This is just to say that I’ve now seen Glorious 39, Stephen Poliakoff’s latest movie, a period drama-cum-thriller set among the English aristocracy as war is breaking out. However, I’m not going to write a full review as I really didn’t like it at all and was disappointed, and I prefer to spend my time writing about the productions which I admire. The story seems to me to start well in the first half hour or so, but then becomes increasingly ludicrous and starts to turn into a bad horror film. I won’t give away the various plot twists, as they are supposed to come as a shock, but will just say I didn’t find them or the characters at all believable.
It’s a pity – I’d been looking forward to it as I’ve liked many of Poliakoff’s previous films, especially Close My Eyes (1991) and the mini-series Shooting The Past (1999). It also has a great cast, led by Romola Garai and Bill Nighy, with a good role for Julie Christie as an eccentric aunt. David Tennant and Hugh Bonneville both have fairly small parts – Tennant plays an MP who warns against appeasing Hitler, giving a powerful speech at a dinner party- and their scenes are probably the best in the movie. The costumes, Norfolk scenery, and music are all beautiful, and there are also some gorgeous cats in many of the scenes… but it’s all dragged down by the script. I just kept thinking of The Remains of the Day (1993), which deals with similar material, looking at fascist sympathisers in high places before the war, but does it immeasurably better.
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Posted in costume drama, tagged Antarctic, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Bill Nighy, Captain R F Scott, Ferdinand Fairfax, Hugh Grant, ITV, Martin Shaw, Max von Sydow, Michael Maloney, Richard Morant, Roald Amundsen, Roland Huntford, Stephen Moore, Susan Wooldridge, Sverre Anker Ousdal, Sylvester McCoy, Titus Oates, Trevor Griffiths on February 19, 2010 |
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I’ve just finished watching this epic seven-part 1980s ITV mini-series about Scott and Amundsen’s race for the South Pole in 1911-12, starring Martin Shaw and Norwegian actor Sverre Anker Ousdal. It makes harrowing viewing at times, especially during the almost unbearable, drawn-out coverage of Scott and his men in the last desperate days of their lives. Directed by Ferdinand Fairfax, who also made Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981), this comes from a period when TV companies seemed to keep making very expensive and long historical drama series – which sadly doesn’t often happen now!
I should say at the outset that I’m not any kind of expert on Scott or Amundsen and don’t know how accurate this account is. I believe it caused some controversy at the time, and it definitely portrays Scott as arrogant and largely responsible for equipping his expedition badly, taking ponies rather than enough dogs and skis – while Amundsen is seen as more competent and a better explorer, though he seems arrogant too at times. (I’d imagine some measure of arrogance is needed to mount an expedition like this in the first place.) Anyway, I’m hoping to read more about them both and find out more background. (I would imagine there might be new books and documentaries in 2011/12 to mark the centenary.) Just looking at this as a drama, I find it enthralling and moving to watch, even though, or indeed because, it portrays these famous explorer-heroes as flawed human beings. It does show how terrible the weather was during that Antarctic winter, and how the conditions contributed to the tragedy.
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