Kenneth Branagh’s Oscar winner for original screenplay is a mix of wit and drama-Entertainment News, Firstpost

Set in a turbulent phase of Northern Ireland’s history, Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast sets up black-and-white coming-of-age vibes.

The panoramic montage of modern Belfast from the start provides a fascinating contrast to the film that follows. The brief sequence is among several that Kenneth Branagh shot in color for his black-and-white ode to nostalgia and is executed with a sense of impersonal calm before his trip down memory lane, brimming with humor and drama, don’t take over.

Writer-director Branagh’s film is set against The Troubles, or the tumultuous phase of ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland that began in the late 1960s and lasted until the late 1990s. begins on August 15, 1969. Rioters take to the streets of a working-class town in the national capital, Belfast, denouncing Catholics. Arson and violence ensue, and you know the lives of people on the street – Catholic and Protestant alike – who have lived in harmony for decades, will never be the same.

Branagh’s narration is not as dark as this context might suggest. It chooses to tell everything that takes place from the perspective of nine-year-old Buddy (played by the first feature Jude Hill), which allows the director to keep a look of innocence while wit and melodrama properly proportioned mingle with a sense of understated chaos. The idea of ​​wrapping the most turbulent phase in Northern Ireland’s history as a child’s quasi-fictional memoir allows Branagh to avoid focusing on the violent politics inherent in his saga. Puritans of history, as well as those who have suffered over the three decades, might feel let down by such a cinematic approach to creating feel-good vibes, but Branagh’s effort is engaging enough as a drama. of passage to adulthood to justify his victory at the Oscar for best original screenplay. In various interviews, the filmmaker described Belfast as his “most personal film”.

More than actual hostility used to propel real-life drama, Branagh Belfast comes to life through Buddy’s intimate experiences of the little things that define the metropolis of its growing years.

The apparent disconnect between a child’s innocence and the complicated socio-political mess playing out in the outside world is used well by Branagh to set up an interesting story. In an early scene, even as widespread chaos rages in the streets, Buddy and his brother Will (Lewis McAskie) lounge in the living room watching Star Trek on television. “Space, the ultimate frontier. These are the voyages of the Enterprise spacecraft, its five-year mission to explore strange new worlds,” voices William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk. The obvious nostalgia that an allusion to Star-Tek keep in mind, the sequence is a clever ploy to announce what awaits us. Shatner’s voiceover speaks of missions “to seek new life and new civilizations” and “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Buddy’s Pa (Jamie Dornan), who works in London, talks about the idea of ​​leaving Belfast for good, given the escalating lawlessness. He wants to emigrate to Sydney or Vancouver, although Buddy’s mom (Caitriona Balfe) isn’t quite convinced.

For Buddy, the idea of ​​leaving Belfast, his friends and, above all, his grandparents (Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds) is overwhelming. It’s an agony that the narrative uses well, to demonstrate how the heartfelt feeling a child might have, of being torn from their beloved city, can be infinitely more powerful than the acquired passions that drive armed public frenzy. for political gain. It’s a recurring notion in the script, simply rendered each time to establish a sentimental connection with the viewer.

Hill as a boyfriend is flawless in bringing Branagh’s childhood days to life, and the main reason the film remains an adorable experience despite its constant tendency to manipulate audiences’ emotions. The young actor is at the center of everything that happens and appears in almost every image as the script captures the essence of the city through his actions. The film’s effort to maintain a good mood throughout is imaginatively rendered even in the darkest of situations. A riot involving the looting of stores to avenge earlier Protestant violence sees little Buddy get in on the action, and Branagh’s execution of the sequence is a sardonic matter of wits involving a family pack of organic laundry detergent. Highlighting the futility of ethnic violence, the script also thumbs its nose at the Church. “Protestants, you are going to die! a minister yells from his Catholic pulpit after lecturing on the two paths of life to choose from (which leaves Buddy very confused), then immediately shouts, “Now, money!” looking for a donation.

Yet the city is also the haunt of Branagh’s discoveries. Buddy and Will watch in wide-eyed admiration as Raquel Welch plays cavewoman hugs in the 1966 adventure film A Million Years B.C. on a family day out at the movies (“Raquel Welch is one hell of an education for the boys,” warns their mum Papa, after claiming that the boys could learn something from watching the film). Irish football legend Danny Blanchflower finds homage through a graffiti mural. As the street in front of Buddy’s house is fenced off for security and a nighttime neighborhood watch system is introduced, television plays a drama starring James Stewart and John Wayne in the Hollywood classic, The man who shot Liberty Valance. Belfast is truly a mood piece, and Branagh’s triumph lies in how easily he lets his audience soak up the feel-good vibes.

Belfast film reviewer Kenneth Branaghs, Oscar winner for original screenplay, is a good mix of wit and drama

As a director, Branagh has mostly attempted book-to-film projects in the past, from Shakespeare (Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Love’s Labour’s Lost, As You Like It) to Agatha Christie (Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile) to Tom Clancy (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) to Mary Shelley Frankenstein, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer and Cinderella. In Belfast, an original screenplay, Branagh reserves a scene where Buddy leans into a Thor comic, almost as if to recall that he directed the 2011 worldwide hit of that name starring Chris Hemsworth as a superhero. Marvel. Branagh’s directing approach in Belfast was understandably more relaxed, as he was telling his own story.

Whether Belfast is a film about the creation of a specific medium, the cinematography of Haris Zambarloukos and the music of Van Morrison deserve the maximum mark. The film’s technical finesse comes to life, especially in scenes that capture Buddy’s outbursts of imagination. A scene where he is outside with his family watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the 1968 musical adventure film about a magical flying car, is brilliantly captured in color. The symbolism that art helps bring to life the true essence of life is also emphasized by the use of color photography for a sequence where the family looks at the room, A Christmas Carol.

Aided by a strong cast and wholesome entertainment set-up, Branagh’s Belfast has a universal impact for the nostalgic smell that it features as its USP. The film is a moody piece that aims to transport its audience to a happy space. In black and white processing, it bursts with myriad hues of life.

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5 stars)

Belfast is available on BookMyShow Stream, from June 3

Vinayak Chakravorty is a Delhi-NCR based film critic, columnist and journalist.

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