Friday, 31 October 2008

UnderRated: The Costume Drama

I'm a sucker for them. The really well done period piece. Where the attention to detail in terms of clothes and acting or sometimes just one of those golden moments of televisual history can even overcome my irritation at some of the bigger historical inaccuracies or just total literary fabrications. Andrew Davies and Michael Hurst have been responsible for a fair few of these. But, in doing so, they have brought literature and history to the masses in a way that some of the drier, more factual incarnations never could have. As a result, our finest thespians are queueing up to take part in their adaptations.

The famous BBC production of 'Pride and Prejudice' was castigated for the superfluous pond-dipping by Mr Darcy but was beloved by the nation's women purely for Colin Firth's reappearance in his wet shirt and breeches. Ably supported by a cast of some of our theatre's finest character actors, his sheer broody arrogance held us entranced for weeks on end until Jennifer Ehle's clipped Elizabeth Bennett finally got her man.

The Shakhur Kapur film 'Elizabeth' in 1998 had several glaring historical faux pas and yet it was totally redeemed by the incredibly erotic and turbulent relationship forged at a time of total terror by two prisoners in the Tower of London. Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, played by Joseph Fiennes have an amazing screen chemistry but, at the end of the day, she loved her country more and married England.

But then, it's hardly surprising really that she wasn't prepared to cede her will and her independence to any man after what happened to her Mother, Anne Boleyn, at the hands of her father, King Henry VIII.

Being an aficionado of the period, the current Season 2 of Showtime's 'The Tudors' should have had me spitting feathers of inarticulate rage at some of the bigger liberties taken over dates and personnel but I found it impossible not to be completely overwhelmed by the sheer gorgeousness of the sets and wardrobes and the passion spilling out all over my living room carpet. The story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn is well documented but has so many twists and turns that may or may not be true, depending on which historian you speak to, because of the depth of feeling that their relationship evoked not only at the time but for decades afterwards. So I forgave Michael Hurst his worst calumnies and allowed myself to be sucked in and enthralled. Fantastic stuff!



twistedgirl said...

I agree with you absolutely! Give me British accents, dresses that have your waist cinched, loads of fabric and your breasts spilling out the top any day...incredibly romantic.
It's totally a chick thing.


Shanna said...

I love period dramas. Pride and Prejudice (1995) is my favorite. The sexual tension with just a glance without saying a word gets me every time. How Darcy had to change to earn Elizabeth’s love and respect. It’s just wonderful.

Loving Annie said...

The costumes of all of the movies about the tudors/Queen Elizabeth I have been magnificent. The facts have been ignored in favor of the drama, so the history, as you said, is grossly inaccurate. But oh, those gorgeous costumes !!!

Gorilla Bananas said...

But didn't Elizabeth I have vaginismus? She certainly enjoyed the attention of men and it would have been very irresponsible of her not to produce an heir if she was capable. Her husband wouldn't have been King of England. I think someone should have gone down on her to loosen things up a bit.

Fat Controller said...

'Pride and Prejeudice' really had something for all the family! Colin Firth for milady, and Jennifer Ehle, with a bosom you could put a window-box on for me to letch over, though I preferred her in 'The Camomile Lawn'-something to do with her getting her kit off at every opportunity!

We have just got 'The Tudors' over here. Because that title would probably mean no more to the indigenous population than 'The Simpsons' or 'The Waltons' it has ben renamed 'Sex, Power and Intrigue', which I suppose is not too wide of the mark.

having my cake said...

Twistedgirl - LOL... Well there were some series about America as I recall with yankie accents - North and South springs to mind.

Shanna - Yup, that's the P&P Im talking about. I think it's become the standard.

Loving Annie - I keep meaning to tell you there is a great programme on C4 On Demand called 'The Princes in the Tower'. It's all about Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be the younger of the two boys and came back to try to reclaim his throne from Henry Tudor (Henry VII). Really worth watching if you can get it.

Mr Bananas - Perhaps you're right and it was a medical condition that caused her problems. But I bet it had some sort of psychological connection because of her background.

FC - I watched The Camomile Lawn only a few months ago (C4OD again). The same sort of thing really but just from the Forties. Cracking attention to detail in terms of clothes and accents. Sex, Power and Intrigue? LMAO. It sounds like a sort of historical 'Dynasty'...

twistedgirl said...

Cake, *sigh* unfortunately those accents hurt my nails on a chalkboard actually. I'd have to watch them with the volume off.

I can just imagine your accent would melt me in seconds...if I were into that kind of thing ;-)


Ms. Inconspicuous said...

I positively adore period pieces. I have a whole space on my video shelf dedicated specifically for them. *Swoon*