søndag den 20. januar 2008

Shake me up, Judy

Sunday night in my flat is devoted to one thing and one thing only: BBC’s Bleak House. As a student of British literature I have crossed paths with old Charles D. quiet a few times. As a young nerd I of course loved ‘A Christmas Carol’ and the aura of British Victorian life that lingers around everything that has to do with him. In general, I can’t say that I am a BIG fan of his, as I think I’ve read only two of his novels in their entirety.

But Bleak House is a great example of my initial fascination with British, Victorian culture. Before I started university, I lived in Paris for a while and on one visit to Shakespeare & co’s I found a copy of Bleak House. I thought, ‘hey this must be the greatest example of British literature – I have to get copy’. Also of course in order to get Shakespeare & Co’s fine stamp in my book.

Anyway my Penguin’s edition of Bleak House then went on my bookshelf; looking cool and sort of intellectual (and dusty) and I didn’t open it at all before I started my studies a few years later. Now I think I’ve begun reading it 3 times and returning a couple more, until now, when I’ve honestly given up. Sorry, Charles, I enjoyed Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, but…pyh.

Well, to compensate for my lack of reading the books, I’ve seen many TV, film and stage adaptations of his works. It’s the first time I have seen Bleak House, though, but I think this one really gets it all right. Since I’ve only read about half of the novel maybe 3 times, it is so wonderful finally to have a TV version that you trust to bring all the details of the story and characters. The complicated story of the case of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce and the fate and consequences for all the people involved is actually made exciting.
The actors have been chosen really well and fit into their parts with ease and calm. No big celebrity actors star in this and if they do, they are well disguised - Except of course for the former X-files actress Gillian Anderson. She gives a (surprisingly?) good performance with an accurate English accent, as the mysterious and fragilely beautiful Lady Deadlock.
But what really makes my Sunday night so completely devoted to this series is apart from the intrigues and good acting the beautiful set design. The colours and the lighting in this production set the mood of Victorian London so well that you can almost feel the damp and dirty air. Also the costumes and make up creates the characters, seen especially in the contrast between the disgusting Mr. Smallweed and the pure and natural Esther.Therefore the best way to wallow great drama and English Victorian atmosphere is really Bleak House

3 kommentarer:

Marie sagde ...

It's funny - I've never been able to get through Bleak House either! Initially attracted to the novel's cool title I've tried several times, but never got into it. And I've had the same experience with other Dickens novels as well - I *love* watching the BBC adaptations of them, be it movies or series. But I can't seem to commit myself to Dickens writing, and David Copperfield remains the only Dickens novel I've ever read cover to cover.

But like you, I'm absolutely in love with Susanna White's Bleak House-series. Great series, brilliant acting all around.
I actually think that Gillian Anderson is generally an under-rated actress. Her performance as Lily Bart in The House of Mirth from 2000 is one of the most powerful performances I've seen. I hear that they are currently filming another X-Files movie featuring GA, and it has me worrying a little - I fear that maybe GA will once again be associated mostly with her television character Agent Scully, when she's so much more than that.

Anna Maxwell Martin is also very talented, I think! Esther Summerson is the first part I've seen her in, but I hope we'll see much more of her in the future. She's got a certain refreshing quirkiness to her personality that suits the part well and saves it from becoming nauseatingly good and virtuous (which I imagine would be the great danger of wise, level-headed Esther's part), and her emotional performance in the Bleak House reunion scene between long-lost mother and daughter brought tears to my eyes! *sniff*

But I also agree with you that the art direction is actually the best part of it all. I love those oblique angles and the dynamism the zoom-effect of the camera creates. And, yes, that wonderfully *bleak* lighting just sets the mood perfectly!

The UK satirical programme Dead Ringers parodied the series' style very accurately in an episode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSyIlcuCygE "I have something of the greatest importance to tell you". "Oh? Then let us by all means cut suddenly to another scene". :D

Did you happen to catch the BBC Jane Eyre series that was broadcast last summer? Also directed by Susanna White, I thought it had a lot of the same qualities that Bleak House had: An appropriate sinister atmosphere, great photography, and the actors (Toby Stephens as a - very cute - Mr Rochester and Esther Wilkinson as Jane) were very good, too. But I do think that Bleak House was the better of the two series - more concise somehow. But it's possible that I'm being just being an extra harsh critic because Jane Eyre is one of the English classics that I *have* got into - I love that novel and have read it several times. I'd be interested in hearing what you thought of the series, if you watched it!


Nerd Girl sagde ...

It's always nice to hear that we share the relationships with Mr. Dickens!
I saw BBC's Jane Eyre as well - but I'm more into the Dickens' gloomy mood. Jane is too pure (and a bit boring)for me - a bit like Esther- and too much of Esther would on film not be interesting...
I was never a finished that book either...
But Jean Rhys' Wild Sargasso Sea - awesome book!!!!! - About the mad mrs.Rochester in her earliere life! Read it!

Juliette. sagde ...

Good comments-- definitely agree, and as for Gillian's accent-- well, she's English, right? I mean, both English and American, as I think she moved quite a bit as a child.

Also, I realize this is coming somewhat late as a comment, but I'm re-watching it now on Netflix, and found your page by way of a Google search of "shake me up, Judy." :)