A friend of mine was kind enough to burn me a DVD from the TV presentation, and send it to me in America. I was delighted, as I had been looking forward to it for some time and take for granted it will not come to the US.
I was not disappointed. This film is completely wonderful, from the saturated colors of the landscapes to the marvelously witty and creative camera work, to the absolute perfection of the actors in their roles -- each one entirely believable as the creature he was meant to be. Mark Gatiss' Rat was a bit underplayed--it was only on second viewing that I became aware of the subtleties of his performance: the little ratlike twitches of the nose and the occasional baring of the teeth. Bob Hoskins gave a workmanlike performance as Badger, and of course Matt Lucas' Toad fairly stole the show.
But the absolute revelation of the film was Lee Ingleby as Mole. Somehow in watching him I was able to see two presences onscreen at the same time: the full-scale human and a tiny shadowy creature of delicacy, timidity and great vulnerability. The humble little Mole, so earnest and willing to please, is of course the center and the heart of the story, and Ingleby brought him to life with extraordinary grace, sensitivity and humor. His parting line, "Perhaps there's room in the world for all sorts of creatures" [paraphrased] is a lesson to be lived by even today.
This is not the "Wind in the Willows" you grew up with. This is live actors in limited make-up, breathing life into the characters through their own talent, rather than through special effects. (Though there are a few of those too, and quite clever ones at that.) As soon as a commercial release of the DVD becomes available (March 26), I have every intention of buying it. My first copy will likely be well-worn long before then.
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