Brad's Reviews > Beginning

Beginning by Kenneth Branagh
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Aug 02, 10

bookshelves: faves, shakespeare, autobiography, drama, to-read-again
Read in August, 1990, read count: 2

I am a huge, unabashed fan of Ken. I love him. I have loved him for years. And this extremely early biography simply made me love him more. I love him so much that if you ask me the question, "Emma or Ken?" My answer is Ken (though I love Emma too).

Beginning took much heat for being precipitous. It came out extremely early in Ken's career, just after his amazing triumph with Henry V, and everyone thought it was dreadfully narcissistic to write an autobiography when he was so damn young. They're probably right. But that arrogance, that self belief, the surprising humility beneath the arrogance, the recognition that it was too much, and the wonderful tale of a young life on the brink of a greatness that would fizzle and remain on the verge for years is just too beautiful to dismiss.

A good portion of the book is taken up with his production diary for Henry V (which is excellent, particularly for anyone interested in some day directing films), but the best parts of the book are the truly autobiographical chapters, which offer unforgettable anecdotes about all of Ken's heroes. These sections made me fall deeply in love with a couple of generations of amazing British actors, and I remain fans of them all to this day. Branagh's marathon runs with Brian Blessed, his awe over the Hamlet recall of Derek Jacobi (the man knows the ENTIRE play by heart), his love for Olivier and Gielgud, his crush on Judi Dench, all of it dazzles, and it is obvious that Branagh was -- and if one considers his body of work he must remain -- as big a fan as he is a colleague of these geniuses.

And you know what, apart from his appallingly shabby rendition of Frankenstein, I remain a massive fan of Branagh's body of work. I loved him most recently in Valkyrie (regardless of my general disappointment in the film) and Wallander, but I really can't think of anything else I've disliked. I know some find his Hamlet overwrought, but I love huge portions of it and like most of the rest (and casting Heston as the Player King is genius). I loved him as Gilderoy Lockhart. I still adore Dead Again. And I don't care what anyone thinks, I love his casting of Keanu as Denzel's brother in Much Ado About Nothing.

You can tell me he sucks. But I'll disagree. You can tell me I am a fool. And I will say you're probably right. But I love Ken. Nothing's going to change that. And I know, at least, that James has my back.

Kenneth Branagh is the King. I can't wait for The Mighty Thor!
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by James (new)

James Hadn't even heard of this book until it showed up in your updates. I still watch Henry V twice a year and read the St. Crispin's day speech to wind myself up. I'll be jotting out to pick this up ASAP!


message 2: by Brad (last edited Aug 01, 2010 02:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad It's what made me want to act. It is a fascinating book because it was written just after Henry V. It was at the beginning of his career; there is a need for more books at that point in an artist's life. You'll love it, Jimmy-boy.


message 3: by Steve (new)

Steve I keep telling people about the Heston portion. I think Heston would of made a great Lear. I actually liked Valkyrie. There's a really good novel out by Paul West called The Very Rich Hours of Count von Stauffenberg.


message 4: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow I did really love Henry V. I need to watch that one again. And I also love his Benedick - childhood favorite. His Hamlet's not to my taste, but I think it's a preference thing.

Did you see Love's Labour's Lost, though? That was what turned me against him. It's so wrong. That's my favorite Shakespeare, so it is a big deal to me that he completely mangled it. He had gone to the dark side at that point.


Brad Meredith: I have seen Love's Labour's Lost, and I have to admit that it is so damn bad I've long erased it from my memory. So I forgot all about it when I was writing this review. I actually played Nathaniel in a mediocre staging of the play, and it made me hate Ken's version even more, although I will say that I thought Ken had some some clever ideas despite the fact that they never worked onscreen. And yeah, his Benedick is excellent.

Steve: Heston as Lear would have been amazing. Amazing. I need to write a review of Heston`s autobiography next. It made me love him too...but that`s another story.


message 6: by Sparrow (new)

Sparrow Okay, as long as you concede Love's Labour's, I'm good with you being mistaken about Hamlet. The Zeffirelli will always be my true love on that one. I agree that there were some good concepts in Love's Labour's, but so poorly executed that when we went to take the tape out of the VCR (way back in the day), and it got stuck for a minute, we freaked out. I actually thought about throwing it on the burn pile to save future generations the pain of seeing Matthew Lillard out-act Kenneth Branagh. No one should have to see that.


Brad I wasn't able to see it onscreen when it came out, so I actually bought the DVD the day it was released. It is buried in the basement with all the rest of the trashy movies. I have only seen it once. I am so bitter that you reminded me of that movie ;) I had purged it from my brain. Damn!

I am not a fan of the Zeffirelli myself. My fave is a Richard Burton version done live onstage. Hume Cronin plays the most amazing Polonius I've ever seen, and even though Burton is waaaaaaaay to old for the part, I loved his laconic manner in the role of Hamlet.


message 8: by Sparrow (last edited Aug 02, 2010 07:55AM) (new)

Sparrow Well, I'm glad I could make sure you're keepin' it real here. I'd hate for you to be too happy. Bad for the complexion.

I've only seen clips of the Burton version, and I've never given it a proper chance. I think I was worried that I'd lose my celebrity crush on him if it were too costumey and elevated-standard. I'll have to watch it if it's your fave, though.

The thing about the Zeffirelli is the women. I think Mel Gibson does a really good job, and he was still pretty dreamy then, but Helena Bonham Carter as Ophelia? Yes please! There's no way the insipid Kate Winslet could even come close to competing with that. Especially not the minute before she made Titanic. No way. And I also love Glenn Close as Gertrude. I think she is really wonderful in that part.


message 9: by Amber (new)

Amber Tucker Sounds like a great book. And... what can I say, his Gilderoy Lockhart IS fabulous!


message 10: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad I wish we'd seen him in the magical loony bin in the films. I missed that scene. That was Order of the Phoenix, wasn't it?


message 11: by Amber (new)

Amber Tucker Yes, I believe so. That's the thing about turning fairly long books into movies, especially movies meant for children or young teens.


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