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(Credit: Focus Films)

Film

Kenneth Brannagh discusses the importance of Van Morrison in 'Belfast'

@Russellisation

In its gorgeous monochrome glory, Kenneth Brannagh’s Belfast has emerged as a leading Best Picture contender at the 2022 Oscars, challenging the likes of The Power of the Dog, Drive My Car and West Side Story, which are each vying for the coveted award. 

With a cast including Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Ciarán Hinds, Jude Hill and Judi Dench, Brannagh’s film is in a great position to steal the glittering crown.

Set in late 1960s Northern Ireland during the start of the troubles, Brannagh’s film is a coming of age story that follows a young boy navigating the confusing landscape of contemporary Ireland with his working-class family. Filled with the songs of Van Morrison, the director revealed to Roe McDermott at Hot Press the inspiration behind using so much of the influential musician’s work. 

“Although there’s beautiful music in all parts of the island, and contemporary and many other classics, it was hard to think of doing a film about Belfast without acknowledging that particular voice,” says the filmmaker, recalling several conversations he had with Morrison. 

Continuing, Branagh adds, “I did write to him, and then he telephoned, and sort of auditioned me as it were,” with the iconic Northern Irish performer not omitted from Branagh’s careful scrutiny, adding, “I think he wanted to know my intentions were honourable, and that we wouldn’t mess with his sound”. 

Doing more than just lending them his back catalogue of music, Morrison also wrote a new song for the film, ‘Down To Joy’ that can be heard during the introduction. Describing the original song as “magical,” Brannagh added, “He came to see cuts of the film and offered notes. Van was an excellent collaborator, and the many, many people who had warned me that he would be a very grumpy soul, turned out to be incorrect in this instance!”.