An Exploration of Benedict Cumberbatch's Tragic Geniuses
Okay, the title's a bit extra, but stick with me because there is actually something worth-while here.
If you follow me on Twitter (which I would highly recommend because my tweets are 🔥), you may have noticed me using all my willpower to fight the urge to tweet about the new series Patrick Melrose every minute of every day - I would say my self-control has held out pretty nicely, actually. The release of Patrick Melrose has reignited my fervent Cumber-mania beyond any restraint. So, in order to focus my womanly affection into more constructive means than just the "Benedict Cumberbatch" tag on Tumblr, I decided to dedicate this month's film club to an exploration of some of Cumberbatch's finest characters and performances.
As an actor, being typecast can be pretty horrible - having to play the same character over and over again without any nuance or excitement can get dull and excessive. Yet for Cumberbatch, it seems typecast of tragic geniuses just keeps getting better with age. From his famous turn as Sherlock Holmes to Hamlet and now Patrick Melrose, Cumberbatch has an inexplicable ability to command the role of genius with ease and power without ever allowing the character to remain one dimensional. Instead, he expertly brings a range of traits and flaws to each individual character that expels them from the fantasy of a super sleuth to the reality of a tangible human. The subtleties of his performances bring a full-bodied life to his characters; he transforms them from being simple words on a page to gorgeously flawed and wonderfully unique humans.
It's hard to separate Cumberbatch from his larger-than-life characters - and, at times, it may seem that it is hard to separate his characters from one another. "Critics" will claim that each of his characters is simply a rehash of the last, just with a different name and tragic characteristics. But I am going to challenge that claim, and I hope you too will challenge it after going through these works. When watching these films, focus on the nuances of each of Cumberbatch's characters: how does he create the each character's unique identity through mannerisms and dialect? How does his body language speak volumes about the character's inner torment that dialogue doesn't? But don't just focus on the things that separate these characters, but focus on what connects each of them - what universal element brings all these tragic geniuses to life. When watching this month's collection, try to refrain from falling into the void of Cumber-mania and focus instead on the craft and genuine artistry Cumberbatch brings to each of his roles. It is truly a phenomenal experience watching through these different roles and dissecting exactly how an artist of this magnitude operates.
The films of Batched! are:
Patrick Melrose: Bad News (dir. Edward Berger) [Currently airing on Showtime / Sky]
Hamlet (dir. Lyndsey Turner) [available via National Theatre Live]
The Hollow Crown: Richard III (dir. Dominic Cooke)
Sherlock: The Lying Detective (dir. Nick Hurran)
Doctor Strange (dir. Scott Derrickson)
Parade's End: Episode 1 (dir. Susanna White)
The Imitation Game (dir. Morten Tyldum)
Here's how The Film Club works: each month I curate a collection of films that demonstrate the best of filmmaking. Each film club serves as the theme for that month on Upper Ground Production, with a range of posts covering the topics established in the collection. Make sure to come back throughout the month to read any articles that are companion pieces to this month's collection. Over the course of the month, you watch as many films on this list as you can, and, with your help, we can discuss how these films work together as a collection and how they reflect the artistry of filmmaking. If you want to take part in this month's film club, leave a comment, Tweet me, Tumblr me, or Email me discussing your thoughts on this collection!
Past Film Clubs
All Awards Coming Soon Directors Notes Essay Favorites Film Film Club Formative Films Inspiration Tuesday London Non British Review Television Theater The Greatest Hits Understanding Cinema Watch Lists Weekly Rewind What I'm (Re)Watching What I'm Watching Year In Review