Thursday, March 19, 2009


I've been missing for a week and for a very indulgent reason.  We rented this BBC mini-series, based on John Galsworthy's novel, and couldn't stop until it was over.  What is it with the English?  I rarely see any BBC production that I don't love and this was no exception.  Nick and I both were smitten from the start.  It was English scandal and intrigue at it's best--from the production design to the costuming to the acting. The story--one of wealth, love, betrayal, and passionless marriages--follows the fortunes of the Forsyte family in late Victorian England, specifically, the failed marriage between wealthy Soames Forsyte and his beautiful, distant wife, Irine, who married out of need, not love. This is the core story, all else radiates from it. 

It might be tempting to call the Forsyte Saga a soap opera, but it is much more. All the elements of drama are elevated. Characters are more finely drawn, the dialogue is unsurpassed, and how the family members relate to one another and the times in which they live are the gist of the story. Soames is superbly portrayed by Damien Lewis who is relentless and frustrated in his obsession with Irine, played by Gina McKee. He is blinded by his own faults and unwilling to bend or soften in his domination of Irine.  The tension between these two is more than palpable as they pit themeselves against each other and the societal restraints of their era. The one flaw (we thought) in the series is the character of Irine. Three members of the Forsyte family are attracted to her but she lacks the spark that would warrant such an attraction. She is a bit too cold and emotionless, and honestly, a bit irritating to watch--although she did grow on us by the end.  The acting is great though, and we felt torn between empathy and antipathy for both characters.  The final scene, however, left us saying, "WHAT? that's it!!?"  then Nick brilliantly realized....wait...there's more!

The next generation!  It picks up about 18 years later when Fleur, daughter of Soames and his second wife, and Jon, son of Irine and Soames' cousin Jolyan, are just entering adulthood. Jon and Fleur fall in love, of course, much to their parents' horror. England is Edwardian now, but the only thing more scandalous than Irine and Soames' failed marriage is the prospect of telling their children the truth. We were just as enthralled with the second series--think Romeo and Juliet meet the Great Gatsby.  We were just sick for the lovelorn little pair and found ourselves rooting for them from the start.  The costumes and setting alone, were enough to make me miserable.  I'd give up my Seven jeans any day to dress like them...absolutely EXQUISITE! Anyhoo, a very longwinded explanation of where I've been and a very delicious escape I must admit....

Do you have any BBC favs?


Ann Marie said...

So that's where you have been!

I seriously was worried! I would have called but I don't have your phone number.. I thought I did.

Anyways, glad to know that this is where your time has been... I love that you and Nick watch them together.. It's so nice to have a husband that will watch movies that are NIT just about action and violence.

BBC movies... I have 2 in my Armoire to watch... My family gave me: Cranford and Wives and Daughters that they told me are MUST SEE next! Have you seen them??

PS: Thanks for your comments!

Ann Marie said...

Ok.. I can't type. I meant to say " Not" instead of "nit". Ha-ha

partii said...

I feel my life rather dull after watching. But I guess no scandals are a good thing!

Suzanne said...

OOOOoooooohhhhhh! A good English flick? Very tempting. I am trying to think what BBC series I really enjoyed and the only one I can think of is Pride and Prejudice. Which the BBC version I didn't really enjoy because I am not a big Collin Firth fan. This does look very intriguing so I may have to check it out! Hope you are having a wonderful day! -suzanne

Phyllis said...

One's television is brilliant!

Yes, many BBC favorites. I find it is difficult to go wrong. Very difficult, indeed! Pride and Prejudice WITH Colin Firth is my favorite movie ever.

And I just got done watching Bleak House. Capital! I could have done without the weird swooshy cuts, but I could scarcely stop watching. Nearly 8 hours and I nailed it over one weekend.

Cranford (with Judy Dench) was good, I thought, but I read the novel and the movie used material from two novels, so I was thrown a little.

I definitely will put Forsyte in the queue.

Jayne Layne said...

I agree with Phyllis! Colin Firth is half the reason Pride and Prejudice is so wonderful! I think that is the only BBC movie I have seen.. Needless to say I love it! I really want to check this new one out though.

Anonymous said...

Not big on the English films. Glad someone appreciates them though.