tealin: (Default)
I still haven't finished that essay series, but it didn't stop my heart singing when listening to the Q&A at the end of Hilary Mantel's last Reith Lecture:
SUE LAWLEY: Now on the front row here, we have Peter Kosminsky, who directed the television adaptations of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. Famously Peter, and somewhat controversially, you lit them – because we were talking about lighting – by candlelight. I mean, did you two agree that? Was that collusion or did he rush off and – or did you approve, Hilary?

HILARY MANTEL: When Peter and I first met, what I said to him is, “When I imagine this book ..." I didn’t really have to say about lights and shades, candlelight. I think he just knew that, but I remember saying to Peter, “In every frame of the book, on every page in every transaction I see the wobble of the handheld camera, which brings me back to witnessing and reliability.” And I think your face illuminated my sitting room at that point, because I think it was catching onto your thought about what the mode of the drama should be.

and later ...

Anne Holland, retired Head Teacher and Volunteer at Chastleton National Trust House, which of course, part of Wolf Hall was filmed in. It’s a very naïve question. I’m a Catholic, and to me, the character of Thomas Cromwell was portrayed as a great hero. And of course, like everything, nobody’s black or white, but it intrigues me to see how strongly the views were both within the book, the film and the TV.

HILARY MANTEL: I hope to produce a nuanced portrait of Thomas Cromwell, as of Thomas More, of Henry VIII and all my characters, but good writers need good readers. The reader has to be prepared to lay aside their prejudices and read the nuances and interrogate every line asking how reliable is this person as witness to his story or someone else’s story. The texts of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies ripple with doubt. My aim is to keep the text alive. It’s all about, as it were, putting the past back into process. So, what I’m trying to do ... if I had written my books at, say, from the point of view of Ann Boleyn, or I had chosen Thomas More as my lead character, then you would have a very, very different text but it doesn't mean that I am insincere or that text contains lies. The novel cannot, I think, be a neutral text but it can be a nuanced one.

tealin: (4addict)
In advance of my trip to Annecy, I've been listening to francophone radio more or less solidly since March, trying to improve my comprehension. Now that I'm back in the linguistic brothel where English was born, it's time to do some catching up – and oh, what a lot there is to choose from!

The Reith Lectures: Hilary Mantel - Author of Wolf Hall and A Place of Greater Safety speaks fascinatingly about historical fiction, our relationship with the past, how and why we resurrect the dead in stories, and many other things very close to my heart.
Away with the Fairies - An exploration of the journey the Little People have made in popular culture, from uncanny threat to sparkly friends.

Golden Hill - An excellent jape set in colonial New York. Only available until the wee hours, UK time, so if you're reading this on June 20th, give it a listen while you can – it's a very good story, very well read!
I, Claudius - A radio adaptation of the famous historical novel. I've only caught half of one episode so far, but it's very good, so will be catching up on the rest as an antidote to the news. If you think man's inhumanity to man is a recent thing, well, you don't know much about the Romans...
A Place of Greater Safety - Hilary Mantel's novel of the French Revolution, and a salient cautionary tale for passionate idealists on either side of the political spectrum. This production I know for a fact is fabulous, as it was so good the first time I recorded it and listened over and over. Highly recommended.
Hard Times - I never got into this novel when I tried reading it, but the exploration of heartless pragmatism vs anything else is appealing, so I hope the radio adaptation is a way in to the Industrial Revolutionary fable.
Nineteen Ninety-Eight - A spoof of Orwell's 1984, but when the main character Edward Wilson goes in pursuit of Truth and ends up founding a Movement, and it stars David Threlfall (my favourite Iago) and Hugh Laurie (Hugh Laurie), there's reason enough to listen right there.

Double Acts - John Finnemore's series of droll two-character dramas is back! As always, anything he writes is worth listening to – these aren't as laugh-out-loud funny as Cabin Pressure or Souvenir Programme, but are great little character pieces, and have such range.
Saturday Night Fry - Stephen Fry, Hugh Laure, Jim Broadbent and guests are silly on the wireless – and SO YOUNG.
The Burkiss Way - Vintage barmy sketch comedy
The Harpoon - Slightly more recent barmy sketch comedy, spoofing much less recent and generally non-comedic kids' magazines.
The Consultants - Contemporary barmy sketch comedy
John Finnemore, Apparently - Contemporary barmy sketch comedy by a certain eponymous gentleman, airing Thursday
Talking and Not Talking - Contemporary barmy sketch comedy, with a little more gender balance
On the Town With the League of Gentlemen - Barmiest of all comedy, the radio series that preceded the TV series that launched the careers of Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith, and Steve Pemberton.

And now my laptop's overheating, so I will leave it there! Enjoy!
tealin: (Default)
Tonight, I am at a crossroads.

I can either go out and get groceries (which means dinner, lest I go all night on the digestive biscuits with cheese I had at 4), or I can 'watch' Wolf Hall for the second time in a week while tying down animation until 1 a.m.

I think we all know how this story goes.


I'm actually hungry and my shoulders are stiff and I am foolishly optimistic that the newly-returned students have cleared out of Sainsbury's by this time of night. (It's probably the low blood sugar.)
tealin: (Default)
Welcome back to our regular erratic examination of 16th century English history via 21st century dramatic television. If you missed the previous installments, these handy hyperlinks will take you to Episode 1 (which you really ought to read first as it lays out my thesis), and Episode 2 (which is skippable if you're pressed for time, as I, apparently, wasn't).

The past two episodes, I've made a point about the title, but "Anna Regina", I think, is fairly straightforward. It's the episode in which Anne becomes Queen, and more importantly Anne is The Boss, well before she is crowned. It may be interesting to note, though, that the title is in Latin, the language of the Catholic Church, while Anne is the motivation for severing England from said institution: one of this episode's leading subplots is the clash between Rome and the Reformation. Notice also that the title – Queen Anne – shares the screen with Katherine of Aragon, who is, at that point in time, still technically the Queen. With this juxtaposition we see the beginning and end of this arc all in one go.

The concrete subplot may be Rome vs the Reformation, but the abstract theme explored in this episode is Pragmatism vs Idealism. Episode 4 will play with it as well, but it is heavily established in, and central to, "Anna Regina." The foils, Cromwell and More, exemplify either side. In their playing off each other and reacting to the events around them, the deeper issues come forth, and the audience is challenged: What would you do in this situation? What do you believe in? To what extent would you stick to your ideals? What would you say to get ahead? Whose side are you on, and whose side would you want to be on?

Much of this conflict is played out in the religious divide, and tensions that arise because of religion, but there is still plenty to chew on if affairs of church and state don't interest you. Democracy is a belief system, not a million miles from a religion, and we see crimes perpetrated against it in this episode. The same goes for the values of romantic love, tolerance, and justice, all of which get skewered by pragmatism. We all have immaterial, non-empirical ideas we hold sacrosanct, so being challenged to examine the power of belief applies to us all.

It's a very relevant episode to our modern world as well, as we struggle with the lack of big ideas in politics, the clash of Islamic fundamentalism and what we consider 'Western values,' and the polarisation and entrenchment of opinion. When is compromise effective and when is it weakness? How much crossover should there be between government and finance? How much influence should moneyed individuals have in the system?

The screenwriting guru who taught at Disney harped on the idea that drama uses history to comment on the present, and that great films hit the rotten nerve of the time in which they are made. This episode is an hour of solid neuralgia, in that respect.

Words and Pictures )

From here on to the end of the series, Cromwell's shadow side will come ever more to the fore, and the façade of unimpeachable goodness fall away. At what point will you realise it's an illusion?
tealin: (Default)

Nothing like co-opting a former colleague's fanart for your own amusement ... sincerest apologies to Cory Loftis but it was too good to resist. (He is amazing, you guys, check him out; I do miss seeing his artwork in the halls every day.)

Jean Kang has also done some super cool and spooky Wolf Hall fanart without even having to steal it from anyone!
tealin: (catharsis)
Greetings, Internet, and welcome to another episode of Metapiece Theatre. Our offering today is, a little bit late, Episode Two of Wolf Hall, entitled "Entirely Beloved."

As with "Three Card Trick," whose writeup you should definitely read before this one, the title of this episode is not a coincidence. The entire hour is a game of beloveds, as we set up the relationships whose ramifications will play out in the rest of the series.

Cromwell is beloved of Wolsey
Wolsey . . . Cromwell
Cromwell . . . Johane
(and then vice versa)
Gregory . . . Cromwell
Cromwell . . . Mary Boleyn
Jane . . . Cromwell

Primarily, though, the overarching Beloved of this episode is Cromwell, of the audience. We come to love him for how much he loves others, as well as some cheaper tricks thrown in for good measure.

Of course, to show the Beloveds in greater contrast, we must have the Unbeloveds:

Cromwell vs Henry
Henry vs Wolsey
Cromwell vs Anne
Cromwell vs More
Cromwell vs The Gentry
Cromwell vs Gardiner

Most of these relationships are set up for an evolution, either of sentiment or of power, over the course of this episode or several. And, as mentioned last week, to some extent the value judgment of a character is directly proportional to how beloved they are of Cromwell – those who aren't on his side (e.g. Norfolk) are made out to be baddies, and those who are, are painted in varying shades of gold.

Such energy is put into garnering our sympathy that an alternate title for the episode might be "Laying it On With a Trowel." It's done subtly and organically, but when you start noticing the agenda, each of these moments begins to stand out. Continuing the legal analogy from last week, you can almost year Cromwell telling his take on things with a 'Yeronner...' Doth he protest too much, mayhap?

Let us go then, you and I, where the spoilers spread out against the sky, and pick apart 'Entirely Beloved' )

Episode 3: Anna Regina
tealin: (Default)
The PBS airdate for the first episode of Wolf Hall is coming up. This series made me ecstatically happy when it was airing on the BBC and I am very much looking forward to finding out what the reaction will be from across the pond. What made me so excited aside from the brilliant acting and gorgeous production and general intelligence of the whole thing, was the subtle game it played with the audience – a game which, I fear, may have been too subtle, as I feel like the only one I know to have picked up on it. Usually I'm the one missing something completely obvious in a movie, so I was a little worried I was hallucinating, but in rewatching, and reading what other people have to say, I'm pretty sure I'm on to something. For that purpose, dear North Americans, I shall write out my take on the show, in the hope that when you see it you can check it against my theories and perhaps enjoy it as much as I did. At the very least I aspire to spark some interesting meta.

I should clarify now, when I refer to Wolf Hall, I mean the 2015 BBC miniseries directed by Peter Kosminsky, screenplay adapted by Peter Straughan. I have not read Hilary Mantel's novels, but I have read the RSC stage adaptations by Mike Poulton, which differ from the TV series quite a lot. As such, I don't know who to credit for the storytelling to which I refer, and whether these ideas and the way in which they are presented are faithful to Mantel's vision or an invention of Straughan and Kosminsky's. I shall refer to the creators therefore as 'they', a nebulous hand-wave in the direction of the font from which this all came, and someone who knows more than me about its creation can inform me as to where credit and blame should fall.

First, a little on the Nature of Subjectivity )

This is a big claim to make, on behalf of creatives who have said nothing to this effect.* It is possible they didn't intend it, but I hope to lay out enough evidence to prove that even if it were accidental, it still works. If you haven't seen the show yet and want to watch it for the first time without any influence, stop here – if you wish to play the game from the outset, or have seen it already and are wondering what I'm on about, then read on ...
*Of course, if they had, it would ruin the game.

Catching Out Cromwell: Episode 1 (with pictures!) )

This is what engagement with your entertainment looks like. Have fun! Accept no substitutes!

Episode 2: Entirely Beloved


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags