Top positive review
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Fantastic Shakespeare bought to the screen.
on 20 December 2015
"The Hollow Crown" is BBC's magnificent filming of the Shakespeare's second Henriad (Richard II with Henry IV's rise to power, Henry IV, parts I and II, and Henry V). I believe the first three of these have only been filmed in the old 1970s BBC series of Shakespeare's complete works, and although the old series was at its best with its version of Henry IV, "The Hollow Crown" is far above it. Simon Russell Beale is the ideal choice for Falstaff, even with Orson Welles hard on his heels in the Falstaff compilation "Chimes at Midnight", Tom Hiddleston is a great Prince Hal, and Jeremy Irons, never known to err, shines as the guilt-ridden King Henry IV.
There are some interesting comments on the bonus material for Henry IV, part II that explains why the plays come across so successfully in 2012. Thea Sharrock, director of Henry V, muses that people may be shocked at hearing the actors speak in real surroundings (on location), but of course, that's old hat. Even Olivier anticipated that in 1944 with his Henry V. Moviegoers are not that easily shocked anymore. And although Hiddelston is also mistaken in his claim that it has never been done before, he is right in stating that "Shakespeare is at its best when you speak it like you're making it up." Julie Walters adds, "You've got to speak the lines, not in a stilted isn't-the-verse-beautiful kind of way; it's got to be the way you talk"
This natural way of speaking the lines, more foreign to British Shakespeare productions than to American ones, accounts for the greatness of "The Hollow Crown".