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The person who wrote the other review here dismays me. I loved The Jewel
The Crown and highly recommend it! I think it's a very skillful and
successful adaptation for TV from fiction.
My own views about this series have changed -- from good to better. A few years ago, I rented it and watched it over a couple days. I thought it was very good, a haunting, tragic story very well done. I realize now that I watched it then very literally, very matter-of-fact, and saw it mostly as a straightforward series of events in the lives of these people trying to cope with the turmoil of the last days of the British in India. I viewed it mostly as a sort of soap opera.
Recently I read all four of the books from which this story was taken, and what an illumination! These novels are brilliant, and I'm stunned with admiration for the talent of the writer, Paul Scott. So after turning the last page, I hot-footed it down to my local video store and rented the whole shebang AGAIN -- and this time saw it as a giant allegory, laden with symbolism, foreshadowing, and irony. The acting is top notch across the board -- you won't find better -- and it's visually striking. There are scenes in this movie that I'll never forget, in the same way the characters are haunted by them.
Instead of a meandering and random soap opera, I saw how event built upon event, how characters affected one another, how chance meetings changed lives, how it all slouched inexorably towards the climax -- or anticlimax -- of the devastating conclusion.
I am amazed at the skillfulness of the screenplay -- to compress those four novels and all their layers of complexity into this TV series. It really is astonishing how the *intent* and *spirit* of the story is communicated... it's not bashing you over the head, but it's *implied*.
I love how the story does not spoon-feed you. I love how the characters don't make sense and we must puzzle them out for ourselves. We're left with a hundred questions about why they did what they did, and I will enjoy speculating about that for years to come. (If you like pat answers, steer clear of this one.)
I loved this series, I intend to buy the videos, and I highly recommend it.
There's a small scene in the first 2 hour episode of Jewel in the Crown
about 80 minutes in. Susan Wooldridge, a gangly maladroit, clearly not
cut out for India, is sleeping. The long awaited rain wakes her and she
gets up and walks out onto the balcony. The obsessional loving care and
artistry that is evident in just this single minute tell you everything
you need to know about the quality of Jewel in the Crown. The set and
the lighting on the sleeping figure momentarily transforms the
character who will later be known, pejoratively as "that Manners girl"
into the Diana-like beauty she always imagined she would become.
Wooldridge is convincingly asleep and wakes naturally, and surprise,
delight and relief register on her face as she revels in the feel of
rain on her face. Nothing is out the book. It's all fresh, original,
new. A great piece of acting by Wooldridge, never surpassed or even
approached by all the other actors and actresses who have had to play
this popular little scene, present in so many other movies. A great
piece of directing, lighting, scene setting and costume design.
Aside from this one, there are 649 other minutes and the same care and devotion is taken with all of them. In the episode "The Mughal Room", Sara Layton and Guy Perron spend Guy's last afternoon exploring the Governor's Summer residence at Pankot. 7 minutes go by without any dialogue in this little elegy for the cobwebbed glory of the Raj before they settle down in one of the bedrooms to make love. You won't find anything else like it in mainstream television. Very hard to do but very beautiful.
But then the whole story is excellent, beautifully paced, tragic, funny, pathetic, illuminating and exciting by turns. I've watched it a number of times and I never want it to end.
It really is the best drama series ever made.
I think that this series is absolute perfection. The acting is magnificent, the story is fascinating and the characters are so real that one thinks that one is actually watching a documentary about the final days of the Raj. It is a marvelous adaptation, not a spare scene and it is beautifully directed. It is tightly woven and tells its tale with enviable clarity. I can not find one flaw in this stupendous series. Literate, complex, compelling, this series is singular and an out and out classic. I fear that we will never see anything like this again. Given the current vapid and stupid landscape of American and British television, "The Jewel in the Crown" is THE exemplar of the height of drama.
Apologies but those above who have slated the series by rubbishing the acting I feel, are seriously mistaken. Those who have said that the British characters were too reserved and meandering are quite correct - it is how British people were and definitely how they were portrayed in Paul Scotts original book. The beauty of the piece lies in its tender subtlety which provides in itself enough drama without constant high adrenaline action so common to the Hollywood Blockbuster. Tim Pigott Smith was just beautiful with his sadistic menacing Ronald Merrick who definitely goes top on my list of all time favourites. The whole piece when watched one after the other definitely gives the sense of time and place which - living in modern times it is often easy to lose sight of. Thumbs up to all the cast I feel that the acting from all members was superb.As the show progresses the viewer gets gradually enveloped and involved in the lives of these people the thing to remember about this piece is that it is not necessarily the action which enhances the show but more importantly the psychological development of every single character ( maybe with the exception on Aunt Fenny - funny but was only there for convenience - to introduce Sarah to Jimmy the soldier)
This series is captivating. The wonderful way in which strands of plot are
woven throughout the series in new and interesting ways, the eternally
memorable characters, the fascinating background of historical events, the
series' sympathy to people of every age, social and economic background, the
charm of many of the protagonists.
Even the more minor characters are just drawn so well. Thus, one of my favorite characters in all of television is that of Nigel Rowan - who is wonderfully portrayed by Nicholas LePrevost; one of my least favorite is the major to whom Sarah is introduced by her aunt and uncle.
Such historical episodes as the decision by the princely states of India whether to accede to the newly independent India - or the creation of an Axis army by Indians who had been taken captive by Germans or Japanese -- these stories are engrossing and not so well known among those of us in the United States not well versed in recent Indian history.
The series is spellbinding - one cares greatly about these people and what happens to them is very interesting indeed.
The symbolism in the series deepens one's sense of the mood of the time, of the tragedy, of the ocean in which these characters swim.
I can't imagine a better series adapted from more wonderful books.
This miniseries is compelling, well-told, beautifully filmed, and superbly
acted. With a powerfully moving script, it tells the story of the complex
relationship between the British and Indian people at the end of British
rule of the subcontinent. It has history, romance, action, mystery, and
even a mild dose of sex and violence. ;-) It definitely has something for
I cried, laughed, was amazed, and said "Oh my God!" and "I knew it!" several times. I was glued to the screen and later watched my favorite scenes a second or third time.
Absolutely its only shortcoming was that there were no subtitles. Being as old as it is and with the many accents, it's sometimes a bit hard to make out the exact lines. But it's so easy to follow (yet never dull) that I was never lost. If A&E ever re-releases this with enhanced sound and subtitles, I'll snag it up in a New York minute! Even my husband (who normally hates British films) really enjoyed this. He hated to miss a minute; by Chapter 3, he was utterly hooked.
See this wonderful piece of work if you can. It's well worth every hour.
I can't understand why there are so many negative comments on 'The Jewel
the Crown'. What a well-made series with great performances. Yes, it does
tend to drag during the first three or four episodes but anyone who's read
'The Raj Quartet' would realize that the book is just so - several
unrelated events taking place in a larger political context. The series
definitely better than the books and effectively recreated the political
milieu of the time. I could read the quartet only after having seen the
Kudos to Ken Taylor for his adaptation of a convoluted epic. Definitely a
And kudos to the directors (Christopher Morahan & Jim O'Brien) who despite
the mammoth task of filming a period piece did it with panache. Anyone who
has worked in India (especially a foreign crew) would know just how
frustrating an experience it can be. Yet, they've come out with a
magnificent product. Truly a classic. Fine viewing. Definitely
I first saw The Jewel in the Crown while I was in college on video. I was
quite drawn in by it. There are many fine performances in this piece
including Susan Wooldridge (Daphne Manners), Art Malik (Hari Kumar), Tim
Pigott-Smith (Merrick), Geraldine James (Sarah Layton), Judy Parfitt
(Mildred Layton), Dame Peggy Ashcroft (Barbie Bachelor), and Charles Dance
(Guy Peron). It is these performances which keep the piece moving in the
"less interesting" parts.
In fact, I think it is the persona of Sarah Layton played by Geraldine James that makes the middle part of the series really go. She comes across as being quite likeable and reasonable living in a situation and time that is full of discord and chaos. Judy Parfitt is wonderful as her mother. And when Charles Dance enters the picture as Guy Peron..... well I had hoped that Sarah Layton would really just settle with Guy. The chemistry they have on screen was quite palpable.
The series can be a bit stiff and starchy which is fitting considering the subject matter and the characters. I really enjoyed the Daphne-Hari romance. More wonderful chemistry between the characters. The world was well painted as full of turmoil for the British Raj whose rule in India was ending during the chaos of WWII.
Definitely worth watching. I recommend this work highly.
I really loved this series. I think I've seen the whole series about 7 or
times, and I see something new each time.
The Jewel in the Crown tells the story of individual people trying to live their lives in a world in the process of changing beyond recognition. The acting quality and execution of the entire production has never been equaled. You really believe that these people lived in this extraordinary time, the beginning of the end of the British Empire. Some are able to move forward into the new world, some are destroyed, and all are changed forever.
I actually think that the series is better than the sum of the books, but nothing beats the first book in the series (The Jewel in the Crown) as a stand-alone novel. It's all about human perspective. Similar to the film Rashomon (or Courage Under Fire), the novel Jewel in the Crown tells a story from every point of view except one. You have to think about what that means. The series captures this effect differently, but it does so beautifully.
The haunting story of Paul Scott's THE RAJ QUARTET brought to the screen with flawless acting and character interpretation. While the story is not a pleasant one, the screenplay captures the scope of the problems created by nearly 300 years of British presence in India. Peggy Ashcroft, Fabia Drake, Judy Parfitt, Art Malik and above all Tim Pigott-Smith, to mention but a very few of the cast, create memorable characters that come alive on the screen and will live on in your memories. Superb...
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