44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2010
The BBC have curiously made this excellent production difficult to find, and so after having read 'Daniel Deronda' several years ago it has only been this recent Dutch import that has enabled me to see whether they could effectively transform the novel on screen. It is difficult to say whether one should read the novel before watching the DVD or vice versa.
If you do read first, you will see the ambitious nature of any attempts to portray Eliot's rich prose on screen. And naturally for the sake of drama, some of the philsophical subtly of Eliot's finely-wrought plot has been lost. Yet the BBC have been able to strike a good balance, with a sweeping adaptation that really gives a taste of the novel's characters and central themes. Gwendolen in particular is appropriately coquettish, even if some of the book's later pathos is perhaps lost. Daniel is represented well, although again the sweeping nature of the production loses some of his substance.
If you watch the DVD first - pick up a copy of the book! All the hidden details the adaptation cannot portray will come alive in rewarding detail. Eliot's novel is deep, dense and magically captivating. Anyone seeking a rare flavour of 19th Century Jewish London will find wonderfully atmospheric empathy from the author. The DVD itself brings alive the key details, but leaves plenty more to be discovered.
A worthy purchase - especially as this title has been unavailable (except to American audiences) for several years. All fans of the novel will find plenty to intrigue them in a sympathetic adaptation. And all those approaching the story for the first time will hopefully find a novel of magnificent richness.
51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on 6 July 2011
I have had Daniel Deronda in my extensive period drama collection for some years now, and it is an old favourite that I often return to. It is superbly cast and beautifully filmed, and is relatively true to George Eliot's brilliant novel. It has an overarching moralistic message, which personally I don't mind. There are few things more compelling than unrequited passion... It also contains some great themes of racial prejudice, adoption/identity, as well as the usual class issues. Romola Garai is excellent, and Hugh Dancy as Daniel Deronda is just gorgeous. Watch the movie. Read the book. Enjoy.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2012
This is a brilliant version of Daniel Deronda, a highly courageous and contentious novel in its day, and one that contains some of George Eliot's finest writing. The story as filmed develops slowly, and the pace of the first part is noticeably slow. But the action thereafter steadily gathers momentum, and the narrative is brought in due course to a satisfying and moving conclusion.
The acting throughout is uniformly excellent, with Romola Garai and Hugh Bonneville giving beautifully nuanced performances, and Hugh Dancy, in the central role, delivering an outstandingly intelligent and sensitive interpretation of Daniel Deronda's character. Edward Fox excels as Deronda's guardian. By comparison, Jodhi May seems a little subdued and predictable - but that's probably the fault of the novel rather than of the production.
One of the reviewers has written somewhat disparagingly about the DVD's quality, but I have to say that my disc was delivered in faultless condition, and fully does justice to the magnificent photography.
In all, a first-class rendition of Daniel Deronda and one that I would recommend without any hesitation whatsoever.
46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on 12 July 2005
Masterpiece Theater's brilliant production of George Eliot's "Daniel Deronda," was adapted by Andrew Davies from George Eliot's last and, perhaps, most ambitious novel. (although certainly not her best). Essentially, both the novel and the film are composed of two separate stories, linked by protagonist, Daniel Deronda, (Hugh Dancy).
Set in England in the 1870's, the viewer is given a glimpse into the lives of British Jews, a society-within-a-society, though Daniel Deronda. Interestingly enough, most of Miss Eliot's contemporaries were oblivious to the Jews, who lived totally outside their frame of reference. Through her heroine, Gwendolyn Harleth, (Romola Garai), who marries for money and power rather than love, Eliot and the film explore a side of human relations that leads only to despair.
Daniel sees Gwendolyn, for the first time, at a roulette table. He is fascinated by her classical, blonde English beauty, and vivacious, self-assured manner. When Miss Harleth is forced to sell her necklace to pay gambling debts, Deronda, a disapproving observer, buys back the jewelry, anonymously, and returns it to her. This is not the last time the deeply spiritual and altruistic Deronda will feel a need to rescue Gwendolyn.
Daniel was adopted as a young boy by Sir Hugo, (Edward Fox), an English gentleman. He has received affection, a good education, and to some extent, position, from his guardian. However, Deronda has never been told the story of his true parentage, and sorely feels this lack of roots and his own identity. Not content to play the gentleman, he always appears to be searching for a purpose in life, and a spiritual center.
Daniel's and Gwendolyn's lives intersect throughout the novel. They feel a strong mutual attraction initially, but Gwendolyn, with incredible passivity, decides to marry someone she knows is a scoundrel, for his wealth. The decision will haunt her as her life becomes a nightmare with the sadistic Henleigh Grandcourt, (Hugh Bonneville), her husband.
At about the same time, Daniel inadvertently saves a young woman from suicide. He finds young Mirah Lapidoth, (Johdi May), near drowning, by the river and takes her to a friend's home to recover. There she is made welcome and asked to stay. She is a Jewess, abducted from her mother years before, by her father, who wanted to use the child's talent as a singer to earn money. When young Mirah forced her voice beyond its limits, and lost her ability to sing, her father abandoned her. She has never been able to reunite with her mother and brother, and was alone and destitute, until Daniel found her. Daniel, in his search for Mirah's family, meets the Cohens, a Jewish shop owner and his kin. Deronda feels an immediate affinity with them and visits often. He also comes to know a Jewish philosopher and Zionist, Mordecai, (Daniel Evans), and they forge a strong bond of friendship.
Daniel finally does discover his identity, and has a very poignant and strange meeting with his mother. He had been earnestly taking steps to make a meaningful existence for himself, and with the new information about his parents and heritage, he is able to act on his dreams.
One of the novel's most moving scenes is when Daniel and Gwendolyn meet for the last time. Gwendolyn has grown from a self-centered young woman to a mature, thoughtful adult, who has suffered and grown strong.
This is an extraordinary period piece, directed with wit and subtlety by Tom Hooper. The cast is outstanding as are their performances. Lush costumes and beautiful scenery add richness to the film. However, like the novel, the movie is lacking. It is too metaphysical, too metaphorical, too much a morality play. There's not enough verve and vigor!! Although Hugh Bonneville's Grandcourt, does make a fabulous scoundrel.
I did thoroughly enjoy this BBC production, flaws and all. It is wonderful entertainment and artfully done.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The perfect gift for all historical movie enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
The title gave me no clue to the absorbing romantic Victorian drama that was to follow. Said to be George Eliot's last great novel, it exposes in no uncertain manner the pitiful life of the Victorian woman, hardly more than an obedient slave and forced to respond to her husband's demands.
Hugh Bonneville stands out among the excellent cast as the nasty Henleigh Grandcourt who revels in watching women squirm under his aristocratic power and Romola Garai is perfect as Gwendolen who marries him, not for love, but to save her family from economic ruin.
Hugh Dancy in the title role of Daniel has immediate appeal with his handsome good looks touched with both shyness and sadness as he ponders over his past life and the unsolved mystery of his mother's identity.
After Daniel saves a woman from drowning in a river, the story takes an unexpected turn and concentrates on the Jewish problem of a permanent homeland. Daniel is much attracted to the woman he has saved and through his efforts to help her some mysteries of his own life are revealed to him.
The sets, costumes and photography capture exquisitely life in England in the Victorian era. Quite apart from the romantic drama, there is much to ponder over in this story. Thankfully to-day women have gained a degree of independence, though not entirely, and the Jews are still uncertain about the boundaries of their homeland.
I can recommend this film which is in 4 parts. Set aside a full evening to watch the story unfold. It's quite long (205 minutes) but a brilliant production.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2011
This classic is shot beautifully, colors, music, costumes, with an embarassment of riches in the cast. Romola Garai eats up the screen, and Hugh Bonville plays the sinister suitor/husband. There are so many intricate subplots and stories woven together it all concludes relatively HEA, with the baddy getting his just desserts. Can't wait to watch it again.
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2011
Have waited a long time for this production to be released on UK dvd and wasn't disappointed by the acting or the story. However, as I have found with some BBC dvds, the quality is extremely poor. Some sections are usual dvd quality but others are extremely grainy. Not even a VHS tape is this bad. I had the sae issues with the dd of Wives and Daughters. The BBC, or whoever produces the dvds for them, should sort themselves out and produce a better quality product.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 8 January 2010
I'm not sure a director has any business making a glossy adaptation of George Eliot's great work "Daniel Deronda", if they're not at least a little interested in the story of Jewish identity and loss (which are of course all but synonymous) that lies at its heart. This adaptation shows all too clearly its makers' unwillingness, or incapacity, to take on Daniel's side of the story. Deronda is a great man in need of a great cause - he's all heart and soul, in danger of being nothing more than a beautifully sensitive vessel or tool for other people's needs. Gwendoline is a great beauty in need of a great pedestal - her world is the outer world, made of things - clothes, horses, money. She thinks the world is her plaything; but she will find out that she is the plaything. Daniel's impulsive rescue of a desperate Jewish maiden; and Gwendoline's marriage, are the first of a chain of life-changing events that will bring them together, and drive them apart.
Unfortunately TV is the perfect pedestal, isn't it? And it's not the best place for great causes. There is no doubt that Gwendoline's is an absolutely fascinating story, skilfully told, and smacking more of Jane Austen or Ann Bronte than of Eliot. It's very "BBC period drama" (or very "masterpiece theatre") friendly. Admire the exquisite costumes, the stately homes, and horses and carriages; marvel at the chilly stateliness of Romola Garai's beauty under the weight of her amazing hairdos. Hiding somewhere in the mix is Daniel Deronda, whose life events are of equal - in fact of greater, importance than those experienced by Gwendoline. Not that you'd know from his screen time, or the ruthless trimming of his relations to Mirah and her family. Not that it even matters when Gwendoline is having her aesthetically-pleasing life-crisis under the thumb of the reptile Henleigh Malinger Grandcourt (the completely wonderful Hugh Bonneville). Hugh Dancy is pretty impressive as Deronda, with plenty of youth and beauty and good diction; but this is one occasion when perhaps a slightly older actor, with a more mobile face, and life behind the eyes, might have managed to overcome the slighting of his character and his story in the script by the sheer gravitas of his presence. I couldn't help but feel that this Deronda often risks being nothing more than Gwendoline's love-interest. Romola Garai is picture-perfect as Gwendoline, but I think her acting limits are visible in this piece of work.
I'd like to see this remade as a fascinating but challenging feature film by a director who can really take on, and tease out, the beauty in Eliot's writing about the Jewish aspect of this story, which deserves to be heard by a greater audience than will ever read the book. (I've read the book several times and still find the denser parts of the writing hard.) By devoting more careful attention to Daniel's story, the two halves of the story could twine together properly as they do in the book: the essential womanliness of Daniel's nature contrasting with the essential manliness of Gwendoline's careless early dash and ambition; and Daniel's flowering outwards in life, blood and religion contrasting with Gwendoline's gradual introversion.
So, this version is nicely played out as an abridged "Gwendoline", but as "Daniel Deronda" it leaves a lot wanting. It's not on the whole an easy task to make comfortable anglo-saxons care much about the Jewish struggle - but it has been done, and could be again in the right hands. But perhaps not in this lightweight format.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2008
This is a gorgous dramatisation of a great book, something to watch again and again.
I taped this when the BBC broadcasted it, fully prepared to buy it as soon as the region 2DVD was released. I'm still waiting for that to happen. It's a complete mystery to me why it has to take so long.
So for now I just keep hoping my old VHS tapes won't degenerate too fast.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 28 December 2003
A very good BBC mini series! However, sometimes the action evolves rather quickly thus reducing some credibility. on the other hand, this quickness increases the drama and nerve in this series. A good purchase! I recommend it! (and the man who plays Daniel Deronda looks very good too, just to mention it)