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72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to see how this could be any better.
Ignore those who say that this doesn't do justice to the books - it's different, yes, but in a good way. What's the point in sitting down to watch something that's EXACTLY like the book, or complaining because it doesn't EXACTLY match what you thought it should look like? The BBC made an amazing job of what was almost impossible to film, and the cast is just perfect...
Published on 30 Oct 2007 by Hannah E. Dennerly

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89 of 97 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fatally flawed adaption
First let me clarify where my viewpoint is coming from. The Gormenghast trilogy is probably my all time favourite literary work. I have "lived" with this wonderful story since I was but a strap of a lad, 18 years ago. I suppose you could say that it holds a special place in my heart, so I was always always going to be a difficult critic to convince. I was definitely...
Published on 22 Nov 2003 by snoopp


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72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to see how this could be any better., 30 Oct 2007
By 
Hannah E. Dennerly "Aitch Dee" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Gormenghast [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
Ignore those who say that this doesn't do justice to the books - it's different, yes, but in a good way. What's the point in sitting down to watch something that's EXACTLY like the book, or complaining because it doesn't EXACTLY match what you thought it should look like? The BBC made an amazing job of what was almost impossible to film, and the cast is just perfect. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays Steerpike with more than a touch of genius, and the chemistry between him and Fuchsia is spot-on... Everything about this is awe-inspiring; the sets, the scripts, the acting. Admittedly, Warren Mitchell's portrayal of Barquentine is more comical and capricious than the fearsome and powerful character in the book, but it works. Likewise, Irma Prunesquallor seems more ridiculous on the screen than she does on the page, but a bit of comic relief does wonders for this exquisitely dark production. The word 'masterpiece' is overused, or else I would not hesitate to describe Gormenghast as such. It is easy to forgive the odd bit of artistic licence, and when you consider that they have managed to compress three extremely complex books into four hours of fantastic viewing, it's difficult to find fault.
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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Millenium Drama Triumph!, 3 May 2000
By A Customer
This BBC self-proclaimed Millenium Drama really is a triumph! Despite some critics chastising the production for not being 100% faithful to Peake's original novels, it's as faithful as any 4-hour TV adaptation could be! With beautiful, opulent costumes, seemingly endless sets and excellent "blue-screen' effects - the whole creation of the world of Gormenghast is like a dream, sprinkled with the stars of British acting. John Sessions is wonderful as the painfully verbose Prunesquallor, with Fiona Shaw truly sublime as his menopausally desperate sister Irma. Neve McIntosh is the most beautiful, infantile Fuchsia that one could imagine, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers is the very essence of emotionally troubled teenager as the ultimate social climber Steerpike. Topped off with the likes of film legend Christopher Lee as Flay, along with Celia Imrie, Stephen Fry et al. this really is a must see for fans of the genre. Read the novels in conjunction with the video to really get the best out of both!
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89 of 97 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fatally flawed adaption, 22 Nov 2003
This review is from: Gormenghast [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
First let me clarify where my viewpoint is coming from. The Gormenghast trilogy is probably my all time favourite literary work. I have "lived" with this wonderful story since I was but a strap of a lad, 18 years ago. I suppose you could say that it holds a special place in my heart, so I was always always going to be a difficult critic to convince. I was definitely looking forward to seeing the result though, when I read that the BBC were going to produce an adaption.
The first problem is the format. There is no way that the first two books could be filmed in 4 hours, whilst keeping the narrative and dramatic integrity of the books. When lesser, mainstream and unimportant "pap" series can command six 1 hour episodes, and considering the amount of time and money involved in bringing the production to the screen, it is frankly amazing that the Beeb would cut the legs from under the production before it was even made. The end result is comparable to driving through the centre of Florence at high speed! Many beautiful impressions appear fleetingly, with the next vista appearing before the previous can be digested. Subsequently many wonderful plot and character details are cut from the work to fit the time constraints. The greatest example of this is the removal of the Keda's life and loves.
The second, and to this reviewer, even more serious flaw, is in its handling of the most important character, and one of the few with whom the reader forms an emotional bond: namely Fuschia. In the first book she is a 15 year old girl, given to a life in her own imagination, through her alienation from her family and those around her ( Nannie Slagg apart). What do we get? An actress in her mid twenties purveying the ghastly scene of a child in an adult's body, causing the viewer to assume that she must be suffering from developmental problems! The end result is reminiscent of a pantomime. (Gwyneth Paltrow as Alice anyone?)
The final flaw is to completely alter the nature of Fuscia's relationship with Steerpike, so that her most important scene in the second book (when she stands looking out of her window across the flooded landscape), is altered from one of the most beautifully moving pieces of prose to a cheap (and convenient) piece of plotting.
So why do I give it 3 stars do you ask, given my harsh critique? The bulk of the casting was exceptional, Steerpike was a revelation, and much of the visual language was faithfully reproduced: Cora and Clara's tree being a perfect example.
Enjoy this adaption, but make sure you read the book also. The former is in no way a representation of the depth and beauty of the latter.
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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Visual Absorption, 1 May 2006
By 
Mr. C. C. Barrett "worldismyoyster" (Suffolk, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Gormenghast [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
I watched Gormenghast when it was originally shown on BBC television and was totally raptured. From the outset, it appears you have a window into a lustrous, animated, impressionist, surrealist painting; such are the amazing backdrops of the extensive, eclectic, idiosynchratic castle alongside the costumes, expressions and eccentricities of the characters. It really feels like you have entered the imaginations of a flamboyant distopian; Gormenghast is all at once rich, beautiful, haggard and doomed. The intensity of the film, the strength of the characters and the epic nature of the story may be a little too much for some viewers (like a particularly rich chocolate gateau) but it is fun and handily divided into four parts.

Now for the issue of the book versus the televised version. As previously said, I watched the television series when it was first broadcast. I managed to wade my way through the trilogy of books (the last of which is not included in the adaptation) in the last year. It is true that the adaptation makes necessary exclusions and changes to enable it to be digested on film. My opinion on re-makes and adaptations is that if significant changes have been made, it can only be chastised if it affects the enjoyment of the original: in the case of Gormenghast, when I read the novels, the television adaptation soon lost its influence; I saw nearly all of the characters differently (apart from the sister Clarice and Cora) and enjoyed the books on their own merit.

Therefore, despite the changes and somewhat misinterpreted characters (such as Fuschia - a character I empathised with in the books, but cannot in the film) I think the BBC adaptation is a beautiful, exciting, disturbing achievement and should be enjoyed alongside the books. Well done, Auntie!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and infuriating, 5 Nov 2002
By 
This review is from: Gormenghast [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
I finally got round to watching the whole thing and I'm glad to say I wasn't disappointed. Let's face it, for starters it is practically unfilmable. The only place in which to hold the scale of somewhere like Gormenghast is the mind and never on a TV screen. But dammit the 'Beeb' gave it a good old college try.
I thought the cast was uniformly good except for the notable (and, frankly, crucial) exceptions of Steerpike and Titus. That said, the rest more than made up for this lack. I especially liked the performances of Ian Richardson and John Sessions who both added some much needed humanity to a slightly hysteric script.
My one big gripe is visual. Not the sets, I thought they were actually rather good, mixing periods and cultures rather well. No I found that the extensive use of model shots and bluescreen methods made many of the scenes visually flat and undynamic. The camera seemed rooted to the spot so much of the time.
All in all I would definitely reccomend this to anyone, just so long as they have more than a mayfly's attention span.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars That That Always Will Be, 1 July 2004
This review is from: Gormenghast [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
I'm not going to ramble on for hours over the greatness of this Movie. Nor will I, to save time more than anything, sing it's much deserved praises. The haunting performance by Ian Richardson as the melancholy earl should speak for itself volumes, as should the spindly workings of one Jonathan Rhys Meyer (whom until now I've never been acquainted -what skill).
The only reason I hold back the full five star treatment is, and I know it's wrong to use this as an excuse, but there are just too many exclusions from the story that were prime to the original text. So large are some of the changes, that aside from certain characters backgrounds and 'own stories' being admitted (Keda for example) they just happen to die in a different manner and setting from that of the novels. I understand however the limitations of 'time on film' when attempting to transcribe such a book.
Overall an excellent watch!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good, 22 Sep 2003
I read Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast many years ago and when I heard about the television production of it coming out I have to admit I was sceptical. I have long held Gormenghast to be a wonderful, powerful world that could only be lessened by placing it in a visual context - it is a work for the imagination. However, when I saw the production I was vastly impressed. The actors are marvellous - many of them fitting the image of them I had in my mind. I thought that Celia Imrie was brilliant as the countess - although, she was not quite such a distanced character as I expected. Even Fuchsia, though not as in-depth as I'd have liked was a very good character. The pinnacle of the production, for me, was Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Steerpike. I thought he was amazing - he captured the essence of Steerpike, this extremely corrupt but misunderstood and unhappy person who has many issues going on behind the cool facade. He showed there was more to him than a one-dimensional 'bad' guy - and he's even, bizarrely, likeable. I'd seriously recommend anyone to see this production - but not instead of reading the book - each have to be appreciated in their own right.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A show featuring a captivating anti-hero and where every aspect of it is worth five stars, 28 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Gormenghast [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
I first saw this series when it first aired when I was 10 years old. It haunted my dreams and I would remember strange images from this series (the name of which I couldn't pronounce).

Years later I find it on DVD and I watch it as an adult and it is everything I remembered and more.
First off this edition features all four one hour episodes plus some excellent special features including a great thirty minute making of. The picture quality is very good and if you watch the making of which uses clips from when the show first aired you can tell that they have improved the picture quality dramatically for this DVD release.
Never read the books and all the negative reviews appear to be by the novel's fans, I however can not find a single fault with this amazing, captivating and complex series.
Everything is great about this series but if I had to pick the best aspect it would have to be the characters and the great performances behind them. Steerpike is as slimy as Draco Malfoy as tragic as Hamlet and with the vocabulary of Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange. There is a lot of Alex in the performance: intelligence, hostility and the desire to have what he wants no matter what. It is such an interesting character and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers gives the perfect performance of a power mad, homicidal lunatic while giving the character enough empathy that we still love and engage with him. The final episode adds even more depth to Steerpike when the love story takes a turn towards the Phantom Of The Opera and we realise that Steerpike and the Phantom have always had a lot in common.
This has to be hands down Christopher Lee's greatest performance, he takes a simple character who speaks very few words but creates and brings so much empathy and depth to him. These two stand out but all the performances are fantastic.
The story and the world is wonderful, it feels Gothic and Shakesperanen whilst also having that very British Terry Pratchett feel. It also has a very distinct sound design with strange, haunting and captivating music.
Most interesting is that Steerpike has become to me the most interesting anti-hero I have ever encountered.
Overall, it's wonderful with images and characters you will fall in love with. I can't offer a comparasion to the original novels but this was my introduction to this world and it's characters and I loved every second of it.
For people seeking something truly different, wonderful, unpredictable, well crafted and staring one of the most interesting anti-hero's of all time this is a must buy.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Mesmerizing, 12 July 2000
By 
S. G. TROFATTER (LANCASTER, PA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gormenghast [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
A wonderful trip into the imagination of a very creative author. The look of the film is spectacular, the casting is dead-on (Christopher Lee when interviewed said he could not imagine anyone else playing any of the parts, and I could not agree more), and the machinations of anti-hero Steerpike are intriguing to watch. Although I have not read the novels (in the USA Peake is practically unknown), seeing this BBC version has piqued my curiosity. Of course, the books are on back order, as everyone else has the same idea! Definitely worth watching more than once; there's so much to notice and enjoy.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good effort, 25 Jun 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Gormenghast [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
A review from one who read (and loved!) the books first...
Overall characterization, I thought, was superb. However... I did think the BBC's Titus a bit weak and I found their Steerpike a bit too obvious in his madness. Sessons (?) as Prunesquallor was a little on the chubby side, although his sister was acted beautifully! I thought the other parts were spot on.
I did not mind the condensing of the material in length, and I agree with a previous review that alludes to the third novel being a bit of a hotch-potch and basically unfilmable. What I did miss however was the sheer scale of the books. Everything in the books is almost absurdly exagerated; from the size of the castle (captured well) to the number of cats attending the Countess. The flood scenes were particularly disappointing, I felt. So much could have been done with CG, but most of the settings in the production are the result of model work.
Finally, I felt the tone was a bit too helter-skelter (a mix between Alice in Wonderland and the Carry-On films perhaps?) I know this is a hard thing to put one's finger on, but I did feel that these eccentric and bizzare characters would have been better placed in a more calm and serene setting (as they are amidst Peake's amazing and opulent prose).
Loved the books - liked the production.
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Gormenghast [DVD] [2000]
Gormenghast [DVD] [2000] by Jonathan Rhys Meyers (DVD - 2000)
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