Confession time: About fifteen minutes into this film I had to go get my copy of the play and follow along. I could hardly understand what anyone was saying, and it was difficult to understand the plot. There are a lot of people in these plays, and none of them go by their real names! If they’re the duke of Gloucester, they’re just called “Gloucester,” and sometimes there is more than one person with the same name–I’m looking at you King Henry, Prince Henry, and Henry Percy…
After about thirty minutes, though, I settled into “Shakespeare mode” and managed to follow along. I still kept my book out to make sure I was on track.
This adaptation rearranges some of the scenes, which is normal for a Shakespeare adaptation; I thought that the rearrangement actually helped the story make more sense. I had the same feelings during this adaptation that I had when I read the play. I didn’t find Falstaff as funny as some people do, and I still had a hard time sympathizing with Prince Hal. I will say that this version did a really good job at showing his “reformation” through a lot of visual symbolism.
I also really enjoyed the scenes featuring Jeremy Irons as King Henry IV. He did a really nice job of showing how his questionable ascent to the throne affected his reign. He also was incredible in the scene where he confronts Hal about his wayward behavior. Even though he’s the title character of the play, he’s not the main character–I wish he had been more of the focus.
The other part of this adaptation that I really enjoyed was the role of Henry Percy, “Hotspur.” While it was really difficult to follow the beginning of the play, Joe Armstrong did a fantastic job! I thought this Hotspur was the perfect rebel, and his wife just happens to be one of my favorites from Downton Abbey!
I’m excited to see how these actors reprise their roles in Part II.