Hm. I just re-watched Branagh's 'Henry V', quite a strange experience.
[What actually prompted me to dig out the tape again was catching 'Wild Wild West' on tv a few days ago, which, btw, amused me more than I'd expected it would, but left me with a profound sense of Kenneth Branagh, quo vadis?]
I loved this movie. I haven't seen it in years, but watched it so often back when it originally came out and later on tape that even now there's an intense feeling of familiarity with every image, every line, right down to the nuances. But as a whole the movie, or indeed the play, have become strange to me. In many ways it's still captivating, but it's impossible for me to recapture the intense emotional connection I used to have, or even understand why it had such an impact.
It made sense, a lot of sense, to me then, so I guess it would be unreasonable to start picking it apart now, but looking at it today the patriotism and war rhetoric for what is, in fact, a war of aggression are almost intolerable even in the historic context, though Branagh apparently tries to strike a balance, offering a kind of double vision, showing the inner workings and conflicts of the character for whom this course of action was justified, and the gruesome reality of the war at the same time. The battle of Agincourt (as well as the aftermath of the battle) is still horrible and awesome, bloody, dirty and strangely darkly beautiful at the same time, very well filmed and cut, but again, the courting scene set after is almost incongruous, though of course Shakespeare is to blame here. Branagh and Thompson settle for a quiet, sad mood, emphasising Catherine's lack of options, but Branagh playing his character for sympathy, asking her to love him and actually meaning it almost makes it worse. Indeed much of the humour seems slightly misplaced, and for my current taste the movie is a little too tame in places and generally too literal/realistic in its interpretation.
[On a very random note, it's almost disconcerting watching a thirteen year old (or so) Christian Bale whom I last saw in Velvet Goldmine fucking Ewan McGregor... It's things like these that make you really realise how fast time is passing.]
But anyway... I'm not usually not one to point fingers shouting sellout, and I tend to appreciate an artist's development, but I think this may well be Branagh's best work. There are still good moments in his later movies; after all he's the one who made me understand and appreciate 'Hamlet', but I think there are more and more compromises, employing Hollywood actors and such, and while there's obviously more money involved at the same time there's a sense of artistic stagnation...