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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Parade's End DVD Review

Set over a tumultuous ten-year period 100 years ago, this five-hour miniseries tells the story of an honorable Englishman coping with his growing disillusion at the end of one privileged era and the beginning of a new, egalitarian one. As the comfortable certainties of Edwardian England begin to give way to the chaos and destruction of WWI, aristocrat Christopher Tietjens (Benedict Cumberbatch) puts principles first by marrying Sylvia (Rebecca Hall), a pretty, manipulative socialite who gives birth to a child who may not be his. While enduring his new wife’s whims and overt indiscretions, Christopher finds himself inexorably drawn to a young suffragette, Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens), but refuses to give in to their mutual passion or end his marriage with Sylvia. The onset of war, combined with the advent of feminism at home and communism in Russia, ushers in far-reaching changes for the English status quo, and gradually erodes the constraints that have kept Christopher tethered to his aristocratic past.


Christopher Tietjens and his wife Sylvia have the ability to come off as unlikable and even annoying characters. He is a man who could have been portrayed as spineless—or even a shadow in the story of his own life.  She has the ability to come off as an arrogant spoiled rich socialite, one that is instantly unlikable. Even Tietjens love interest, Valentine Wallop, has the ability to come off as an annoyingly na├»ve girl, greener than the first shoots of summer grass. 

However in this co-production (HBO and BBC) the characters work and credit should go to the writer, Tom Stoppard and the brilliant acting team of Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, and Adelaide Clemens.  

Cumberbatch’s Tietjens is the stuff dreams are made of. While he doesn’t fit the physical description of Ford’s character, the essence of ‘the Last Tory’ is alive and thriving in Cumberbatch’s portrayal. He makes the viewer become invested in the outcome; you feel his disillusion with his marriage, his longing for Valentine, and the deep sense of honor to do what’s right. And he does it so well that it builds the character up. Although let me say that there are still times when you want to throw something at him and shout, ‘just divorce the trollop and move’, but in all fairness, I felt that way when reading the novel as well. In my mind, Benedict Cumberbatch was always the perfect actor to play this role


I will admit I was a bit hesitant to purchase this DVD for the shear reason of fearing that I would not like Sylvia and this particular character would mar the entire movie for me. It has nothing to do with the actress playing her—I am a fan of Rebecca Hall. I have never been overly fond of the character of Sylvia. in my mind she was a spoiled trollop content to sleep her way around the world, then blame her husband—who may or may not be the father of her child—for ignoring her. Yet Hall’s portrayal makes a believable Sylvia come to life. I may not thoroughly like her—and still at times want to slap her—Hall makes you see that, even though it’s Sylvia’s doing, she like her husband is not overly thrilled with her marriage.

The last of the main characters is the young suffragette, Valentine Wallop. Adelaide Clemens stole the show with her sparkling portrayal of this character. She made the viewer feel her yearning for Tietjens. While the naivety of her character could have dominated the role, Clemens balanced it beautifully between youth and womanhood. I truly loved the way this character came off.


First let me say that this has been my favorite adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s tetralogy.  It was lush, eloquent, and artfully told—and I am eager to watch it again. However, the four novels that make up the tetralogy were not equally incorporated within the miniseries. I know that a tetralogy of this length, 900 plus pages, would have been nearly impossible to fit within the timeframe given, but I wished that they would have given a bit more time to the ending.


While some parts of miniseries were a bit slow, overall this was a glorious adaptation of a novel that has been deemed unfilmable . Although Parade’s End has been compared to Downton Abbey, I would have to say it’s more Upstairs, Downstairs (the new version that is).


Parade’s End—the book 

Although Ford Madox Ford was a member of the ‘Lost Generation’—a generation that came of age during World War I, whose members included distinguished artists such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and T. S. Eliot among a few—Ford’s distinctive writing style stood apart.  

Yet in Parade’s End, there are similarities to two talented author’s he called friends. 

The opulent lifestyle, the unacknowledged affairs, the love-triangle, and the ennui that comes along with the realization that money buys a lot of things but not happiness or love echoes the classic style of Fitzgerald. While the turmoil, politics, debris, and grit of war and it’s linger aftermath are in the style of Hemingway.  

Literary critics say that in some ways Ford Madox Ford was the master of this generation. He took the elements of the WWI era and combined them in Parade’s End. Not only did he offer the love stories and angst of a Fitzgerald novel he pulled in the startling reality of a nation at war and the emotional impact it has on the soldiers that Hemingway captured.  

I have never been overly fond of Fitzgerald’s writing, the man was highly talented and had a gift for words, but he was too focused on the romance—not that it was a bad thing but when reading about this era, I want more. Hemingway’s writing is more for me, but reading too much of Hemingway’s doom and gloom is not always a good thing.  

This is where Ford Madox Ford comes in. He was more inclusive of all the elements of this era. For me, his writing showcases the good, the bad, the war, and the romance of the era. Fans of both Hemingway and Fitzgerald will find a nice balance in Parade’s End along with Ford’s fresh perspective.
DVD was purchased by me.
Review by Angela Simmons


Hannah said...

I will watch anything with Benedict Cumberbatch in it.

K. L said...

Ford Madox Ford is a new author for me. Never heard of him before, I will have to see the movie and read the book, if I can find the time. Is it really over 900 pages?

Kimberleigh Lance