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Guy Pringle and his new wife, Harriet, are members of the English community in Bucharest, Rumania on the eve of World War II. The film catalogs and chronicles, after the war begins, the characters [diplomats, literary types, spies, penniless royalty, gays, lesbians] that cross and re-cross their path as they flee before the advancing Germany armies to Athens and then to Cairo. Written by
Noble Bell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The three points are for the splendid production values. I have not read the novels but offer this point of view based solely on the TV series. Well acted by all means, but Fortunes of War is ultimately tedious and horrendously disjointed. It is like watching a Play for Today that goes on and on and on. While Plater's terse and character-obsessed style no doubt works for short TV drama and the stage, it is out of place in a lavish and lengthy production such as this. In the end there was no plot to speak of. I kept waiting for something to happen, but it never did. I kept waiting for some drama, some explosion of conflict between the seemingly endless numbers of characters but again there was nothing. Yes, we had a snapshot of Europe on the brink of war, of the British ex-pat community at play, desperately trying to ignore the gathering storm and looking to their own self interest. But so what? This theme has been done to death. The characters were quirky in some cases (and then only in an irritating way) but mostly they were extremely dull. I was unable to care about any of them. We are told that the story is about the break up of the Pringle marriage as it faces the stresses and strains of impending war. But the impending war never seemed to really threaten and the British ex-pats seemed almost unconcerned about it. The Thompson- Branagh relationship- if relationship is the right word- lacked any passion and from the start they seemed to be two dull people ideally suited to each other. There was never ever a 'relationship' to break up and so when it 'started' I really didn't feel anything at all. Branagh's character was the most disappointing, almost soporifically so. We are told he was a communist, feverishly against war, yet he expresses little outrage at the collapse of civilization (apart from the odd and very unconvincing 'war is an outrage' uttered over yet another glass of wine). Not such an outrage that it should interrupt his frankly absurd obsession with Shakespeare et al at a time when everything Shakespeare stood for was crashing down on his head. All the characters seemed to be thoroughly amoral. The only one I frankly cared for was the old man and the toy dog he dragged around. In the end that summed up this failed production for me. Nothing but a drag.
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