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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

March 6, 2013 at 10:20 AM

The end of ‘Parade’s End’ — and more on cable

Finally finished all five episodes of “Parade’s End” on HBO (On Demand is a wonderful thing, is it not?), and now I’m eager to read the Ford Madox Ford series of novels on which it’s based. The other day I spoke to a colleague who knows the books well and said he started watching the TV series but stopped because he didn’t like it; the characters on screen didn’t seem true to what he remembered from the books. I really enjoyed the series myself, once I got used to its subtleties — particularly as a showcase for the great Rebecca Hall, who takes the role of Sylvia and attacks it like a cat with fresh prey. (I love how she pronounces her husband’s name — “Chrisssstopher” — as if she’s biting it.) My one small problem with the series might have been that she almost throws it off-balance: Benedict Cumberbatch’s character, as written and played, feels a little familiar; she’s someone unique and fascinating. I suspect the book makes Tietjens more intriguing, as much of it apparently takes place in his head. Here are a few words from playwright Tom Stoppard, who adapted “Parade’s End”:

“Here were four books about the same characters in English society between 1908 and 1918. It’s a Modernist novel – not a linear book. . . .  I decided I had to make it linear – also I don’t think I could have understood the book myself until I made it linear and broke it down to understand what happened in what order.  That was a challenge but it was also a challenge to turn it into a drama. The book is full of marvelous stuff but it’s happening in the characters’ heads. Very often there wasn’t a dramatic situation, let alone a dramatic momentum. It was wonderful to read but one had to invent a lot of concrete situations for this dialogue to live in.”

Challenging, to be sure (you need to focus, in a way that most TV series don’t demand), but “Parade’s End” on screen was a treat. The next cable miniseries I’ve got my eye on: Jane Campion’s “The Girl in the Lake,” a seven-part drama that begins March 18 on the Sundance Channel. The series, which stars Elisabeth Moss and Holly Hunter in a mystery about the disappearance of a 12-year-old New Zealand girl, had a marathon screening at the Sundance Film Festival in January, to good word-of-mouth.  (It sounds like “The Killing,” but good.)

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