Steve and I finally got around to watching the Pillars of the Earth mini-series. We just finished the episode where a MAJOR CHARACTER suffers a brutal death. Wah.
I first read Pillars of the Earth in college. Seems like I'd read a bunch of Follett's suspense/spy novels before that and enjoyed them. This book, having a medieval focus, really captured my fancy. At the time I thought it was one of the best books I'd ever read, and I encouraged everyone in my aquaintance to read it.
Since then I've read more Follet books, some of which have made me shake my head. ("Really? That's what you think of women, Ken?") I couldn't finish the sequel to Pillars because one scene offended me so deeply that I threw the book across the room and never returned to it.
I tell you all this merely to make it clear that I'm not sure anymore how great Pillars of the Earth truly is. I mean, I barely remembered the plot details before we started watching the mini-series.
That said, what do I want to say about the mini? The production values aren't as high as they should be for a story with such an epic scope, but they're not bad. Many of the actors are a bit stagey and prone to mustache-twirling, but Rufus Sewell and Matthew Macfadyen (so cute with his attempts at a Welsh accent) are really putting their all into it. Eddie Redmayne and Ian McShane are fine. It's hard to see a charming actress like Sarah Parish (who was WONDERFUL in the Shakespeare Retold Much Ado About Nothing) play an evil schemer who makes out with her own son in the downtime between fighting & pillaging (was this in the book?). Still, she's a memorable character.
And it's a very watchable show.
I think my main problem with this production is how the story has been so severely compressed. A lot of people have said that the novel would have been twice as good if it had been half as long, but this script takes that to an extreme. Duh, Sonia -- this is what happens in a mini-series. BUT! I remember (perhaps inaccurately?) lots of fascinating details in the book about cathedral building and village life -- and a great deal more character development. This adpatation, however, reduces it all to a back-and-forth between the Kingsbridge gang and the Hamleigh/Waleran gang. Our poor Kingsbridge heroes make 5 inches of progress only to have the evil Hamleighs knock them back 10 feet. Rinse and repeat. And poor Jack! His character development is so herky-jerky. He's a mute idiot. No, he's a genius stone carver! Ooops, he's dead. No, he's alive! He's kissing Aliena. NO, she's pushing him away! He's fighting Alfred. Now he's banished! No wait, he's a MONK!
Also, the sex scenes make me queasy. I mean, Jack kissing Aliena is sweet, but all the other scenes just seem too sweaty, filthy and furtive to be the least bit titillating.
But like I said, we keep watching.
And Rufus really is quite good!
If anything, this has been educational in that it will make me more conscious of how I'm balancing progress and reversal in my plotting.
Anyone else out there a fan of the book? Have you seen the mini? Thoughts?
Gosh, I had some vague musings about FRINGE, but I suppose that can wait until next TV Tuesday . . .
Hi there! I'm the author of THE REVENANT (2011), THE DARK BETWEEN (2013), and GHOSTLIGHT (2015), all from Alfred A. Knopf. I blog a little about writing, but more often about reading, travel, TV and movies. Nothing too serious. Check the links below for more places to find me on the web, or click the banner to return to my website.