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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It was my favourite book, but you know what? This was excellent in its own right., 2 Feb 2012
This review is from: Birdsong [DVD] (DVD)
Birdsong - after being adapted for radio (1997) and stage (2010) - is brought to our television screens and by jolly the BBC serve up a quality delight.

Birdsong, the book that is, was written by Sebastien Faulks in 1993. It was Faulks' fourth novel, and follows a man called Stephen Wraysford at different stages of his life both before and during World War I. It twangs on your love strings and tugs on your heart for sadness. The book, in essence, is fabulous.

So when it came to the screen it would be an understatement to say that I was wary. Birdsong is my favourite book and I wanted the television to capture that. With the perfection bias on my mind I can't say I've ever thought the adaptation flawless but it is nonetheless pretty fantastic.

Wonderfully transformed to screen by the writer Abi Morgan and represented through the eyes of director Philip Martin, this two-part series saw 6 million viewers tune-in for the first episode and almost 5.5 million view the second. It stars the handsome Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Wraysford, something a lot of female viewers certainly seem happy about, and the beautiful Clémence Poésy as the main love interest Isabelle.

Redmayne is excellent as Lieutenant Wraysford and shines particularly well in the war scenes. His emotion is distant, lost but focused on the revenant of his love. He plays the stare incredibly well. In fact it is the stare which is very much the essence of Redmayne's superb portrayal - after all, he says very little throughout most of the miniseries. A critic from The Guardian commented it is as though his character is "an empty shell living only on memories" and it would be easy to agree this were the case.

Poésy as Isabelle drifts from being a likeable character to an unlikeable character. She sometimes seems irresistible and warm and loving - much like we're sure Wraysford probably finds her, especially in the lead up to their first passionate kiss. However, now and again she'll seem cold and distant, and with the audience inevitably taking the side of perspective, i.e. Wraysford, it is almost certain to see her as this when she runs away from him. Sympathies for her, however, occur in the final part and questions Wraysford's decisions instead. It is very much a well-woven tale and excitably interesting to watch.

Unlike the book, the television series focuses mainly on the war and love story as two parallel events broadcasted in a twist of drama and emotional ups and downs. The book also had a third time-part following a modern day character recollecting her family line, and was also more explicitly divided into "parts".

Despite this the television miniseries exceeds in just what it is - a television miniseries. It has steamy sex scenes (for this reason I'd recommend watching away from the family!), brutal war realism and a drawing show of sweet romance. There have been some criticisms over the actors' diction of their lines, especially in part one, with claims some of the important ones were "mumbled", but a backlash against the complaints come from those who sympathise with the `reality diction' which appears to be an accolade of the "mumbling".

The television miniseries certainly pioneers in creating atmosphere with plenty of scenes one could wet their eyes to. It is also a great period drama of quality and stylishness which is becoming so rare - making it fantastically inspiring to see the BBC continuing to pursue quality despite cuts.

The BBC should learn from Birdsong to create and support stylish new adaptations and original ideas. There was a time when you'd not be without a good programme on the BBC all year round; a feeling which has begun to die over recent years. Let's revert back to the days when Spooks started, the years of The Good Life, or the superb legend of The Morecombe and Wise Show. Let's bring back the BBC's genius and integrity. Birdsong is by sure an excellent start.
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