Looking at Film
Understanding how this film works, how it relates to the play, and how it affects the audience will make Henry V even more accessible to student viewers. When talking about film as a medium for expression, remind students that all the aspects of a film are consciously chosen; nothing happens haphazardly. The lighting, the casting, the lines from the play that are cut, the lines that are repositioned (primarily the Chorus), the camera work, the music -- all must be planned to bring about one unified piece of art.
Watch different scenes of the film a second time and consider them not just for content but also for production values. How is the camera used? Does it look up or down into faces and scenes or does it face them head on? Does the director use close-ups or long shots? Watch a scene with the sound off and concentrate on the images, or close your eyes and listen to the soundtrack and music. What role does music play?
- You're in charge of marketing this film. Write advertising copy that will convince high school students to see the film. What image would you choose from the film to represent it in an ad?
- Is Henry a typical Hollywood hero? Explain your answer by comparing or contrasting him with another Hollywood hero.
- You are the director in charge of translating this film back into a play. How will you do it? What will be lost by making this into a play? What will bc gained?
- Think about the film in its entirety. Write a scene that you think is missing from it, either following, preceding, or in the middle. Why did you choose that scene? How would it change the film?
- There are many ways to depict war in a film. One of the classic interpretations is Laurence Olivier's I944 production of Henry V. Watch the video of that film and write your review of it. Make sure you cover the general tone of the film and the message it conveys about war. What are the differences between that film and this one? Why do you think the director chose to do it differently?
- How is the initial scene between Canterbury and Ely shot? How does the tightness of the camera shot on the characters faces accentuate the feeling of conspiracy?
- Film directors often use visual images as metaphors just as writers use words. What does the opening image of Henry standing dwarfed and alone in the towering doorway say to you? What about when he walks forward and finally fills the space?
- How would you describe the English-lesson scene with Katherine and her maid? Why do you think it was done that way?
- Think of the battle scenes at Agincourt and how they are filmed. What is the weather like on the day of battle? Why do you think there are so many close-up shots? What effect do you think the director was trying to achieve with the slow-motion shots? Where does the camera focus? What do the soldiers look like at the battle's end? What kind of music is played? How does the director use all these elements to express his feelings about war?
- The courting scene at the end of the play, although romantic, is staged in a stark room with bright lighting. Why do you think this was done? What double message is the director sending the audience?
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