Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Arms and the Man|
Actors: Helena Bonham-Carter, Patsy Kensit
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Warner Home Video Release Date: 05/16/2006 Run time: 104 minutes Rating: Nr
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Not what I expected
viktor_57 | Fairview, Your Favorite State, USA | 05/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I will admit that I purchased this title thinking it would give me advice on how to use my arms. I am a man and I have arms, even though for many years I did not use them. Exercising with Aquabells dumbells have allowed me to regain strength in and use of my arms, and now I wanted to get to the next level of arms care.
Instead of a how-to video on arms, "Arms and the Man" is a 1989 BBC production of the 1894 George Bernard Shaw play he subtitled "An Anti-Romantic Comedy". The distinctly English Helena Bonham-Carter plays a Bulgarian living in 1885 at the end of the two-week Serbo-Bulgarian war. That in itself is pretty farcical. Not the war per se, because state-sponsored killing is still killing, but the fact that the war epitomized the vain and nationalistic European wars of the 18th and 19th centuries. No borders changed, but Bulgarian unification became internationally recognized and the Serbians found another reason to hold a bloody grudge. Also Helena Bonham-Carter playing a Hungarian is farcical, since she is English and doesn't look particularly Bulgarian, although my only experience with Bulgarians is watching Bulgarian powerlifters during Olympic games, so I really can't be counted on to know Bulgarian physiognomy.
The real farce, however, is Shaw's use of the conventions of romantic comedy to subvert romantic and idealized notions of warfare. Captain Bluntschli, a Swiss mercenary fighting for the Serbs, hides in the bedroom of young Bulgarian Raina Petkoff, played by a young Ms. Bonham-Carter. While hiding from the victorious Bulgarians, Bluntschli disabuses the naïve Raina of the heroic efforts of her fiance, Sergius, in winning the war, as well as the nobility of warfare and soldiers in general.
In the second act, the war is over and Sergius and Raina are together again. Each goes through the postures of romance even while Sergius pursues the family maid Louka, played by a young Patsy Kensit, on the side. Patsy Kensit is not on her side, but rather Sergius pursues her that way. Actually, Sergius is not on his side either, but rather the pursuit itself is done discreetly. As discreet, however, as nosy servants will allow. Bluntschli reappears to return a borrowed coat and is welcomed by Sergius and the patriarch Major Petkoff, both of whom hold no grudges from the war, since they won. The third act brings out the truth of both Sergius and Bluntschli, and Raina finds herself much wiser, if not happier, and about to be married to someone.
As with most BBC productions, "Arms and the Man" boasts an excellent cast with crisp performances, and as with most early Shaw, "Arms and the Man" adopts the ideals of well-known dramatic conceits and gestures only to puncture them with the realities of imperfect life and non-ideal characters. These reasons alone would be enough to recommend the DVD. The inclusion, however, on the DVD of the bonus play "The Man of Destiny" (1981), starring a young Simon Callow, fairly well demands, in a polite and enthusiastic way, that everyone obtain this DVD, especially by fans of Shaw, Ms. Bonham-Carter, war, romance, heroism, or Bulgarians.
Reader | 09/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I almost didn't buy this because, although I have always enormously enjoyed reading this play, I had a sneaking suspicion that it would be impossible to stage well. So many of the characters spend so much time being histrionic if not idiotic, and I was afraid that what was charming and funny in print might prove to be merely irritating when portrayed by an actual flesh-and-blood human.
But I am delighted to say that I was wrong; this performance was delightful. Much of the credit must go to a really lovely performance by Helena Bonham Carter that gives Raina exactly the right balance of real wit and gallantry with extraordinarily silly romanticism. The other performances were all also excellent; not one struck me as off or untrue to my readings of the play, though I could wish that the Sergious had been toned down just a tad.
It's really a very delightful story, and this performance is a keeper. If you know the play and are looking to see it performed, I recommend this wholeheartedly; if you don't know the play but are looking to see a very nice production of one of Shaw's lightest and funniest plays (well suited to kids -- I loved it when I was 12 or so) then this might an excellent option to consider."
Two interesting plays
Kenneth Scheffler | Canada | 02/17/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have to admit up until I watched this dvd the other day I'd never read or seen anything by Shaw, so this was, in a sense, a really pleasant new experience for me. Given this, though, perhaps not in the best position to provide a reliable critique, so I won't even venture an attempt. Generally speaking, it seems to me that "Arms in the Man" isn't all that original (perhaps it was in its time) and the ending wasn't exactly unpredictable. Still, quite enjoyable to watch; the presence of Bonham-Carter alone makes it worthwhile. But to be honest, I preferred watching "The Man of Destiny." An interesting study in characted, with sharp and witty dialogue. Callow is truly a superb actor."
Arms and the Man review
Frank H. | Brunswick, ME | 01/15/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The characterizations and direction were all excellent; maybe Bluntschli seemed a little young and 'smooth'. The voices were easily understandable, in contrast to many new TV dramas where the speech is so fast that older people like us (79) simply can't follow! We guess there aren't many versions of this to choose from, but we'd certainly recommend it -- it's one of Shaw's favorite plays for us. F.J.H. and I.R.H."