ENJOY THIS MINI-SERIES AND FORGET THE BOOK REVIEWS
Recenserad i USA 🇺🇸 den 8 juni 2013
When a mini-series or regular film is based upon a book source, there are invariably changes that are made in order to take into consideration the difference in mediums. Even THE GODFATHER movie was not exactly like the book; and there is yet to be a movie or mini-series based upon THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII or SHE which remotely resemble their book sources. In the DVD Special Features section, even Ken Follett and more than one actor acknowledged the difference between the two in this case, and no one objected. Certainly Follett has more of a right than anyone. Yet, he emphatically endorsed the screenplay.
Now to the mini-series itself: Cynthia Nixon (of SEX & THE CITY fame), who as Petranilla got top billing was like a cross between Lucretia Borgia, Lady Macbeth, and Lady deWinter - and she played the role deliciously. Her son Godwyn (Rupert Evans - THE PALACE, FINGERSMITH, SONS & LOVERS, HELLBOY, etc.) is a priest whose desire to be Prior and ultimately Bishop leads him down a path of sadistic unbridled palpable evil. His ambition needs no explanation. It is what it is. Those who would like to see all the evil-doers in this story on a pyschiatrist's couch in order to explain their behavior might just as well put half the world on one. While the quote is not precise, it is true enough: "Abolute power corrupts absolutely." The tyranny of the Church and that of Imperial power is exposed for what it is/was. Only the Black Death (realistically and emotionally presented to the hilt) was able to derail the iron fisted control of both sacred and secular authority.
Charlotte Riley as Caris, a student of the medical arts, was the key heroin of the film. But, what was more important was the revelation of the Church's fear of this type of "physician" and the lengths it would go to in order to suppress it. The general populace, which benefited from this "new" medicine, was far more understanding and sympathetic than the powers that be who felt threatened that all of this would supplant the idea of divine intervention and healing. Since many medical ideas came from Islam, they were also branded as the work of the "infidel" even by those who were healed or helped by it. Caris is caught between a developing love for a youthful "builder" and the predatory incestuous feelings of her own cousin - Godwyn - who harbors his dark secret while branding any woman he can as a "whore".
Critics of this mini-series, who keep pounding its book source as though it were the Bible, overlook the magnificent costumes that heralded in a New Age. The difference between what was worn in THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH compared to WORLD WITHOUT END was noted and indicated a fashion change that took place 200 years later. The church of Kingsbridge, now complete and in full Gothic regalia thanks in part to CGE, stood as a potent back drop to the civic activity that took place literally on its door step. The armour and weaponry was effectively realistic even though some purists might disagree.
In the end what we have, without giving too much away, is an excellent story, superbly acted by a host of gifted and well-known actors, set in the Middle Ages of mid-14th century England and France. Evil exists on all levels, from the lowest peasant to the King himself. It's merely a matter of degree and kind. But, like it or not, it does unfortunately reflect human nature. And I would hardly call proper behavior by some "goodie two shoes". There are those who are good and those who are bad. What we see in this mini-series is a slice of Medieval life that lays bare the horror of endless war, plague, rape, incest, ambition run amok, faith, faith denied, class warfare, love of all kinds, overbearing superstition, heroics, revenge - in short, all those things that make up the fabric of humankind in all its incarnations. And is all that really so different than what we have today? In addition to the above named actors, kudos to Miranda Richardson as Mother Cecilia, Peter Firth as Sir Roland, Tim Weston-Jones as Merthin the Builder, Oliver Jackson-Cohen (his brother) as a merciless Everyman Warrior who knows how to play the game, the actor who played Edward III (and is now in DaVinci's Demons), the actress who played his mother Queen Isabella, and the characters Gwenda, Wulfric, and Thomas.
As for any complaint as to how the "Most Evil" were dispatched, I can assure the reader of this review that their demise fit all the characters in the most appropriate, satisfying, and ironic way.
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