This Swiss-Spanish pic chronicles the story of Shakespeare’s Falstaff. Taken from several plays, it details the last days of Falstaff’s relationship with the Prince of Wales, the future King Henry V of England. A personal viewpoint, it mixes the grotesque, bawdy, comic and heroic, and does have a melancholy under its carousing and battles.
Orson Welles has tried to humanize Falstaff in dwelling on his intimations of old age that make him accept a buffoonish part in the young prince’s life. He contrasts this with the sombre reflections of the real father (Henry IV) on whose uneasy head lies the new crown of England. The prince finally has to choose between an indulgent father figure, Falstaff, and the real adult father who means responsibility, dedication and adulthood.
Welles himself is gigantically bloated and full of swagger that yet shows glints of lonely pride and fear of rejection under a pompous exterior. John Gielgud, on the other hand, is sombre, suffering and stately as the King Henry IV trying to sort out of the problems of the court and his vassals in order to unite his nobles.