139 of 148 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Hollow Crown - TV Mini Series [DVD] (DVD)If you buy any DVD of a TV production this year, it has to be 'The Hollow Crown'. I have watched countless film and television versions of Shakespeare's plays in the past and I can honestly say there have been none like these versions. Forget David Tennant's edgy, modern-day 'Hamlet' (hard, I know, as it was pretty unforgettable): these new history plays are simply stunning.
I think what is rarely touched upon in reviews is how accessible these new films make Shakespeare. I watched 'Richard II' with my mum hoping she would not get bored by the long, philosophical speeches, but she thoroughly enjoyed it. Even for a literature student Shakespeare isn't exactly a walk in the park and having not approached 'Richard II' before, I was thinking, as I sat down to watch it, that I should have made an effort to skim-read the play in my Collected Works, just to get a gist of the plot. I'm glad I didn't. Watching the film was like looking into Shakespeare's world through a new pair of Specsaver glasses: everything came startlingly into focus. I promise you, if you are attentive and ready to engage, 'Richard II' is as accessible, exciting and fun to watch as any other epic action film you are likely to see.
I can't praise the settings, cinematography and costume of the first instalment enough. And I would certainly run the risk of sounding gushy ('you already are, dear') if I started on Ben Whishaw's performance as Richard. But this guy is incredibly good. This film is incredibly good. The handing over of the crown scene literally took my breath away. Whishaw excels so much here that it is by far the most sublime part of the film. And Rory Kinnear makes the scene happen too: his Bolingbroke may have nothing much to say, but is appropriately humiliated and wary, setting off Richard's clever and beautiful kaleidoscope of emotions.
With 'Henry IV, part 1', the scale is mostly a lot smaller as Shakespeare deals with the domestics of father and son relationships and the carnal realms of the Boars Head tavern. Inevitably, we are not treated to the gorgeous settings of 'Richard II' and spend much of the time in the confines of the tavern set, which (though necessary) feels like a step down after such a treat. But the production is still impressive, imaginative (the initial interchanges between the court and the Boars Head are bold and new, if a little clunky) and very well cast.
Falstaff is brilliant - every inch the show-stealer the play-write purposed him to be - and Simon Russell Beale puts on the most hilarious performance in the prince/king role-play scene. Tom Hiddleston - who I'm sure will soon be a household name, if not already - has bravely made his Hal a less likeable prince than those of other productions. He is less vivacious, more cruel. As a result, Hiddleston has the tricky task of making us warm to his character; but he succeeds, and in 'Henry IV part 2' he produces some touching scenes as he contemplates the crown.
I'm thrilled we have a version of the less popular 'Henry IV part 2' to enjoy, particularly because the king-Hal scene, when the prince is woefully misunderstood, has some of my favourite lines in the tetralogy. Some scenes with Falstaff's cronies inevitably may not translate well for modern audiences, but there are fun moments.
I have not yet seen the last production, but when I do I will hopefully update this review with the news that it was just as good as its precursors.
**UPDATE**: 'Henry V' was fantastic. There were some bold cuts from the text - notably the traitors scene early on - but they were totally the right cuts. The film should be admired for its very definite vision, its ability to move, and for the fine performance from Hiddleston - his Harry lets you into his insecurities and is perfectly pitched for today's audience.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Jul 2012 12:46:14 BDT
serious observer says:
Agreed excellent series.
I "studied" Henry IV at A level and can't even remember whether it was part 1 or 2. I didn't understand or enjoy any of it then. I turned on my TV apprehensively to watch it only because I'd accidentally caught the later part of Richard II and was greatly impressed. Is this, at last, a turn around for the BBC?
Posted on 10 Sep 2012 07:48:41 BDT
Filippo Secondo (aka AB) says:
I hope the mini-series will continue with "1-3 Henry VI". Anyone know?
In reply to an earlier post on 13 Sep 2012 16:24:10 BDT
C. Dale says:
I haven't heard anything yet. I'd love them to do Richard III too - don't know who would play him though. More new young talent, I suppose...any suggestions? It would be particularly relevant with the finding of the king's remains recently!
Posted on 17 Sep 2012 14:23:50 BDT
Yeah, the resignation scene in Richard II was outstanding.
In reply to an earlier post on 17 Sep 2012 15:53:48 BDT
Filippo Secondo (aka AB) says:
Suggestion: David Tennant?
In reply to an earlier post on 22 Sep 2012 12:18:45 BDT
C. Dale says:
Yeah, actually Tennant would be great!
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