Monday, 13 August 2012

KENNETH BRANAGH - Mark White, 2005

I really don’t have a comment to make on the quality of Mark White’s writing or the depth of his research. I bought this because I am interested in Kenneth Branagh.
Branagh has made some of the greatest Shakespeare films I have ever seen and is an actor and director of distinction. The problem has always been with how the media perceives his confidence as arrogance. He has, in the past, been ‘guilty’ of living up to his own success. He has had the guile to be honest about his ability. We like our heroes to be self-effacing. If someone tells us they are good we doubt them and, even if we find that we are wrong, we try to bring them down anyway. Far better for an artist to pretend they are useless and have others prove them wrong. The major mistake Branagh made was to believe in his own talent. Had he been a sportsman, he would have had no trouble at all. Sports stars share their hopes and dreams freely because success at sport is good, even though it is only assured with a huge dollop of self-belief. If you fail in the high jump it is because someone else jumped higher, and we don’t blame you for saying that you could win gold.

Branagh’s films of Henry V, Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing brought Shakespeare to the masses in a way which Olivier could only dream of. Olivier’s were excellent in their time and perhaps one of Ken’s greatest sins was to usurp the master. Yet this book shows just how other Shakespearean actors revered him and saw him as the future. Jacobi even presented Branagh with a time-worn copy of the script of Hamlet, passed down from actor to actor, each one entrusted only to relinquish it when he saw a worthy successor.
This book pulls no punches. It is not written by a fan or to make a quick buck. It is a real warts and all account of a real human being who has the guts and the talent to take risks and sometimes, just sometimes, receive the acclaim he deserves.

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