Thursday, November 7, 2013

In short: The Moonstone (1997)

Thanks to decades of practice, British TV has developed a fantastic ability for making period drama, particularly period drama taking place from the 18th Century to the 1920s. Actors, directors, costume designers and writers work together to produce films and series that are never any less than convincing - not necessarily realistic - in their depiction of a given period, and usually perfectly timed to make melodramatic plots seem plausible and logical for the people and places they occur in. The best of these period pieces do of course a bit, often a lot, more.

This second version - after a 1972 mini-series I haven't seen - of one of Wilkie Collins's two great novels (the other of course being The Woman in White) does rather fall on the side of the pieces that don't do more, not really getting deeply into the colonial guilt of the book they are based on, nor really developing any element much further than Collins already did in the novel. That's not a horrible thing. The Moonstone is after all a very good novel, but where Collins was a rather progressive writer in the politics as well as the structure of his books, director Robert Bierman's version is quite conservative for its own time.

The Moonstone is still very entertaining, seeing as it was made on the level of craftsmanship I already praised - with a particular nod having to go to John Daly's clear and elegant photography - with attractive leads in Greg Wise and Keeley Hawes, and expectedly fine character acting by people like Peter Vaughan and Lesley Sharp. I just think I would have preferred an adaptation closer to Collins's spirit rather than his actual words.

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