In 1944 when Olivier, young and very handsome, made Henry V as a film, as inexpensively as possible [painted sets are obviously painted], he was cheering on England to once again send soldiers to France. I was a small girl in the Midwest and if I saw any movies it was probably Hopalong Cassidy or Gene Autry. What a discovery, like archeology, to see this film, actually half of this film, today in a Shakespeare on Film class. I haven't read Henry V for a long time. In a couple of weeks we will see the modern Kenneth Branagh version which I loved and still remember the trance of deep sadness I felt as I walked home after seeing a matinee. Our teacher says the two are diametrically opposed in their message about war -- this one inciting and glorifying war [an historical imperative at the time] and the other condemning wars of aggression. [One finds in Shakespeare what one wishes to prove.]
As I walked to the parking lot, thinking about this film as a "discovery", I felt very happy that I have reached this point in my life and continually have new experiences, continually learn new things, have new insights. I know I am not alone. Many people in the room, including an Englishman who had studied Henry V at age 15 and acted Hal at that age, had not realized the film was a contribution to the morale of English in the face of war. Others, Americans like myself, have never thought in broad historical terms about films and their uses. Learning things is one of life's greatest joys. How I wish everyone were open to continual learning and had the opportunities I have.
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