April 24th, 2011
|09:59 am - The Crimson Petal and the White|
One of the few TV shows I am watching at the moment is the TV dramatisation of Michel Faber's big historical novel The Crimson Petal and the White with Romola Garai as Sugar, a young Victorian prostitute who becomes the mistress of a rather drippy industrialist played by Chris O'Dowd (from the IT Crowd). The series also stars Richard E Grant, Gillian Anderson, Mark Gatiss and Shirley Henderson.
Faber wrote an article in the Guardian about the adaptation, saying that he felt it really captured the spirit of the book. I agree.
The story takes many of the features of a conventional Victorian novel, such as the mad wife and the unloved child, and portrays them in a harshly critical light. Like Mad Men it criticises the invisible privilege and complacency of the powerful. Chris O'Dowd is very good - comedians often are when they turn to straight acting for some reason - his character is weak and selfish, but he can't see that, because his whole world is assembled to privilege his class. The perfect Victorian home he has created is a dungeon of horror, but nobody can see it or talk about it. I think perhaps the horror is more explicit in this TV version than it was diluted in an immense novel. It's not that he is evil in himself - he's just ordinary - but the huge inequalities of power in society generate evil from normality.
|Date:||April 24th, 2011 09:14 am (UTC)|| |
I have been meaning to watch TCPATW, so this review might be the spur that gets me to actually do so. :D
Also, I love this: the huge inequalities of power in society generate evil from normality. That's the problem of privilege encapsulated, isn't it?
|Date:||April 24th, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)|| |
Yes, I was meaning to comment on that line!
I thought the dramatisation brought this theme out more strongly - pared down to essentials
Edited at 2011-04-25 09:07 am (UTC)
Yes, I've been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the adaptation. I'm glad the Beeb did it - I'm not sure many other producers of TV would have managed the level of integrity they've applied. Also agree that O'Dowd is particularly good, but I think the whole ensemble have done credit to the characterisation in the novel. Perhaps the richness/depth of the book helped them to do so?
Yes, a sympathetic reading of a complex novel
I've also been enjoying the mini, though I think its faithfulness highlights some of the weaknesses in the novel. Plot elements that were just this side of tolerable on the page - Henry's fate, Sugar's "rescue" of Agnes - become completely ridiculous on screen. I'm also intrigued by the fact that though the book highlights the contrast between William and Sugar and Henry and Mrs. Fox - one couple gives itself up to licentiousness while the other suppresses even the acknowledgment of their desire for one another - the adaptation sidelines the second couple and does a lot more with the contrast between Sugar and Agnes. Amanda Hale is fantastic as Agnes so I can't complain, but I think the book, by giving more space to Henry and Mrs. Fox, had a more rounded view on sex and the Victorian attitude towards it.
Amanda Hale is very good. I didn't know her before, which is why I didn't mention her. But she's heartbreaking. I quite like the outrageous plot nonsense, but you are right that the absurdity is harder to gloss over when it's right there in your eyes. To be honest I can't remember how Agnes' journey is resolved in the book.
Have not seen the show - but totally with you in your observation about comedians doing so well when they turn to straight acting.
There must, presumably, be some upper limit to how well they can do, but I've seen them in Shakespeare so the sky's the limit.
comedians often are when they turn to straight acting for some reason
The reason, I believe, is that comic acting is really fucking hard.
I was watching Carry On Don't Lose Your Head yesterday, and in that case the comic acting was really fucking awful, but that may be a boundary case (see also: On The Buses).