Live to tell. Kenneth Branagh was born in Belfast in 1960, into a Protestant family who, when he was nine years old, decided to move to England to flee violence. The child protagonist Belfast, his new film as a director, a big favorite for the imminent Oscar nominations, set in the late sixties, is the same age as him in those years of confrontation in Ireland.
There is no doubt: Branagh has poured into the figure of the likeable redhead Buddy his own childhood self, his sensations, his illusions and his (few) fears. Of course, the uneven but often interesting director of magnificent Shakespearean approaches (Henry V, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, In the Dead of Bleak Winter), a vindictive exercise in Hitchcockian style (to die yet), an influential generational drama (Peter’s friends), and a few sizable slips, starting with his anabolic version of the Frankenstein de Mary Shelley, He has fled from political and religious reflection on the Irish problem, and has sealed his film with a concept as unquestionable as tolerance. No possible gray scales. In his script there is no trace of the formation of the Provisional IRA or the vigilante (or castrating) role of the British army. Only (or nothing less than), the fanatical actions of intolerance against Catholics by certain Protestant powers, with the aim of branding them and throwing them out of their neighborhoods with the help of the Molotov cocktail.
In a beautiful black and white, with elegant camera movements that never seek invisibility or simple realistic everyday life, but rather the clear sensation of being in front of a performance, in front of a film about an era, in front of a nostalgic dream (somewhat indulgent), Belfast It thus conforms to a beautiful fable about pain, like an initiation tale. Van Morrison’s powerful songs wrap a story of loss of innocence, passion for grandparents and encounter with first love, which ends up being articulated as a melodrama: between comics (and a nod to himself from Branagh with Thor), children’s games, indelible movies in theaters and on television, and soccer goals painted with chalk on the walls of the streets. Although also between barricades, both physical and metaphorical, at a time, according to the history written by Branagh, not suitable for complexity: days of “either you are with us, or you are against us”, of fiery religious diatribes launched at the top of their voices priestly pulpits.
From its production design and its beautiful plays with color, when the child protagonist and his family go to the cinema and theater and these appear in bright tones, contrasting with his life in black and white, Branagh’s work is based on a certain idealization (including the gorgeous parents: Caitriona Balfe and Jamie Dornan), in which the mafia portrait of the intolerant that is poured into history does not admit nuances. And without half measures, in a land and time of enormous complexity, the transcendence dwarfs.
It is possible that, at least for this reviewer, Belfast It is not, due to its characteristics and objectives, the unforgettable movie that was talked about in some areas, marked as the great favorite for the Oscar for the best production of the year. One category, that of major work —regardless of the academy awards—, to which he could have aspired with a little more depth and insight, because aesthetic beauty and the absence of a true, intuited crudeness have little to do with it. but that never stops disturbing. However, Belfast perhaps it is the tender and kind, gleaming and hopeful work, with a festive footage of barely an hour and a half, that these saddened global days sentimentally demand.
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Direction: Kenneth Branagh.
Interpreters: Jude Hill, Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds.
Gender: melodrama. United Kingdom, 2021.
Duration: 98 minutes.
Premiere: January 28.
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