Thursday, 5 February 2015

Wolf Hall Blues

Starting to worry about Wolf Hall - the tv production, that is.

I worried a couple of years ago about the book being such a hit, and now I'm worrying about the tv show. The locations are excellent, the lighting is brilliant, the diction perfectly audible. The costumes are well done - though I'm not so sure about the weird dress Anne Boleyn wore last night. The pattern of the fabric reminded me of flock wallpaper, but I have to admit I have seen similar designs in portraits of the Tudors. The style and colour did not suit the actress who plays Anne. In fact, if I'm honest I'm not convinced by her portrayal, But then I didn't like Anne in the book, so it was to be expected I wouldn't like her in the tv production. Mantel did a hatchet job on Thomas More, too. Even Henry doesn't come out of this too well, and I had high hopes for Damien Lewis's portrayal. he so looked the part. Only Cromwell shines as a man who walks a fine line, knowing who is corrupt and when to make his play. I'm only surprised at the number of ladies who seem ready to throw themselves at him and they include Mary Boleyn. Possibly I'm misreading what is being portrayed. Perhaps they saw Cromwell  as a man on the rise and therefore worth cultivating.

But why am I worried? Because the plotline, for want of a better word, is thin.. We all know what the theme is, and every scene relates to that in some way. The editing is sharp. We move from scene to scene at a rate of knots and to my mind without having a scene finished or completed. Several times last night I was jerked to a fresh set of characters while still expecting more from the previous one. Perhaps I should watch it again and see if that feeling still holds.


Jen Black said...

people comment on Facebook these days rather than the blog, so I've taken the liberty of transferring comments across:

Maggie Scott said: Well, since I thought the book sucked eggs, I'm not surprised the TV series does as well. I agree with your assessment that mantel went far beyond literary license with several characters, ones for whatever reason she disliked, and went ever farther a...See More
20 hrs · Like · 1

Mara Schiffren I've thoroughly disliked her ever since she bragged about her fantasies of murdering Margaret Thatcher. I also found Wolfhall an incredible slog -- took me months to finish it, though I liked A Place of Greater Safety a lot.

Jen Black replied: I didn't like her idea of dogs in heaven looking hopelessly for their owners as she stated in a book I never got through (it had Black in the title...).and though I'm not Catholic I dislike what Cromwell and Henry did to the monasteries. Many many needed weeding, but on the whole they did a good job for the common people.

Maggie Scott replied: I am Catholic, which is one of the reasons--a small one, to be sure--that I dislike the bashing of Thomas More. And definitely a reason to deplore the dissolution and wholesale, wanton destruction of the monasteries for the greater greed of the Tudors...

Jen Black: I think he did it so he could go and fight in France since Charles V was threatening to invade. Sad but true is the fact that what we learn in childhood is hard to dismiss in later life and Mary did nothing right - she was Catholic, she married a foreigner, also Catholic, and never had a child. Elizabeth also faced invaders, and "history" didn't mention the executions she ordered.

Gail Mallin I gave up on the book. The narrative was too disjointed and hard to follow and I didn't think her portrayal of some characters was fair. I have only watched the first episode of the TV version, but it has the same jerky scene hopping. However, I will give the next episode a go because I think Mark Rylance is a great actor and the production values are excellent, thought the lighting is brilliant.

Mara Schiffren; I'm sure her point that Cromwell was overbashed by history was correct but then, as Maggie Scott pointed out, she returned the favor by doing the same in turn to Thomas More. And she seems to have had absolutely no feeling for him or his moral/religious dilemma to a shocking degree considering that is the subject matter and portrayed him as absolutely despicable.

I love the scene in a Man for All Seasons where Thomas More points out to Cromwell the problematics of showing Henry just how much freedom he had to use his power however he wanted to. One problem with the book is she seems to be approaching the characters with a modern secular 20-21st century lens as opposed to a hermeneutical approach of intuiting the characters in their own period.

Jen Black said...

Maggie Scott I agree completely, Mara. I found the same problem with A Place of Greater Safety. Many, if not most, readers thought Mantel had somehow "captured" the Revolution and its major characters perfectly. Instead they were modern persons with modern Briti...See More

Pam Thomas Just a reminder to all you More fans that he was a documented, enthusiastic torturer and burner of heretics, and if that's sainthood then I think sainthood is somewhat overrated.

Thomas More: Inquisitor, Torturer, Killer, Saint
I noted with a mix of fascination and amusement that...

Ann McMillan Mantel has an agenda. She refers to herself as a 'contrarian' and likes to present 'the other side' of accepted views on historical figures. She hated her convent school, and loathed More from an early age. She said somewhere that she looked at his smu...See More

Maggie Scott I will not argue with anyone about Thomas More, especially when minds have already been closed to the subject, and the best example of denigration comes from a third-rate publication whose stated mission is to poke fun at the delusional claims that pe...See More

Michael Brain how brave to read John Ch1 in English when martyrdom beckoned