A Dance to the Music of Time (1997)

TV Mini-Series  -   -  Drama
7.4
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Anthony Powell's 12 volume novel sequence "A Dance to the Music of Time" has been dramatised for television.

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Season:

1

Year:

1997
3 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Series cast summary:
Gillian Barge ...
 Mrs. Erdleigh (4 episodes, 1997)
...
 Bob Duport / ... (4 episodes, 1997)
...
 Widmerpool (4 episodes, 1997)
Sean Baker ...
 X Trapnel (4 episodes, 1997)
Robin Bailey ...
 Uncle Alfred (3 episodes, 1997)
...
 Peter Templer (3 episodes, 1997)
...
 Moreland (3 episodes, 1997)
Richard Pasco ...
 Sir Magnus Donners (3 episodes, 1997)
...
 Nicholas Jenkins (3 episodes, 1997)
...
 Charles Stringham (3 episodes, 1997)
Annabel Mullion ...
 Mona (3 episodes, 1997)
...
 Jean (3 episodes, 1997)
...
 JG Quiggin (3 episodes, 1997)
Grant Thatcher ...
 Mark Members (3 episodes, 1997)
Sarah Badel ...
 Lady Molly (2 episodes, 1997)
...
 Sillery (2 episodes, 1997)
Emma Fielding ...
 Isobel (2 episodes, 1997)
...
 Le Bas (2 episodes, 1997)
...
 Uncle Giles (2 episodes, 1997)
Anastasia Hille ...
 Matilda (2 episodes, 1997)
...
 Odo Stevens (2 episodes, 1997)
...
 Pamela Flitton (2 episodes, 1997)
...
 Audrey Maclintick (2 episodes, 1997)
Michael Williams ...
 Ted Jeavons (2 episodes, 1997)
Geraldine Alexander ...
 Susan (2 episodes, 1997)
Carmen Du Sautoy ...
 Miss Weedon (2 episodes, 1997)
...
 David Pennistone / ... (2 episodes, 1997)
Barbara Durkin ...
 Betty (2 episodes, 1997)
...
 Sunny Farebrother (2 episodes, 1997)
Osmund Bullock ...
 Erridge (2 episodes, 1997)
Caroline Harker ...
 Priscilla (2 episodes, 1997)
...
 Colonel Flores (2 episodes, 1997)
Bryan Pringle ...
 Smith (2 episodes, 1997)
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Storyline

Anthony Powell's 12 volume novel sequence "A Dance to the Music of Time" has been dramatised for television.

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Genres:

Drama

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

9 October 1997 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Horos sti mousiki tou hronou  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(4 parts)

Color:

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Did You Know?

Goofs

In the final segment, when Widmerpool is kissing the feet of the disciples, the edge of his phony hairpiece is clearly visible on the back of his head. See more »

Soundtracks

Twentieth Century Blues
(uncredited)
By Noel Coward
[theme]
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User Reviews

 
Disappointing and often annoying
16 June 2012 | by (San Francisco) – See all my reviews

I should preface my remarks by saying that I've not read the source material (Anthony Powell's twelve semi-autobiographical novels) so I can't comment on that aspect of the story. My frustration with the protagonist Nick Jenkins passivity no doubt reflects Powell's original creation. I thought that James Purefoy did a credible job portraying Jenkins and it was a relief to see him take a break from the usual scenery chewing, sneering and smirking he so often exhibits in his period film performances. To the contrary -- he's understated and passive to the point of bewilderment which, I presume, was Powell's intention.

Much of the rest of the cast is excellent (and any frequent viewer of British period films will recognize many fine character actors), although the characters themselves are often inexplicably unappealing. Throughout it all, Jenkins stays collegial, if not congenial, with every one of them, no matter how despicable they might be. That struck me as unbelievable, but again -- I suspect that Powell was using Jenkins as a personification of the British trait of "getting on with people". Fair enough.

What, then, is my objection to "A Dance to the Music of Time"? They are three, two of which have to do with the structure of the story. First, the adaptation feels forced and is hugely uneven. You always know things are going badly in a film when characters employ declamation to introduce themselves. "Why hello, young Winston Churchill! You may not remember me, but I'm the Prince of Wales." (I just made that up for effect, but it reflects the tin-eared dialogue often employed in the miniseries when it needs to Tell Us Something.) Yes, it's madness to try to abridge 12 novels down to seven hours on film, but that decision largely doomed the miniseries' credibility.

Second, the further along the film goes, the less focus it has. It wanders off into one utterly pointless subplot after another, trying to express the passage of time and zeitgeists along the way. No sale. It feels forced and perfunctory.

Finally, due to the timeframe of the film (1920s through '60s), characters must age. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, James Purefoy is one of the very few who is replaced with a different (and older) actor, and one who looks nothing like him. This requires more awkward exposition ("Hello, Bill. You may not remember me, but I'm Nicholas Jenkins, even though I look nothing like the Nick Jenkins you knew in Episode Three.") Why was this done? Widmerpool and most of the other actors progressively age (to varying degrees of believability), but just swapping out the protagonist for a different actor torpedoes the film's credibility all the more. Inexplicably, Miranda Richardson not only portrays the same character throughout, she does not age one year. Absurd.

Ultimately, this film left me scratching and shaking my head. Perhaps the books bring something more to the story, but the film felt like a contrived string of events both banal and pseudo-historic, with a hollow man at the center. We never care about any of the characters, nor do we see anything of substance inside of the protagonist. He's a cypher, an "everyman" and ultimately a bore to follow for seven hours.


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