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Henry V review

Originally released just weeks after the D-Day invasion, Laurence Olivier’s imaginatively mounted Technicolour version of Shakespeare’s play was conceived as propaganda, expressly aimed at boosting British morale. The visuals incorporate a diverse range of settings: the beginning and the end take place in a mocked-up version of the Globe theatre circa 1600, there are studio sets for the French courts and castles, while the battle scenes at Agincourt were actually shot in the Irish countryside.

Understandable in its wartime context, this Henry V offers an adulatory portrait of the title monarch. But the dashing Olivier still gives an exceptional performance, whether galvanizing his troops with his soaring oratory, or realizing on the eve of combat the king’s profound isolation.

 

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