As You Like It. Kenneth Branagh. 2006.
Oh, Kenneth Branagh. How we adored him in the early 90s. He could do no wrong.
He was that perfect mix of high culture (Shakespeare) and real drama (Peter’s Friends) with a detour into silly genre (Dead Again). And he was married to Emma Thompson and had Phyllida Law in all his films, which are excellent things to be and have.
And then things went seriously tits up just a couple years later, with what I remember as a string of horrible films he either acted in or directed.
So the only thing of his I’ve seen from er the last two decades was Thor, which was awful. (Not to be confused with Thor: Ragnarok which is the best super-hero movie ever.)
But this is Shakespeare… so let’s give it a chance…
Oh, Branagh moved it to Japan… and… it’s an HBO/BBC copro-duction. Well, that can be good! I like TV theatre. I like sets made out of MDF that have that hollow sound when the actors walk around.
… uh-oh. Is this supposed to be a… parody? No. He’s kept the original text, I think; not that I know it by heart. I mean, this is a pretty silly comedy, if I remember it correctly, but it just looks so… cheap. It’s got the aesthetics or As The World Churns, and a constant insipid score that tells you how to feel all of the time and a cinematography that’s best described as “they apparently had cameras”.
I mean, there’s some great performances where, like David Oyelowo as Orlando de Boys (and Janet McTeer as Audrey is hilarous), but it’s incredible how much Branagh undercuts the actors with his scoring and pedestrian shooting choices.
So: This is very funny, but that’s all down to Shakespeare and the actors.
I changed my mind. This shot changed my mind:
If you can get silly enough to adorn the sheep with flowers, it’s not all bad.
This blog post is part of the Century series.