So Kenneth Branagh is to become a Sir, and I for one think that he is a deserving recipient! Branagh’s film adaptations of Shakespeare plays, whether you like them or not, make him worthy of recognition in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. As young children, my siblings and I used to watch Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing repeatedly until the video broke, and his Hamlet was also a firm favourite, although watched less frequently due to its length. As a household we had perhaps more than the usual amount of Shakespeare in our video collection as my mother was an English teacher. The films were in the house, we didn’t have to watch them, but we did. We loved them and they have had stayed with us. With their emotionally charged scores and engrossing, lavish aesthetics, Branagh’s films are easily accessible, enjoyable and memorable. In fact one of my siblings mentioned that she would quite like a wedding like the sunny, orange-blossom-laden one in Much Ado; hopefully she will eschew the naked bathing scene from the beginning of the film and the rather unfortunate aspects of Hero’s first wedding to Claudius!
Nowadays I might say that there is much wrong with Branagh’s Hamlet. For instance, I now wonder why, other than to serve his own ego, does Branagh’s platinum blonde prince have to appear so thoroughly naked? I now think that, although the film has clarity, it lacks any strong interpretation of Shakespeare’s play, beyond the sense that Hamlet was a nice, handsome bloke. What, for example, where the motives that drove Julie Christie’s Gertrude? There are many questions left unanswered, but yet, it is a film I have loved from a young age. Many of Branagh’s films are loveable, such as his musical Love’s Labour’s Lost and beautiful (The dreamy landscape of As You Like It almost rivals that of Much Ado – but not quite), but all are watchable, and most of all, accessible. This is why my mother owned them as teaching aids, and this is why we watched them; we understood what was going on and could become immersed in the world that Branagh had created for each play. Shakespeare ought to be accessible and not the preserve of academics and culture snobs, and that’s why I think Branagh deserves his knighthood.