Agatha Christie’s fan club will know Kenneth Branagh as the excentric Belgian detective Poirot, to fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he is the director of Thor. But it is the autobiographical Belfast that makes the actor a contender for an Oscar again.
Kenneth Branagh (61) was knighted ten years ago, and with good reason. In the 1980s, he took the British theatre world by storm with adaptations of Shakespeare plays. In the 1990s, he did exactly the same with the film world. Henry V and Hamlet earned him several Oscar nominations. In Much Ado About Nothing, he directed not only himself but also his then-wife Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton and Keanu Reeves.
After his divorce from Emma Thompson and bad reviews for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, his phenomenal triumphs came to an end. But the multi-talented man never had to go without a job. As an actor, he appeared in the Will Smith-vehicle Wild Wild West and in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, four seasons of the British detective series Wallander as well as in Dunkirk and Tenet, the last two by Christopher Nolan. His role as acting legend Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn earned him an Oscar nomination.
A new chapter began when he completed the superhero film Thor for Marvel. From then on, Hollywood could hire him for large, impersonal productions such as a live-action version of Cinderella. After the success of Murder on the Orient Express, he was asked to stick on another majestic moustache and once more portray Hercule Poirot in a murder mystery by Agatha Christie and filmed by himself. The pandemic delayed the release of Death on the Nile and the film only came out last month. That the press finds the film beautiful but corny and empty is of little concern to Branagh, who reinvented himself during the pandemic.
He poured his childhood memories into a screenplay that he filmed, to music by Van Morrison, with Judi Dench and a heap of young talent. The exceptionally compelling Belfast lets you experience, in black and white, a ten-year-old living through the Troubles, the excessive Northern Irish violence between Protestants and Catholics. But meanwhile, girls have to be seduced, grandparents visited and films re-enacted. Branagh has a claim for the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.