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Posts Tagged ‘Iain Glen’

I’ve now watched this Andrew Davies adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s last novel at least three times over the years (it might even be four), and my admiration grows each time. I think it must be one of his very greatest TV adaptations, up there with his takes on Middlemarch, Pride and Prejudice and Vanity Fair – and it is yet another one from the late 1990s, a period which saw an extraordinary flowering of classic adaptations. All the cast are superb, with my very favourite performances coming from Francesca Annis and Michael Gambon. For me, Wives and Daughters is Gaskell’s masterpiece, and this is a version which does it justice. Sadly she didn’t live to write the last few pages of her novel, but I rather like the ending this mini-series supplies – though I’ll discuss that at the end!

This mini-series looks beautiful, set in the countryside throughout (apart from brief glimpses of Cynthia in London and Roger in Africa), with endless shots of sweeping green landscapes and country houses. Director Nicholas Renton also made the fine 1998 version of Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, which has a similar feeling for country scenery. However, like his FFTMC, this isn’t just an idyllic picture of country life – it is made clear how characters are hemmed in and how difficult it is for anyone to escape the atmosphere of gossip and all the little rules governing village society. Wives and Daughters doesn’t deal with changing times as overtly as North and South, but the theme is still there, as is class conflict. The Squire in particular is clinging to the past while everything changes around him.

For anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen the mini-series, the story centres on a doctor’s daughter, Molly Gibson, who gains a new step-mother and step-sister, Hyacinth and Cynthia, when her father remarries – and on the tensions within this ill-assorted instant family. However, if you haven’t read/seen it, you’d be best not to read on until you have, as I’ll be discussing aspects of the whole plot – and also, as with North and South, you have a great double treat in store from the book and film.:)

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The 1991 TV production of George Eliot’s Adam Bede,  a tale set in the late 18th century, is one of many costume dramas only available on region 1 DVDs.  Fortunately for me, though, it was shown over here in the UK on satellite TV station TCM, so I was able to record it from there rather than forking out for it on import.

adambede11The film has a fine cast, headed by Iain Glen in the title role as Adam and Patsy Kensit as Hetty Sorrel. Glen was  then young and handsome with a lot of wavy hair, and would surely look almost unrecognisable to anyone who only knows him from his recent starring role in a very different costume drama, Channel 4’s City of Vice. Kensit, a well-known film and TV actress in Britain,  had long dark hair rather than her familiar blonde locks, and to me looked somehow a little as I imagine Hardy’s Tess, especially in a glimpse of her eating strawberries seductively. (more…)

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