Top positive review
621 people found this helpful
on 22 April 2005
I watched the series last year and was very impressed with the production, especially the beautiful design and camerawork. And, yes, with Richard Armitage too. (I'm only human.)
So I was looking forward to receiving the dvd- I had plans to maybe ration out my viewing; watch half an episode here and there. But, of course, that all went out the window when my dvd arrived. I got home late last night and decided I'd just have a peek at the first episode before I went to bed. So, at 1am, I snuggled up with my electric blanket, a mug of tea and a large box of maltesers, and then promptly fell back in love with this wonderful adaptation. I watched all 4 episodes again. Then I watched the special features- the deleted scenes (nothing that scintillating, but there is a slightly extended proposal scene, and a few others from the first episode); the interview with Richard Armitage (charming fellow... I'd say more, but I think you're all familiar with the Armitage appeal *loosens collar*), and then I read through the extra production notes and even watched a bit of the commentary episodes (1 and 4).
So I ended up getting to sleep at 6am. But it was worth it. This dvd transfer looks wonderful, and fortunately, unlike many money-spinners, it hasn't been assembled hastily or sloppily. There are optional subtitles, the sound and picture quality are first rate, and the extras really are worth taking a look at. And, of course, you get all four episodes of a 5 star production to treasure time and again.
As for the production itself- it's a gem. The real strengths lie in the excellent camerawork and attention to historical detail in costume and set design. The direction has a light touch, and the screenplay is, for the most part, subtle and well-paced. The specially composed music from Martin Phipps is hair-raisingly lovely. As for the performances- the supporting cast is watertight, first rate acting all round. Sinead Cusack is utterly convincing as Mrs. Thornton. I have to be honest, though- when I watched the series last year, I felt that if there was a weak link at all then it was Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale. To be fair, I think this weakness is only apparent because of the excellence of the rest of the cast, but I did find her performance a little self-conscious and heavy-handed in parts. I found myself thinking about her acting rather than being submerged in her story when I first watched the series, something that I didn't do with the rest of the cast. Then again, it didn't stop me from enjoying the series second time round, so maybe she's growing on me.
As for Richard Armitage as John Thornton... well, what can I say? I think I'm running out of superlatives. I remember watching the first episode and being completely seduced by the striking image of the ethereal whiteness of the mill interior and Thornton's dark angel character striding, in black, across the screen. But after the violent confrontation with the mill hand, I really did actively dislike Thornton's character. So I think that part of the power of the series was that, as a viewer, you made the same journey with Margaret of discovering what made Thornton tick, the influences that had shaped him, and the innate decency underneath his sharp exterior. We shared in that seduction. Armitage gives a very complex, sensitive performance which really did move me in certain scenes, and I'm not at all the easily moved type. To put it simply- he was completely convincing.
So, if you're contemplating treating yourself to this dvd, then please don't hesitate. I have a feeling that this will stand as one of the BBC's period classics. It's certainly a magical way to spend a few hours. So, go on, treat yourself.