We had a sell-out night that left us uplifted. Many visitors left with a smile and the positive message that they were now ready to come back regularly. The high numbers were reflected in our ten for the discussion group for the 2021 film Belfast.
We had a few points to make. Should we have learnt more about The Troubles? As it was filmed on a set and not on location, one member of the group said it felt like “Coronation Street with a few explosions.” The thin front doors and rather modern looking shop signs jarred. We wondered why Catholic and Protestant children were attending the same school as that would be unlikely. The sequence where a street showdown is accompanied by the music of High Noon seemed to trivialise the serious situation. And on the other side of the coin, we never remembered getting so immersed in watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, unlike young Buddy’s family, who behaved like they were on a rollercoaster ride.
However, as this was a personal film from Kenneth Branagh about his childhood, we understood that everything was seen through a child’s eyes. This was reflected in the low camera angles. The acting was superb and Grandpa Ciaran Hinds particularly pleased – although he seemed like a toyboy to the rather older Judi Dench, who played his wife and who made the most of the final poignant message of the film. We valued the luminous black and white cinematography, interspersed with moments of colour when an over-awed young Buddy experiences the magic of film and theatre. Here we saw glimpses of writer and director’s Branagh’s future. Of course, Buddy himself was a skilled actor, reflecting the wide-eyed innocence of a child.
The Van Morrison soundtrack was a pleasure.
Most powerful was the theme of leaving family, particularly grandparents, for a new safe life. This struck a chord with us, with the present heartrending situation in Ukraine. For another member of the group, it showed how people can be drawn into conflicts and become forced into polarised positions.