Tag: Period Drama

Tutankhamun (2016 ITV)

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I’m really frustrated! Thirty-five years ago I visited the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and walked into Tutankhamun’s burial vault. I’ve been trying to find the slides from that trip that I’ve been hauling around for thirty-five years to no avail!  Of course, I’ve moved probably twenty times since then. I know they are somewhere stuffed in a closet, and I’m going to find them one way or another!  Nevertheless…

My first Britbox watch – Tutankhamun from ITV – a four-part series about the discovery of the tomb in that vast dusty desert of the Valley of the Kings. It’s based on the archaeologist Howard Carter, played by Max Irons, who is convinced the valley still holds wonderful discoveries, while his peers are packing up and leaving out of frustration.

On the other hand, we have Lord Carnarvon, played by Sam Neill, who has the funds and enthusiasm to find a tomb filled with riches. If you have no idea who this English Lord happens to be, think of Downton Abbey and the manor house you’ve been enjoying for years. It’s the family home of the Carnarvon’s at Highclere Castle, who was the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. Some believe he was the first to succumb to the so-called curse, having died from an infected mosquito bite he accidently cut with his razor. It turned into blood poisoning, and he passed away in Cairo after the discovery of the tomb.

The story begins pre-World War I when Carnarvon arrives excited to dig and discover wonders from the past. He hires Howard Carter, who recently finds himself without support to further his own digs. As a result, they head off to the dusty sands but their endeavors are cut short by the beginning of World War I. Finally after it’s ended, the story resumes and so does their search.

Carnarvon insists that Carter dig in a particular area, but Carter believes it’s in the wrong spot. After going through the majority of the Earl’s money, he’s about to throw in the towel.  With one last plea to let him look where he thinks Tutankhamun is buried, they find the infamous treasures of the young King to everyone’s surprise and enter on November 26, 1922.

The story weaves a few love interests back and forth for Mr. Carter, the most important one being with Lady Evelyn Carnarvon, which is the Earl’s daughter. Whether that really happened is perhaps a possibility (read here). It does take up a large portion of the storyline in between the dirt, shovels, and rocks. The tale is also set among the rising distrust of the Egyptians against the British who promised to leave after the war but remain. The government, surprisingly at this point, changes the law six weeks before the discovery of Tut’s tomb that the ownership of discovered wealth reverts back to Egypt and is no longer split with the finder.

Max Irons, I thought, isn’t the best of actors except perhaps at that one point when he peeks inside the tomb and declares that he sees wonderful things. Only another spark of a broken heart is revealed upon his love interest’s departure. He’s a bit stiff and unemotional throughout most of the show, not to mention the dirt and sweat of the desert.  In spite of it, he does clean up nicely in a dinner jacket.  On the other side of the coin, there is the seasoned Sam Neill who is fantastic in all of his performances, filled with fire and emotion that makes up for the lackluster Irons.

When I visited in 1982, King Tut was not in his tomb. We saw the place where the goldTut2 coffins stood, which was just a huge empty space. There was no fancy lighting like you see in the picture. His remains had been placed in the Cario museum for some time but were subsequently returned to his resting place in a climate-controlled glass box (in 2007) to prevent further decomposition. Visitors can see him in his splendor. The treasures in the museum are unbelievably vast and gorgeous, and I can still remember standing before them in awe.

For my first BritBox, it was a good period drama, fueling memories of my past.  I’m on my second right now, Moonstone, which is turning out to be a pretty good mystery.

Ah, British television.  My favorite.

Medici: Masters of Florence

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A new series, acquired by Netflix and popular in Italy, is now streaming – Medici: Masters of Florence.  If you’re a history buff, you might enjoy this new binge-watching opportunity regarding the Medici family who were bankers in the 15th century in the Republic of Florence.  For more historical information, run over to Wikipedia and READ HERE.

The story stars Richard Madden, Stuart Martin, and Dustin Hoffman, among others. It begins with the death of Giovanni, who is the founder of the Medici family empire. His son, Cosimo de’ Medici takes over the family business and learns that his father had been murdered.  The intrigue begins.

Be prepared to flop back and forth between a twenty-year period when Giovanni is alive and teaching his sons, as well as manipulating their lives to do his will. Sometimes it’s difficult to discover if you’re twenty years in the past or twenty years in the future, except for the difference in the hairstyles of the two sons.

Controlling, conniving, and underhandedly through bribery, the elder Giovanni influences the choice of the next pope. Its reward is to be the Vatican’s banker, which leads to prestige and additional wealth. In addition, he arranges a marriage for Cosimo (after sending away the woman he loves), and forbids his son to follow his true interest in life of art and architecture. The family business comes first.

I didn’t exactly find it the best of series for a few reasons:

  1. Miscasting – Dustin Hoffman is a poor choice to play the matriarch of the family – Giovanni. His acting is not up to par, and he just doesn’t fit the historical character’s role.
  2. Sound quality is absolutely terrible. Constantly, I had to crank up the volume to hear what they were saying, which I found annoying.  This is an Italian production acquired exclusively by Netflix (though not by Netflix), so I’m not sure if that is the reason.

What works:

  1. The semi-interesting historical story line.
  2. The ancient city of Florence and its architecture.
  3. The costumes.
  4. History lessons on screen, such as the Black Death pandemic that was estimated to have killed 30-60% of Europe’s population.
  5. The surprising plot twist at the end of Season 1.

Nevertheless, check it out for a new period drama feast but beware it may not be your best meal.

The Invisible Woman (2013 Movie)

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Three years late watching this movie, I finally sat down and streamed it last night on Amazon for $3.99 – The Invisible Woman.  Frankly, I had forgotten it existed until the Period Drama Appreciation Society on Facebook brought it up as a suggestion.  By the way, it’s a great group of 8,500 (probably mostly women) who are crazy about period drama from all over the world.  It’s a good group to join to get recommendations.

Charles Dickens.  A name known by many, and an author who has gone down in history.  Married and having sired ten children of his own, his now fat wife no longer interests him in spite of the fact he’s an older gentleman.  His treatment of her in the movie is atrocious, and whether fully true, I’m not sure.  He announces in the paper that he has separated from his wife.  At home, he has a handyman board up the door that adjoins their bedroom.  His wife is well aware that his affections have turned toward an 18-year old young lady, who is an actress and a mediocre one at that.

The movie, having received a not-so-warm reception upon release, is a bit odd.  Directed and starring Ralph Fiennes, I will admit he did quite well portraying the exuberant writer who loves his audience. His joy in life is telling a good tale that makes people think and tugs at the heart of its readers.  Nevertheless, on a personal note, his pursuit of the young Ellen “Nelly” Ternan is born from her admiration of his skill and love of his work.  Apparently, his fat wife does not possess the ability to adore him for his pen and brilliant mind, unlike Nelly who gushes with girlish adoration.

Of course, this is the Victorian era and men had mistresses.  Nevertheless, the obvious truth behind closed doors was not flaunted because society and religion knew it to be a scandal and sin.  Thus enters the “silent woman,” who cannot tell the world of her affair with Dickens.  She is kept hidden and well-cared for by the author, splitting his time between her and his adoring fans.

The movie portrays his mistress, Nelly, as a pining and broken hearted woman who looks upon her past with sadness.  Now married and with a child of her own, her lover has died and life has gone on physically.  The movie attempts drags us through her depression by multiple long walks on the beach as it flips back and forth between the present and the past.  The flips don’t always work, and perhaps it’s the way the tale focuses on her “blues” that makes it irritating.  Dickens’ coldness toward his wife and treatment is an abomination to watch, which takes your likeness of him as a man and turns it stone cold.  There are extremely slow and painful scenes of intimacies between the two, which itch your finger toward pushing the fast-forward button.

Nevertheless, the scandalous tale of Dicken’s true-life romance with an eighteen-year-old girl when he was forty-five, is an interesting peek into a man that many admire.  What is the truth behind it all?  If you read some of the reviews on Amazon, you’ll discover quite a few historical corrections regarding the affair and how it all played out in real life.  As for this version, I felt no empathy for Nelly or Dickens.

If you’re a period drama movie junkie, you might enjoy and then again you might not. I gave it 3 Kernels for your lovers of the Victorian era.

Lilies (2007 BBC One TV Series)

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It was a dark and stormy night, so I binged watched Lilies streaming on Netflix. This is an older BBC One eight-episode series regarding three young girls growing into womanhood in Liverpool after the Great War (that’s WWI in case you need to know).  The series was not renewed, and as a result, the last episode leaves you with many unanswered questions regarding where do their lives go from here.

The story focuses on six main characters:

  • The widowed father who is a grumpy, angry man, yelling at everyone in the household.  When he drinks, he becomes violent.  He is called “Dadda.”
  • Billy the son, who is a closet homosexual.
  • Iris the eldest daughter who takes care of the household.
  • May the middle daughter who gets in “trouble” (the pregnant kind of trouble), having an affair with her married employer.
  • Ruby the younger and outspoken lass of the group, who frankly I had a difficult time understanding due to her heavy accent. However, she gives you a wonderful education on corsets.
  • A Catholic priest, Father Melia, who falls in love with Iris and is sent away.

The story follows each of their lives during eight episodes focusing on their various jobs that come and go, as well as love interests for the three girls.  The series is not the best, and since it was not renewed, obviously it didn’t do well overseas.  If you’re looking for a period drama, it does have entertainment value even though it won’t be at the top of your absolutely love-it list.  Apparently, it’s loosely based on Heidi Thomas’ mother’s story about life in Liverpool after the war.

The last episode leaves a huge number of questions about where their lives end up afterward.  Does Billy finally come out?  Probably not due to the times and the fact it was a crime.  Does the priest return as a priest?  Does he tell Iris he loves her and leaves his calling to marry her?  Does May’s lover finally return to marry her and be a father to the baby?  Does Ruby end up marrying the German butcher she first hated and move to Russia?  Does Dadda finally get to find happiness?  Alas, we shall never know.

 

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