All five versions standing on their own are watchable at least, though neither are as savagely biting as the classic book. This mini-series is the best of the five, the only one actually that I truly loved. The others being the excellent but too short 1934 film from Jean Renoir(who intended for it to be twice as long as it was), the very good if lacking-in-depth-and-edge(that's what the Production Code does) Vincente Minnelli film with the glorious ballroom sequence, the well-made if cold 1991 film with Isabelle Huppert and the decent 2000 version with Frances O'Connor. This mini-series is a perfect length, the book is big and very detailed and complex that wouldn't have been done complete justice in a film, and is the pacing is also just right, deliberate but never stodgy thanks to the quality of the writing and performances. The production values are very high being evocative and opulent, Emma's dresses are simply to die for, and the whole adaptation is attractively photographed, not from personal view coming across as dated at all. The music, dominated by piano, has a real melancholic beauty to it, while the writing is not just poetic and very well-written but comes the closest to capturing the book's dark edge and ironic humour(if not quite as savage or biting, not surprising seeing as the anti-clerical statements was one of the reasons for Madame Bovary's controversy) of all five adaptations of Madame Bovary put together. The story remains passionate and moving and the details and spirit of Madame Bovary also. Francesca Annis pulls off a notoriously difficult character to play- definitely in the top 10, even 5, of literary characters hardest to portray- splendidly, she is the most beautiful Emma and she is possibly at her most glamorous but she also has the right degrees of haughtiness and selfishness as well as the vulnerability of victim of own passions to her performance. Tom Conti succeeds in not making Charles bland or too much of a clown, while there are moments where Charles in the story is a dork in a way he is the most sympathetic character in the book, with Conti there is some amount of languidness but with the quiet sympathetic nature Conti also adopts you do feel for him. In fact the adaptation and the performances of Annis and Conti does a great job in making Emma and Charles identifiable when they could've easily not been, of the other four versions the only one that comes the closest is the Renoir film. The supporting cast are also right on point, especially the handsomely suave and menacingly enigmatic Rudolphe of Dennis Lill and John Cater's oily L'Heureux. The direction gives the adaptation space to resonate yet takes care not to make the drama pedestrian. Overall, wonderful on its own and as an adaptation, of the five Madame Bovary adaptations this is right at the top. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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