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Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Irons’

I finally managed to watch Henry IV, part I. And I have mixed feelings about the second installment of the BBC series The Hollow Crown. Maybe because Henry IV did not have the same visual poetry as Richard II or because the protagonist was not as appealing.

Tom Hiddleson as the charming prince Hal

Don’t get me wrong, I love Tom Hiddleson as much as the next Tumblr obsessed girl, but his Hal was too easy to like. Everything from his cute boyish smile to his leather jerkin clad body to his effortless charm just swept you away. He was just too likable to be a compelling character.  The morally ambigious Richard was more interesting to watch. Though it did feel that up until Hal got to the battlefield, he was not really enjoying himself. Whenever I saw him in the dingy little tavern or playing pranks on his bawdy friends, it all seemed rather forced. At times he almost looked bored. But the man on the battlefield was very different from the slightly detached young man in the taverns. This was a stern, brave Hal, ready to lead and command. There was also a shadow of sadness in him.  His victory over Hotspur was not all glory; we see Hal realize that war is an ugly, painful and bloody business.

Jeremy Irons is great as the perpetually disappointed King Henry IV

Jeremy Irons was, well, Jeremy Irons. Superb as usual. Though I found it difficult to believe that Rory Kinnear’s  Henry Bolingbroke grew up to be Jeremy Irons’ Henry IV, he gave a great performance of an aging king weighed down by his office and the knowledge of how he came to be there. This was a king whose body was giving out, but whose spirit was still strong.

They don’t call him ‘Hotspur’ for nothing

Henry Percy aka Hotspur, played by Joe Armstrong, I absolutely loved. He was great fun with his impetuous hotheaded speeches. I relished every scene he was in, especially those with Michelle Dockery as Kate, Lady Percy. The couple was constantly bickering and making out. Hotspur was flinging insults and Lady Percy was rolling her eyes (Ah, Michelle, no one rolls their eyes quite like you. And you have Downton Abbey to prove it). Fun fact: Hotspur’s father, Earl of Northumberland, is played by Armstrong’s real-life father, Alun Armstrong.

Falstaff (Simon Russell Beale) is a mix of hilarious, repulsive  and touching  

And finally, we get to Falstaff played by Simon Russell Beale. This particular character seems to be pretty polarizing. I saw a lot of comments that could be summed up as “Agh, he was horrible. That’s not how I imagine Falstaff.” Which is fair enough, but, never seeing this play before, I thought this was an interesting interpretation of the character. He was rowdy and uncouth and full of humor, but he was also tragic and pathetic. He clung to Hal with so much desperation that we could see how much he wanted his love. Beale’s Falstaff was dirty and unpleasant. He was not the merry mentor to an adolescent boy that looks up to him. It seems that what drew Hal to Falstaff was the opportunity to have a few laughs at his expense, but also Falstaff’s honest roguery. As King, Hal would have to deal with falsehood and deception all the time, and Falstaff’s lies are so over the top and transparent that for the future king they may seem cathartic.

Hal and Flastaff both foresee that their friendship and love will not last

Towards the middle of the film, Falstaff and Hal put on a mock play where Falstaff plays Hal and Hal plays his father. The scene goes from pageantry to raw emotion when the poor old man begs Hal, still in the role of Henry IV, not  to banish Falstaff. It is such an ardent plea for Hal’s love that you begin to understand why Hal keeps this company. It is very doubtful that he could ever find anyone so thoroughly and honestly attached to him. And he looks at Falstaff with mingled love and sadness, because he knows that this pure love could never last. One is a king and the other is a rogue. They have no future together.  Maybe in Falstaff’s pure love Hal finds that emotion that he could never get from his father.

Parent- child relationships is never been easy. Not even in medieval England

I did like how this installment played up the personal relationships rather than any metaphysical musings on the nature of kingship. It was very much a coming-of-age story that focused on a father and a son told in the bleak, medieval surroundings with blood, gore and dirt in abundance.  While I found Hal’s tavern life unconvincing, his relationship with his father, his desire to prove himself, his anger at his enemy and his pain at seeing his enemy vanquished, showed me a compelling Hal. A Hal I look forward to seeing in the next two episodes of the series. Can’t wait for Henry IV, Part II.

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Hey, Shakespeare enthusiasts, have you heard? BBC Two has a new series just for you!  The Hollow Crown is an adaptation of  Shakespeare’s historical plays: Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. Now, maybe it’s just me but I feel like they’re trying to ride the Game of Thrones wave with this one.

The films are aired in chronological order starting with Richard II in 1399 and follow the chain of bloody events to the time of Henry V. The series was commissioned by BBC Two for their Shakespeare Unlocked season, which I haven’t had a chance to check out yet, but will certainly look into as soon as I can. King Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V are played by Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston  respectively.

I’m not surprised that they decided to make Shakespeare’s history plays into films. In my opinion they are very cinematic and work much better on screen than on stage. After all, a movie can show you a battlefield or a regal castle in a way that would be impossible in the theater. And judging by the trailer, there are some astonishingly magnificent set pieces in this one.

Don’t know about you, but this is what I’ll be watching for the next few Saturdays. The series started last night, June 30th, with Richard II.    

More info over at BBC Two.

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