Monday, 29 November 2010

The Pillars of the Earth: Slightly different hair but no happier

At the end of it all The Pillars of the Earth seemed to ask: how many bad things can happen to people in their lifetime? The people of Kingsbridge have an extremely bad time. They're trying to build a cathedral, but it doesn't go very well. I wrote before about my expectations for the series, and its relation to the original novel. In watching it I was reminded just what these characters have to overcome. It's all down to a pair of thoroughly evil people: Waleran Bigod and William Hamleigh. They plotted and murdered their way through half a century. One an ambitious bishop and the other just plain bad. This is how to fill fifty years. Look at Jack Jackson, the hero of the story. He wants to marry Aliena, but before he can do that he has to be banished, strangled, banished again, and turned into a monk. Then she marries somebody else. He transforms from mute boy to master mason, despite not looking a year older. It's a sprawling story where people have to wait decades to get what they want. A new episode might jump fourteen years into the future, when everyone has slightly different hair but are no happier. It makes the payoff all the more satisfying. When William is clouted over the head with a rock it comes after weeks of waiting. It makes everything better.

The backdrop to all this strife is the argument over the throne. With so many political deals and earls to slaughter it becomes difficult to follow. And nobody really cares anyway. Sometimes the throne will swap hands between episodes, and the battles just seem to amount to a bunch of people on horses riding around in the same field. Never mind then, all the entertainment is happening elsewhere - with the monks and the wool merchants and the fancy new rib vaulting on the cathedral. It's not as powerful as the book. Sometimes an adaption just can't hope for that. But it does a good job of making you forget.

1 comment:

  1. Dude, for reals. I've never read the book but the series looked interesting and I love me some Rufus Sewell. And the more I watched the more I realized it was just a deluge of horrible crap raining down from the heavens on all the main characters. No one in this miniseries was allowed to be happy!