Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Random thoughts on BBC’s adaptation of Parade’s End

My wife and I watched the BBC’s adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End last week. Rather than a formal review I wanted to pass on a few random thoughts both of us had on the production.

  • Tom Stoppard did an admirable job translating the novels to the screen. FYI—The Last Post was not included in the adaptation. So much of the books come from the characters’ interior world which had to be converted to dialogue and invented scenes, all of which have to be plausible for the work to hold up. Even anachronistic scenes—flappers in 1917/18?—work since in this case the point was to highlight the differences between the fighting and home fronts. 

  • The cast was superb. Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed Christopher Tietjens in a much more vulnerable light than I had pictured from the novels. Rebecca Hall did the impossible and made Sylvia Tietjens a likeable character despite her torture of Chrisotpher (my wife commented that her hair deserved its own credit). One thing that came through well was that Christopher’s beliefs and actions were a torture to Sylvia. Since we aren’t privy to Christopher’s interior world, Stoppard does a great job of shaping how we see the character through the eyes of others. Adelaide Clemens captured Valentine Wannop completely and the cast beyond that triangle were pitch-perfect as well. 

  • I was surprised how much my wife enjoyed it. She knew nothing about the books (other than seeing me read them). Her comments were along the lines of enjoying watching complex, three-dimensional characters that weren’t just caricatures. 

  • Some of the metaphors from the books translated very well. For example, Edith Macmaster’s hatred of Christopher clearly extends beyond the money Vincent owes and covers what the country owes him (and predecessors like him) and his “outdated” beliefs. 

  • The biggest compliment I think I can give to the adaptation is that I want to explore the novels again even though I read them less than two years ago. I think my wife has no problem buying me a couple of the annotated volumes after enjoying the show, too! 

My summary page for Parade's End. Be sure and check out the many clips from the series available on YouTube, too.


Fred said...

Thanks for the commentary. I've been looking forward to this since I heard about it. I just hope it won't take too long to be available on DVD.

Was any reason given for excluding _The Last Post_? Is there any chance it might be dramatized separately?

Dwight said...

I think the DVD is available through Amazon UK. I would imagine it should be available soon on the U.S. side.

No reason was given on excluding The Last Post. I was fine with ending where it did because it resolves the major issues. I would enjoy seeing a separate dramatization, especially since Rupert Everett as Mark would be a major focus (if they used the same casting). Not to mention Lyne Renee as Marie Leonie. Ahem... where was I...