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Posts Tagged ‘Rupert Penry-Jones’

David Tennant as Casanova

Oddly enough, there were two versions of Casanova brought to the screen in 2005. The better-known of the two is the lavish movie starring Heath Ledger – I have seen this film, a couple of years ago now, but remember finding it a bit disappointing as a drama, although Ledger was great and I enjoyed the Venetian settings, costumes etc. I should really give it a second try. Anyway, I’ve just belatedly watched all of  the three-part BBC mini-series made the same year, starring David Tennant, Peter O’Toole and Rose Byrne – I’d only seen bits and pieces up to now – and just wanted to write a short posting to say I loved this irreverent version of the story. It isn’t exactly what I’d usually think of as a costume drama, since the characters are very much modern people in 18th-century dress, and the language is very 21st-century too, full of contemporary slang and teasing references to the present day. But I found it  seductively enjoyable – and, perhaps surprisingly given the subject matter, I felt it was ultimately about romance rather than sex.

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It’s a few weeks now since I watched Cambridge Spies, so it’s starting to fade in my mind and this won’t be a proper review – but I wanted to write a brief posting to say I enjoyed it and think it will have a lot of appeal to fellow costume drama fans.

I didn’t watch the series when it was first shown on the BBC, because I think for some reason I got it into my head that it was a docu-drama, a genre I find hard to like – but, despite the announcement at the beginning of each of the four episodes that this is a true story with some changes, it’s a fully-realised drama  without that “docu” feeling about it.

CambridgeSpiesThe director is Tim Fywell, who made the movie of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle,  and it has the same sort of breathtakingly beautiful photography and the feeling of a vanished world – especially the opening episode, set at Cambridge between the wars, which has something of the languorous atmosphere of Brideshead Revisited.   The script is by Peter Moffat. I don’t think I’ve seen much of his other work, but he scripted last year’s Einstein and Eddington – another one I sadly managed to miss.

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I find it very difficult to pick favourite books, movies, etc – but if I was forced to pick one novel which has meant the most to me in my life, then it would probably be Jane Eyre. So it’s surprising that, so far, I haven’t got round to writing about any of the many adaptations of Charlotte Brontë’s great novel on this blog. Eventually I’d like to write about as many of them as I can – but, for starters, here are a few thoughts about the 1997  TV movie starring Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds, which has just been repeated on ITV3 in the UK. I saw it when it was first shown, but hadn’t remembered it all that well.

JaneEyreMorton2As with many single ITV dramatisations of long novels, the main problem with this version, directed by Robert Young and scripted by Richard Hawley, Kay Mellor and Peter Wright,  is that it is so short – 108 minutes according to the imdb.  Inevitably, large chunks have had to be left out, and there is very little of the young Jane’s time with the Reeds or at Lowood – just brief glimpses of key moments, like the Red Room and the death of Helen Burns. To be honest, I didn’t really mind skating over this part of the book quite quickly, as these sequences tend to be very demanding for child actresses, but a lot was lost.  Anyway, when seeing any dramatisation of Jane Eyre, I always find myself waiting eagerly for her first sight of Thornfield and her first meeting with Rochester, which of course is the centre of the book.

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This is a review I originally posted on livejournal, as with the other reviews I’ll be posting to start off this blog. This was probably my favourite of the three short ITV Austen adaptations, yet for some reason it is the one I find hardest to write about.  While I’m watching it I’m spellbound, yet as soon as it’s finished it slips away from me!
All I can really say is that I do find it a moving version, directed by Adrian Shergold and written by Simon Burke, with Sally Hawkins giving a heart-rending performance as Anne.

Sally Hawkins as Anne

Sally Hawkins as Anne

When I first saw this version, I found it a bit disconcerting to see how often actors loom right into the camera (at the end I’ll put a link to a review which talks about this), but I didn’t notice this so much second time, and was more struck  by the blend of music and landscape which help to create a mood that reminds me of the atmosphere of the novel, even if some of the plot twists are different.

The wild weather in Lyme seems just right for this melancholy mood, even though I know from the “making of” featurette shown on ITV that it was sheer luck the conditions were like this. Thank goodness this one was filmed in the real landscapes of the book, which do contribute so much. I missed the reality of Bath in Davies’ film of Northanger Abbey
Hawkins dominates so much that I don’t have a very strong sense of any of the other actors, though I do think Anthony Head is snobbishly perfect as Sir Walter, and I also like Rupert Penry-Jones’ understated performance as Frederick. 
After watching the film for a second time, I found a posting I wrote after my earlier viewing, which ties in with my reaction this time. I said there it struck me that the film-makers have particularly played about with speed in two sequences near the end. One of these is the bit where Hawkins, as Anne, rushes fast through the streets to catch up with Frederick.

Sally Hawkins as Anne and Rupert Penry-Jones as Frederick

Sally Hawkins as Anne and Rupert Penry-Jones as Frederick

In realistic terms, this seems slightly ludicrous, yet, since being taken aback by Anne’s running when I first saw the film, I’ve been realising there is something striking about the brief glimpses of all the famous streets of Bath, blurring together as she hurtles through them. This is one of the parts which seems like a dream sequence in a way to me – telescoping up the time which has passed and the distance which has grown up between them, and how desperate she is to break through all that.
 
Just to add it has also struck me since that the long run through streets to catch up with a loved one before it is too late is often something which happens at the end of films, especially romantic ones. When Harry Met Sally and Woody Allen’s Manhattan  are two which spring to mind, but there are many more. In some of these films there is no external reason for the urgency (there is in Manhattan, since Allen has to get to the airport before his girlfriend’s plane leaves), but I think it’s a way of dramatising the intensity of the emotion being felt.  

Going back to Persuasion, the other sequence is one where time is slowed down rather than speeded up – the agonisingly slow-motion kiss between Frederick and Anne, where it seems as if their lips will never meet. I think this again gives a feeling of how much time has passed and how difficult it is to come together at last.

I tend to hold on to particular moments from films, and both of these will stay with me from this version, as will the windswept views of the Cobb.
 
The first time I saw this version, I completely missed the disturbing final moment where Frederick (Rupert Penry-Jones) presents a blindfolded Anne with her own home, mysteriously restored to her. I’ve seen some discussion on the net of how it is hard to see how this could work in realistic terms, given the entail of the house – has he rented it?  The feeling is more that he had enough wealth to buy it and is sweeping her away from the need to worry about real life. However, getting away from these problems, it does remind me of the dream-like endings of a couple of novels (Bleak House and one by Scott, I forget which one!) where a hero or heroine is taken to see a house and then discover at the end that this is to be their home, and that in some sense it is an old home restored.       
I’ll just add a link to a review which I liked of this production – a great antidote to all the diatribes by people who hated it!

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