Last night I attended a very special screening of Cinderella, the Irish premiere in fact, with director and much adored Potter alumni Kenneth Branagh in attendance. It was an honour to be in the presence of such a talented actor and director, not to mention an incredibly kind and charming man as many who have worked with him would testify. Mr Branagh introduced the film, took part in a detailed post-film Q&A with members of the audience and was then presented with the festival award, the Volta.
The Q&A began with a few questions from the host about how he came to work on the project, the team behind the intensive candelabra and other beautiful architecture and other facets of the film-making process. He also spoke about his memories of Dublin, in particular when he worked on a Gaiety Theatre production of Hamlet when he was 27. Then followed some interesting questions from audience members which he politely responded to with memories of Helena Bonham-Carter's request to have wings and to play a less talented Fairy Godmother and the beginning of his 'classical approach' to film-making (with possible resonances of theatre) that he picked up a way of describing from Cyril Cusack. He also spoke about how he didn't consider his film a re-make, rather that it was a re-telling of one humankind's overarching plots on human nature that can be seen many times in a fresh way due to the 'elasticity' of these stories.
I am currently working on sourcing video of these questions. More pictures will also be on our Facebook soon.
Finally, Kenneth was presented with the Volta award, named after the first cinema in Ireland. Kenneth was humbled by receiving it and told an interesting story about a "tenuous" link between the project he made with his presenter Orla Brady, Wallander, and the awards title. He had been hugely interested in James Joyce and visited a place he once lived in Sweden, where it so happens Joyce discovered cinema technology which he brought back to Dublin which made the Volta Theatre possible. I thought it was an interesting connection!
The video of this presentation will be on our YouTube soon.
The video of the award presentation is now below:
The video of the award presentation is now below:
In the meantime, below is my review of Cinderella.
There is a reason I gave this adaptation of the classic the highest possible audience award ranking - it was, if you'll excuse the pun, simply magical. The age-old tale was given new life with less focus on the musical numbers and more interest in the complexity of the characters. The musical numbers still appeared in the credits, never fear! Ella was less a silly girl seeking a prince than a ever-kind independent girl who wished to honour her parents by remaining in their home and even when times were tough tried to see the best in people. She tried to live by her mothers wise words of living with courage and remaining the kind little girl her mother left behind. That said, it is no surprise she eventually has enough and stands up for herself. It is important to note that her motives for disobeying her horrible step mother and going to the ball were not to meet and try and win the hand of the prince, rather to possibly see a new friend of hers who happened to be the prince. It is also nice that the film added some depth to the relationship between Ella and the prince, to her named Kit, and they didn't just meet once and fall madly in love. They of course get married after a short time as the story requires but efforts were made to give more credit to both characters' personalities and spirit for the realtionship's development.
Lily James played the part beautifully and helped in adding the depth of character mentioned. The director was right when he spoke of the musicality and sweetness held in her voice alone, an attribute he gave credit for why she first grabbed his attention. Her performance is indeed touching and makes one feel deeply her grief and frustration throughout the film and hope as she does for a better future. Although only in a short snippit of the film, Helena Bonham-Carter gives a vibrant turn as this ditzy version of the fairy Godmother, something she insisted on as I previously mentioned. As the director also mentioned the true affection she shows for Ella in this scene is a nice touch . There is a particular humourous moment when she has limited foresight in transforming the pumpkin into a carriage. Another great actor with limited screen-time but which is used to great effect is Derek Jacobi, who plays the King with dignity and poise, creating the prefect balance between the sterness required of a king and the kindness of a loving father. This is a large cast of talented side actors and Kate Blanchett is no exception - she adds a certain amount of understanding, although not enough, as to why the step mother is so bitter about life. Richard Madden also gave some much needed depth to a usually pretty flat Prince Charming. He is shown as somebody who values kindness and good over gain and beauty, who wants to honour his father but sticks to his principles.
The film is given incredible beauty and attention to detail by the many hardworking costume and set designers and of course the numerous people on the ground floor, sewing countless gorgeous dresses for the ball scene and scenes in Ella's house and those lighting the thousands of candles for the candelabra as Branagh mentioned! Not to mention the time and effort that went into researching dress and architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries to make the fairytale come to life with such vibrant colour and scenery. Case in point, the illustrious glass slippers,one of which was in attendance at the premiere, left.
Also in need of some serious recognition is the animation team who made the beloved mice from the original Disney film come to life. Although I'm told by somebody more in the know on Animation 101 that there were some flaws, I found the cute animals to be inspiringly real and rounded off the tale of kindness and winning against the odds.
Hats off to Mr Branagh for creating his own take on Cinderella but keeping alive the hopes and dreams of a generation that held the original among it's beloved.