I’m in British TV mode. I just finished binge watching all seven seasons of BBC’s Foyle’s War, about an eccentric police detective during WWII. It was historic fiction. When I finished, I was bereft. I felt empty, but then…..
With a google search, I discovered the most wonderful news!
WOLF HALL’S A’COMIN!
This is BBC’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s magnificent trilogy about Lord Thomas Cromwell, chief advisor to Henry VIII. I read all three volumes. They’re fantastic. I felt like I was there, in the Tudor period.
The BBC series begins in the US on April 5th on PBS’ Masterpiece. It started in Britain last week, so I took advantage of the opportunity to read the British reviews well before it crosses the Atlantic. This 6-episode series dramatizes the first two volumes of the trilogy, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.
It is an historic-fiction account of Cromwell’s life, based on five years of research, yielding possibly the most detailed information about Cromwell out there. His is a rags-to-riches story: he went from the son of a blacksmith to chief advisor to Henry VIII. Known to be evil, he was indeed a sly one. He used any means necessary to determine the weaknesses of practically everyone he knew. He then stored the information, and was ready with it when he needed to manipulate someone. It’s like storing cans of crushed tomatoes in the pantry: you take them out only when a recipe calls for it.
Can a rendition of this story do justice to Mantel’s novels? Of course they can! It’s British! Here are my reviews of reviews in two British newspapers:
Review by Sam Wolleston
Spoilers skimmable? No! Don’t fall into the trap!! It goes along smoothly until SNAP! A spoiler bites you in the buttocks.
Bottom line: it’s fab:
Hilary Mantel adaptation is sumptuous, intelligent, event television.
The acting is superb, Wolleston says. The most well-known actor to American audiences is Homeland’s Damian Lewis, who plays Henry VIII.
“What do they know about power and privilege, and living by the Thames?” he asks after noting the private schools the two leads went to: Lewis attended Eton, a prestigious private school for boys, ages 13 to 18. He makes quite a stretch for Mark Rylance, who plays Cromwell: he “went to the University School (sic) of Milwaukie, private too, though he may not have paid as his father was a teacher. Boo all the same….”
Yes that’s a direct quote, and the whole sentiment is bizarre.
The Daily Mail
Review by Christopher Stevens
Spoilers skimmable? Yes indeed! Not many spoilers if any at all!
Bottom Line: It’s great! Rylance’s acting makes it that way. Cromwell is not respectful of his superiors, at times he’s downright derisive. We recognize that he’s being contemptuous, but the characters don’t. This adds humor to the story.
Without this “streak of humour,” Stevens contends, “Wolf Hall couldn’t work on television.”
One problem: it’s so realistic that they use candles to light the sets up, and it is impossible to see anything. What’s more, during the days, the weather is grey, and it is also hard to see in the scenes that are outdoors.
Here’s an example, the caption is Stevens’: