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England, My England - The Story of Henry Purcell
England My England - The Story of Henry Purcell
Actor: Purcell; Callow; Gardiner
Director: Tony Palmer
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
NR     2007     2hr 32min

England, My England — Written By John Osborne And Charles WoodCharles: Simon Callow — Henry Purcell: Michael Ball — Mary: Rebecca Front — Nell: Lucy Speed — Pepys: John Shrapnel — Dryden: Robert Stephens — Bill: Bill KenwrightMon...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Purcell; Callow; Gardiner
Director: Tony Palmer
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Classical, Documentary
Studio: Kultur Video
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 07/31/2007
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 2hr 32min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, German, Italian, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

Patchy, long-winded, heavy-handed... but the music is great
MartinP | Nijmegen, The Netherlands | 11/11/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I have owned the spectacular soundtrack of this production for years and was glad to see the movie itself now made available on dvd. But seeing it again turned out somewhat of a disappointment. Maybe BBC viewers have been spoiled by too much very well made historical drama to be particularly impressed by this film. The recent series on Charles II (starring the charismatic Rufus Sewell) was extremely powerful and by comparison makes the merry monarch look like a pretty pale figure here. The present film's greatest problem is caused by the lack of information regarding Purcell's life, which the screenwriters have tried to solve by creating a frame story of a 1960's troop of actors doing a play on Charles II, and one of them writing another one on Purcell. So we jump to and fro between the 1600s and the 1960s in a confusion of characters and events. It takes too long before you get an idea who is who, and the tale of the British succession and its historical context is told in such a patchy way that I cannot imagine it will make sense to somebody not already familiar with it. The Monmouth rebellion, Monmouth's death and James II's succession rush by in something like a minute or so. Queen Mary is shown as a giggling nincompoop, and her husband William as a complete imbecile. All characters are stereotyped like that. There is not a single one, least of all Purcell himself, with whom we spend enough time to develop something of a bond or a deeper interest. Worse, the 1960s episodes get increasingly heavy-handed, suggesting historical parallels with the time of Charles, James, and William and Mary. Actual footage of, for instance, an anti-Vietnam demonstration, is interspersed. Simon Callow as the playwright character throws tormented looks at the camera while declaiming convoluted, often toe-curling existential truths (and keeping up a love life quite as active as Charles's). It's all a bit too much - lengthwise too, eventually. A more concentrated story of three quarters of an hour less duration than the present 153 minutes might have been a better idea.

The costumes are well done, the sets less so. One recognizes some obviously eastern European exteriors. And there is no way a set designer can get away with three burning flat cardboard façades to represent the great fire of London - not before a CGI saturated audience anyway. Also, one wishes that for once a crew in search of an impressive baroque interior would think of something else than Wilton's Double Cube Room. The music, however, remains splendid as always, and it is through the music that some scenes become touching after all.

The video quality appeared to me rather dark, with somewhat washed out colours. There are no extra's on the dvd.
De gustibus non est disputandum
Robert E. Morrell | St. Louis, MO USA | 11/06/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)

"Since historical facts concerning Henry Purcell are skimpy, the writers and producers of this Monty Python account of his life decided to fill in the details with actors in period dress hamming it up through various time periods, including the present. It's a pity, because we really do need a serious documentary on Purcell -- and this certainly doesn't fill the bill. (Incidentally, the accent seems to be shifting around again from Purcell' to Pur'cell, to Purcell'. Which is it?)

The two stars I have given the effort are solely for John Eliot Gardiner's always splendid (but here, chopped up and scattered) musical contribution -- which, after reading the initial florid review, is the only reason I finally bought the dvd. Buyer beware!"
A voice teacher and early music fan
George Peabody | Planet Earth | 08/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)


Tony Palmer, filmmaker, has produced films in virtually all genres, but he obviously loves music and musicians. So it is not surprising that he would produce a film about Henry Purcell. Sometimes rambling, but always fascinating; part biography of Purcell and part actors putting on a play about Purcell.

Not much is known about the historical Purcell, whose music (in great abundance) nonetheless survives today as one of the great glories of the Restoration. In fact Henry Purcell is a mystery. We know where he is buried (next to Vaughan Williams in Westminster Abbey), but that's about it. No one knows for certain where he was born or even precisely when he was born. He lived exactly the same number of years as Mozart - only thirty-five-, but we only know in detail what he did for three of those years. Page after page of some of his manuscripts of some of his masterworks are completely blank. Purcell, was, and is a mystery, except that we know he wrote over a thousand works, at least one for every working week of his life.

However, the film very neatly dances around the paucity of information by bouncing back and forth between Purcell's time and early mid-60's England, a time of cultural and political upheavals.

The music played during this film was NEWLY DESIGNED for the action at the time.
None of the music is from pre-existing recordings, and that makes this DVD extra interesting to me. Thus we have music in period style played on period instruments, although with some give-and-take on questions of authenticity such as whether or not Purcell used drums in the Funeral Music for Queen Mary; some historians say yes, some say no, and I don't really care! Suffice it so say that John Eliot Gardiner was closely involved with the selection of the repertory for the film, and although it does not always include Purcell's greatest hits, it does show the breadth of his achievements and the way his work developed in response to the events of the late 17th century.

The film is simply wonderful to behold on any number of levels: the Restoration Period is recreated with loving detail, with sumptuous costumes and production design, and Purcell's music is simply breathtakingly performed, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner and sung by the Monteverdi Singers. The performances by Simon Callow, Michael Ball, Corin Redgrave and a host of fantastic actors, some singers such as Michael Chance and James Bowman, are all uniformly excellent!

Gramophone Magazine Nov. 2007: "An imaginative matching of history, ideas, the man and his music."

The Australian: "Looks and sounds like a masterpiece - wonderful to hear as it is to behold. will blow you out of your seat!"

The entire performance sparkles and crackles with that certain flair that belongs to the British!!!!"
England, My England -- The Story of Henry Purcell
An older viewer | 12/07/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)

"The music was great, but the movie had neither closed captions nor subtitles. As I'm getting a bit hard of hearing and the British accents were a bit thick, I followed very little of the story. It might have been great, but other than the vaguest outlines of the birth, life and death of Purcell and the events of his era, with which I was somewhat acquainted, I didn't know what was going on. It may well have deserved more than two stars, but I couln't tell. Closed captions or subtitles should be standard. The description of the DVD suggested to me that it had captions, but the copy I received did not.