I’m insecure about the deep missing sections of my education and have covered that insecurity with sneers and disdain. I’d like to change this so I have been reading and watching Shakespeare.

I choose Henry V as a my starting point, simply because the 1989 movie was free on Amazon Prime. I bought some study notes, watched the film for a few minutes at a time (until I completely lost understanding), then read it with the notes and then watched it again. From that watching, I learned:

  • I get so much more information from the second watching of a scene. I found I understood the words the first time and the sentences the second. It was like suddenly understanding a new language.
  • A lot of play gets cut to make a movie. I ignored the cut text for this watching (if Kenneth Branagh can, then so can I)
  • I choose the wrong starting point from history. Henry V is right in the middle of a set of linked plays so it’s like starting watching Marvel films with Iron Man 3.

I then watched this version. Here’s my thoughts (both from the film, and other Googling):

  • Wow, this is so different, even though it’s exactly the same text and setting. Watching the second film gave me stark examples of how much directors, actors, editors and designers can control a message even with set text. There were lines that really stood out in one film, but not the other. I was blown away by how different the role of Exeter was, and by how much easier some plot lines were to follow.
  • I can watch this version without having to stop as much, because I’ve already looked up most of the words (I still do have to stop a lot, but not rewatch). I start to wonder if a second play would be easier to take it because I’m effectively learning Elizabethan English.
  • The real Harry was very different, but I’ve learned more about him than I would have.
  • It turns out that there are few Shakespeare films and I was lucky to pick one with two comparable films. In fact, since about 1980 there haven’t been very many Shakespeare plays converted to films and of those, few have kept the language and even fewer have kept the period setting. I’ve chosen Richard III for my next play to consume on the basis that it has two such films and bought the notes.
  • The film releases are quite cut down compared to the plays, but I wonder how much of the play was actually filmed, obviously some of it is cut early (scenes move around and so on) but, given that all of the actors are Serious Actors, presumably you could ask them to deliver most of the play and then cut it down in the edit room. That would be a bit more expensive, but give you more options after test screenings and so on and it also opens the door for extended editions.