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Customer Review

on 20 October 2008
The 2002/2003 Forsyte Saga version of John Galsworthy's novels, starring Damian Lewis, Gina McKee, Amanda Root, Colin Redgrave and Rupert Graves, is a Granada and WGBH Boston co-production. Although, many would label the series a remake of the 1967 BBC version, it is not. This is a free adaptation of Galsworthy's three novels and two interludes (The Man of Property, Indian Summer of a Forsyte, In Chancery, Awakening and To Let). The saga chronicles the lives of an upper-middle-class British family, from the beginning of the 19th century to the 1930s. Directed by Andy Wilson, produced by David Boulter and Sita Williams and adapted by Kate Brooke and Phil Woods, the Forsyte saga is definitively a saga that shakes things up. In two discs and ten episodes, we will follow the story of Soames Forsyte (Damian Lewis) - a rich solicitor who pictures himself as the family's upholder of moral values - and other characters. Soames also has a genuine gift for always saying or doing the wrong thing, at the wrong time and to the wrong person. Which he does when he marries Irene Heron (Gina McKee - astonishingly beautiful). Unfortunately, it will take him almost the ten episodes to realize that. Meanwhile, we follow the busy lives of the other Forsytes, their ups and downs and the way they relate to the family's values (money, possessions, power), especially when confronted with those of no-property (Irene, young Jolyon, Bosinney, Jon and at times, the old Jolyon too). The interesting thing about this saga is the way it deals with its own subject matter. When we might expect a traditional costume drama, with one-dimensional characters, the saga is actually everything but predictable. In fact, the complexity of the characters - Soames being the most tortured and troubled one - is well-rendered in the visual style of the series, oscillating between long and close-up shots, between old fashion feels and boundary-cross scenes of intimacy. Nothing is completely what it seems, people often wear masks, yet underneath the facade they too experience passions, betrayals and violent impulses and got dragged into intrigues. There is a sense of modernity alongside the Victorianism, an outsider view of bourgeoisie, which gives away Galsworthy's own experience of playing both sides, so to speak. There have been rumours that Galsworthy put a lot of his own life into Soames and Irene characters, as a way of settling scores with his oppressive class, the way he had to live a painful double life with his beloved mistress Ada Nemesis Pearson Cooper, whom he would eventually marry, despite the family's disapproval. If anything, Galsworthy/Irene/young Jolyon are daring 'characters', jumping out of the cosy nest in the name of love. Of course, there is a terrible price to pay for that, but who said life ought to be easy and pleasant? Perhaps, this is why I enjoyed the 2002/2003 Forsyte Saga so much. While much of the story is about possessions, and all the silly things they make you do, I still can relate to these characters (especially Irene). Its language and concerns are modern enough to make you part of the story, to identify perhaps with some of the flawed characters. Shot almost entirely near Manchester, the Forsyte Saga is a delight for both the eye and the heart. The four disc box-set comprises the ten episodes, along with English and HOH English subtitles. There is an interactive menu for a total running time of 699 minutes. Lastly, a special treat with the main theme soundtrack interpreted by Bryn Terfel (Life is a Dance We Must Learn). I don't know for you folks, but at the end of the saga, I felt nothing but the pressing need of letting go things and enjoy just being here. Zen and all that...
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4.7 out of 5 stars