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BERLIN 2015 Out of Competition

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Mr. Holmes: 103 minutes with granddad


- BERLIN 2015: Twilight director and mainstream magician Bill Condon turns his lucrative touch to the Sherlock franchise

Mr. Holmes: 103 minutes with granddad
Milo Parker and Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes

Pass the Sherlock Holmes museum on any given day, and you would be forgiven for thinking that the many people queuing there don't realise that Sherlock didn't actually live there - or anywhere else for that matter - on account of him being fictional. What better, then, than a similarly legendary (half-Gandalf, half-Magneto) figure playing this infamous inspector? Indeed, let us hope that Ian Mckellen has already mocked up a new T-shirt that reads, "I'm Gandalf, Magneto and Sherlock Holmes. Get over it!"

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And this combo of fictional legend with cinema hero seems to be proving quite an out-of-competition success at this year's Berlinale. At the world premiere, cries of "Ian, Ian!" could be heard long after the film had started; and since then, the film has repeatedly packed out Berlin's massive cinemas. So what is the secret to Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes [+see also:
interview: Bill Condon
interview: Laura Linney
film profile
success? It doesn't present the cocaine-dabbling, hyper-intelligent figure of Arthur Conan Doyle's original. It has none of the off-the-wall, contemporary kookiness of the BBC's Sherlock franchise. Nor is it like Guy Ritchie's high-octane, muscular adaptation.

Well, the first secret to this adaptation (based on the novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, by American author Mitch Cullin) is its ability to take you into that familiar world of pristine, idyllic British beauty, which perhaps only exists in the mind of the American tourist. But the film is very clearly a UK production, with its very British penchant for the period drama and the occasional class quibble. The setting is also mostly nestled on the iconic cliffs of Dover.

The second secret comes in the form of the kind of Sherlock that Condon has chosen to realise. Gone is the infallible genius, iconic pipe and deerstalker hat. In their place is a world that has seen the horrors of both World Wars, and the much-esteemed Sherlock has transformed into an elderly man who must write people's names on his sleeve so he can remember them. Far from being a shallow film, then, Mr. Holmes makes for quite a touching look at how low even the mighty must fall in a world where the notes of mortality often seem to sound in all the most tragic places. 

As bleak as this world might seem, Condon never loses sight of that classic Hollywood feel-good factor, though. Enough embers of Sherlock's retired genius remain for him to secure the adulation of a new accomplice, a young boy named Roger, whose father died in the Battle of Britain. And the course of their relationship masterfully gives you the impression of having spent a Sunday with your granddad and an unlimited supply of Werther's Originals. So when this comes out on DVD, you'll be able to have that feeling on tap. 

Mr. Holmes is produced by See-Saw Films and represented by US firm FilmNation Entertainment.

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