Customer Review

87 of 95 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fatally flawed adaption, 22 Nov 2003
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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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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Mar 2009 15:59:53 GMT
N. Snel-Hest says:
Great review. Thanks.

Posted on 26 Dec 2009 00:01:19 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 26 Dec 2009 00:08:26 GMT]

Posted on 26 Dec 2009 21:29:48 GMT
Personally I think 3 stars is being too generous. Tolkien, Lewis, Carroll and even Harry Potter have been made into multi million dollar Hollywood blockbusters, but this masterpiece has been overlooked - don't you think Gormenghast and Mervyn Peake and viewers deserve more than this pile of tosh?

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jan 2014 18:05:27 GMT
Wolfers says:
I think Peter Jackson could do a splendid adaptation to the big screen.
This version is ok as a certain take on the story but as has already been stated in no way shape or form should be compared with or substituted for NOT reading the books.Your head and imagination need to be absorbed into the characters, world and rites of Gormenghast to really appreciate Peakes masterpiece.
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