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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Hardy’

I’ve been overloading on polar dramas lately by watching both The Last Place on Earth (1985), about Scott and Amundsen’s race for the South Pole, and this more recent Channel 4 mini-series, starring Kenneth Branagh in the title role, which was repeated recently on a UK satellite TV station. In the wake of Amundsen and Scott’s triumphant and tragic journeys to the Pole, Shackleton came up with a different but equally daring type of challenge – a trans-Antarctic expedition. His group ran into deadly danger when their ship became trapped in the ice and was crushed, but the mini-series traces how they overcame all the odds to make their way back to civilisation, without losing a single member of the expedition team.  

From the opening scenes onwards, I realised that Shackleton was a top-quality production  – I hadn’t spotted the name of the director and writer, but it was no surprise to discover that it was Charles Sturridge, director of the classic ITV adaptation of  Brideshead Revisited. The first episode of Shackleton, set in the period just before the First World War, has the same atmosphere of aching nostalgia as Brideshead, similarly showing the last vestiges of a privileged world about to be torn apart. The blend of landscapes, costumes and music here also has the same kind of  seductive power as the country house scenes in the earlier series. For Shackleton, the music is by Adrian Johnston, composer of many of my favourite TV and movie soundtracks, and the cinematographer is Henry Braham, who also filmed yet another period drama I’ve watched recently, The Land Girls (1998), also full of beautiful landscapes.

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After watching the Andrew Davies version of Middlemarch, I was keen to see his other major George Eliot adaptation, Daniel Deronda. Unfortunately, as with so many of the other films I keep writing about, it isn’t available on DVD in region 2 –though  it used to be, and I’m using the sleeve of the deleted DVD as an illustration since I prefer it to the region 1 sleeve. So, once again, I had to buy on import.

DanielDerondasleeve2Watching this not so long after Middlemarch, it struck me just how many similarities there are between the two dramas, and, of course, also between the two source novels. Both have a heroine and a hero who are not romantically destined for one another, but who become friends and whose stories sometimes counterpoint one another.  Both also show the central characters constantly hemmed in and pressured by other people’s expectations.

In Daniel Deronda, Daniel and Gwendolen meet in the series’ opening scene, at the casino in Monte Carlo, and, looking at this beautiful young couple, you might well think they are going to end up together – but, in fact, their stories are about to fork off in very different directions, only occasionally intertwining.

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After enjoying a repeat viewing of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, I decided to re-watch another major Andrew Davies adaptation from around the same period . This time I went for the BBC’s six-episode version of George Eliot’s Middlemarch, made the previous year, with a superb  cast,  headed by Juliet Aubrey and Rufus Sewell… though Robert Hardy actually gives my favourite performance.

Rufus Sewell, Juliet Aubrey and Robert Hardy

Rufus Sewell, Juliet Aubrey and Robert Hardy

This is another production which was originally shown when my children were very young and so I almost certainly failed to take it in properly at the time. Watching it again now, I found myself full of admiration for it, and think it is every bit as good as the Davies P&P – dare I say, maybe even better. It’s been a long while since I’ve read Middlemarch, so  I can’t comment in any detail on how near the adaptation is to the novel, although clearly, with such a long book, large chunks are bound to have been lost or condensed into smaller scenes or sequences of dialogue. In any case, I do think this mini-series, directed by Anthony Page,  is a complex work of art in its own right, creating a powerful picture of the tensions and rivalries within a small community, and within two marriages. 
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