The King (2019 Film) is sheer delight to watch and listen to, if you’re not fussy about historical accuracy.
The King (2019 Film) Synopsis
Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Henriad tetralogy, The King tells the story of Henry “Hal”, Prince of Wales, a.k.a. King Henry V of England. A sullen pacifist at bitter odds with his sickly father, Hal ascended the throne in the midst of provocation and disloyalty from all sides; particularly, the King and Dauphin of France. Though reluctant to head down the military path, Hal eventually launches an all-out assault on France. His victory at the bloody Battle of Agincourt then cements his reputation as one of the greatest warrior kings of medieval England.
I’ve finally gotten down to watching this “epic historical” drama, and I have to say, it was a curious, almost bipolar experience.
An experience not too unlike what I felt while watching Mary Queen of Scots.
As a longtime fan of medieval European epics and someone who ultimately learned to appreciate Shakespeare, the dialogue and the acting in The King were mead to me. Even if, well, it wasn’t exactly medieval English and there were jarring bursts of modern moments.
But throughout my watch, I was also distressed by the presence of a certain well-thumbed book a foot away from me. I’m talking about my beloved Kings and Queens by Collins Gem, a pocket guide to English rulers that I’ve always carried with me while vacationing in England.
I haven’t read the booklet in years. But what I remember about it screamed and hollered: Blimey! This is not history! This is not Henry V!!!!!
Yeah. What I’m saying is, Netflix’s The King is “history” to watch, to enjoy, perhaps to get emotional about. But it is most certainly not history to learn from.
Which, I guess, is how Shakespearean historical works, or the likes of, are meant to be enjoyed; a friend later reminded me. An entertainer who wrote for both kings and peasants, and who lived in an age where beheadings were wildly popular, what matters in any such work are the themes, the delivery, the atmosphere, etc. I suspect the Bard himself would pronounce you worthy of flogging were you to go to him for historical accuracy.
And as a condensation of the Henriad, of sorts, I feel The King’s assiduous efforts to excel in these areas succeed. Timothée Chalamet is no warrior king for sure, but he certainly projects the pain of a pacificist ruler capable of great brutality when pushed or guilted enough. Which was what the story was all about.
Outshining him often are also the older cast members, whose delivery and dialogue are aged wine underneath the French sun. Speaking of France, there’s the “French royal family” too. Robert Pattinson’s profane Dauphin. Thibault de Montalembert’s bumbling but curiously engaging, and insightful, Charles VI.
And Catherine of Valois, played by Chalamet’s ex real-life girlfriend Lily Rose Depp. How effortless she was when humbling a king!
Truly an affecting watch, if factually crazy.
A movie I’d encourage you to watch too, as long as you spend a few minutes afterward reading the historical records.
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