Stanley Townsend – Quirke, Happy-Go-Lucky, Flawless, Hustle, Inside I’m Dancing, The Libertine, Moll Flanders
    • Ben Miles – V for Vendetta, Hustle, Keep the Aspidistra Flying
    • Samuel West – Longitude, Notting Hill, Howards End
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: 30 September 2016 

It’s a pity these films hadn’t been released yet when we read the history plays recently but now they’re here and we’re certainly not going to wait until we’ve read the plays next time around. That will be a couple of years at least. So regard this as part of the history plays suite.
The heroic (and warmongering) Henry V has died young leaving the child Henry VI at the mercy of rivalling lords and the loss of all the French territories conquered by his father. Shakespeare condenses Henry’s long life and reign into three plays. The Hollow Crown squashes them into two films. It was a confusing and bloody time. Shakespeare’s plays are confusing and bloody. So too is this film.
Shakespeare’s blustery and comical portrayal of English military leader Talbot is scaled down to a simple noble ill-fated soldier here and Shakespeare’s wonderfully cheeky and tragic Joan of Arc is reduced to a rather boring fanatic. A pity. She’s one of my favourite Shakespeare characters. [1]

Sophie Okonedo shines as the strong-willed Margaret (though here too the direction makes her more nasty than politically astute), beloved by Henry, hated by his court for being French and not only not bringing a dowry but costing even more loss of French territories. [2] Tom Sturridge is very good as the foolish, weak, pious young king. The whole cast, chosen from England’s theatrical elite, makes this mess of a play almost understandable and the characters come alive. Especially commended are Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
The production shows explicitly several things that are only hinted at in Shakespeare – usually a mistake, here as well – and several important complexities are compacted into incomprehensibility.
In short, this is a flawed production and not as good as the first Hollow Crown series. But still, it’s worth seeing.  

3 ½  * of 5 

[2] Margaret is fantastic character. One of Shakespeare’s best portrayals. See my text pages 25-32 in Shakespeare Calling – the book (links above)

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