LIT 380: Shakespeare in Film

Quite a Branagh Entrance

Despite the St. Crispin’s Day speech, long shot after the battle, and flashbacks,  the scene that stayed with me the most in Henry V (1989) was Kenneth Branagh’s entrance as Henry in the first few scenes. The chorus character first set the dark serious tone while lighting a match in front of his face and exposing the backstage. Then two scenes later, Henry makes his first appearance. But first in the preceding scene, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely speak in whispers and are shot in close-ups, voicing their concerns with England taking away the church’s land and money. Both of their faces are barely lit on one side by the candle light, indicating that this is a backdoor conversation. Then in the next scene, the doors of the throne room are thrown open revealing a reaction shot (before the action is even shown, for dramatic effect) of the nobleman. The music suddenly gets louder and the next shot shows Henry. He is back-lit so that all we can see is his outline with his crown and cape, not to mention he is perfectly framed in the doorway. All of the noblemen rush to their positions as he approaches the camera. Then there is a reaction/tracking shot following him, showing the back of his neck. It isn’t until he sits down until we see his face. The music suddenly stops and then he speaks. This was quite a dramatic entrance! This gives Henry (or Branagh for that matter) a sense of control and power right from the beginning. There is no question to who the leader is.

Categorised as: henry V

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