In the bleak midwinter: a love letter to theatre

Kenneth Branagh and Michael Maloney in a behind-the-scenes picture of the film (IMDB)

This hidden jewel of Kenneth Branagh’s filmography  is an absolute delight.

First of all, I must thank my sister Verónica for the suggestion that I review this movie. Otherwise I would have missed out on it and, as corny as it may sound, my life would have been a little bit sadder.

Mind you, finding it has not been an easy feat and I’ve had to resign myself to an old copy with more problems than whatnot. But as soon as I can, I’ll go back to the search because this movie is worth it.

(Plus, being set at Christmas, it is an excellent moment to review this film.*)

This movie narrates the (mis)adventures of Joe Harper (Michael Maloney), an actor who decides to put up a Christmas production of Hamlet  to help his sister save the local church of a village called Hope.  Since it’s Christmas, and they might not get paid, not many actors are available, and thus Joe ends up with with a bunch of colourful characters as his troupe. And as anyone who  has been in a theatre production can tell you, that is the very beginning of a recipe for disaster.

Still, things sort themselves out and our heroes have their happy ending. The  play gets its premiere, the hero helps his sister, and our band of brothers (and sisters) finds a purpose.
Well, those endings might not happen in real life every time you set up a play, but when they do happen, they feel as cathartic as they do in this film. Because theatre, as the rest of show business or even more so, is that job where you come multiple times THIS close to either quitting or murdering everyone around you (but never truly do it, I promise!), but as things come to a close, you feel this unity with those who surround you, and when they end you are like “Well, when do we do the next one?”

Something tells me that Branagh himself has felt this multiple times, since this feeling reflects so frigging well in this movie. After all, Branagh is a man whose career has its foundations in theatre and, as they say, you might take the man away from the theatre but you can never get the theatre away from the man. It is an influence that has shown in a great deal of his movies, both in his acting and his directing (and I won’t hide for a second that I consider his adaptations of Shakespeare’s work to be the definitive versions, at least in the cases of Henry V, Much Ado and Hamlet).

This is why, as I put in the title, this movie reads to me as a love letter to theatre, with all its ups and downs. And also, it has become my new movie to watch every Christmas. (Let’s be honest, it was due time I found a new one XD).



*As you can imagine, this post was set to be finished and posted during Christmas, but alas, life got in the way again and here we are. (This is also why the video this week is not related to the post, hope you enjoy both nonetheless!)

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