The “seismic” movie that changed Benedict Cumberbatch’s life
(Credit: Netflix)


The "seismic" movie that changed Benedict Cumberbatch's life

When it comes to English actors who exude serious star power, it’s difficult to overlook Benedict Cumberbatch‘s remarkable achievements. Hailing from London, he has made significant contributions across the realms of theatre, television, and film throughout his career. Notably, he has graced the stages of the Royal National Theatre and delivered a memorable portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the acclaimed BBC TV series bearing the character’s name.

As for Cumberbatch’s most significant success on the big screen, though, it’s hard to look beyond his Academy Award-nominated performances in The Imitation Game and The Power of the Dog, the latter of which was directed by the excellent Jane Campion, a revisionist western psychological drama with a phenomenal performance by Cumberbatch.

And Cumberbatch looks to have been a fan of Campion’s even before he’d had the opportunity to meet the director. During a feature with A-Frame, Cumberbatch spoke glowingly of Campion’s 1993 period drama film The Piano, starring Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill and Anna Paquin in her first notable acting performance.

“It really had a seismic effect on me. The last time I saw it was before my first meeting with Jane [Campion], and it’s a transformative experience for a viewer,” Cumberbatch said. “I remember when I first saw it being blown away by how overloaded sensorially I felt. It felt like a five-dimensional movie experience. And it really, really burned into my imagination. It felt all-consuming.”

The Piano tells of Ada McGrath, a mute woman from Scotland in the mid-1800s, who must travel to a remote part of New Zealand with her daughter after she is sold by her father to a marriage with a Kiwi frontiersman called Alisdair Stewart. Ada has chosen not to speak since the age of six, although nobody knows why exactly.

“There’s just a wonderful synergy in that film, between the acting, the story and the delivery,” Cumberbatch noted. “It is a remarkable feat. That [Michael] Nyman score is phenomenal. It’s such a sensual trigger into that world and the passion of Ada and the self-imposed constraints on her, but also the societal constraints on her—and then the freedom, the majesty and how the strings meet that central theme in the score are just magical.”

Campion’s film was a commercial success, grossing $140.2million again on a $7m budget, and it was also one of the most critically admired movies of the 1990s, winning three Academy Awards, ‘Best Actress’ for Hunter, ‘Best Supporting Actress’ for Paquin, who was just 11 years old at the time, and ‘Best Original Screenplay’ for Campion.

Discussing the acting of Holly Hunter, Cumberbatch said: “And the raw honesty of all of those performances. The technical mastery of Holly Hunter, but also how she bared her soul. She rips your heart out. She absolutely rips your heart out. Her relationship with a daughter, with her husband [Sam Neill] and with the man [Harvey Keitel] who steals her piano one key at a time and her with it.”

Watch The Power of the Dog on Netflix.