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I watched every episode of this wonderful serial (13 weeks) as it was broadcast. It was one of the best dramatizations the BBC ever did, and although the book it was based on was a classic of French literature and political thought(likely to be dull and stuffy and utterly boring I would have guessed), the brilliance of the script, direction and acting brought it to life in a most enthralling manner. I wish they would show it again on one of the cable channels. Superb TV drama.
The BBC's adaptation of Sartre's trilogy was a work of art (not a
label I would often attach to a TV series). It was repeated in
1976/77, which is when I saw it . A long time ago, but hardly
ancient history in TV terms - for example, I saw that 'Elizabeth R',
which was first broadcast around the same time as The Roads to
Freedom, is currently getting a re-run on one of the digital
So where are the tapes? What has the BBC done with them? Why has the best TV drama ever made not been seen for nearly 30 years? I think we should be told.
If anyone, anywhere, managed to tape the series, they should make a fortune, as there are so many people I know who are desperate to see it again, having been powerfully affected by it in their youth.
Would it have dated if shown again now? I don't think so. Quality lasts. And think of the subject matter - commitment versus freedom, abortion, homosexuality, politics, sex, nightlife, the passions and preoccupations of individuals overshadowed by a looming war. How dated is that?
If anyone knows anything about what happened to the tapes of this series, or would be interested in joining me in forcing the BBC to give us some sensible answers, please email me.
Like all the other commenters, I would love to see this - I found it gripping, one of the consistently best dramatisations I've seen on television, and as one person said, it followed the books very closely. Acting, atmosphere, pace, costumes and settings were all superb. I thought Michael Bryant in the lead role was particularly good - he had the right air of worried intelligence. Rosemary Leach, too was good - earthy and vulnerable, and Daniel Massey - tortured and irritable. I've heard the BBC deleted a lot of their old television tapes so unless a private individual has recorded it we're all doomed.
The Roads to Freedom was one of those few television series which had a
profound effect upon me when I watched them as a teenager on my
grandfather's television. I had never heard of Sartre and it was only
later that I realised how closely the series followed the books. The
atmosphere set was gripping, a nervous world with the threat of war and
a world over which they had no control echoed in the lives of the
characters. Michael Bryant was magnificent as Mathieu, but there was
Ivich (I forget the name of the actress) too. Another writer has
mentioned Daniel Massey. In particular, the death of Mathieu haunts me
to this day.
This and "Man of Straw" with Derek Jacobi which I believe has been deleted by the BBC I believe to be two of the finest series the BBC has ever shown and I am greatly saddened that I will never see them again.
In response to another's comment - the theme song, "La route est Dur" I am sure was not unaccompanied but had at least a cello accompaniment and maybe an oboe too. I haven't heard it since the last episode of the series (alas, no video recorders in those days!) but would love to find a copy.
Update July 2007 A copy of Georgia Brown singing "La Route est Dur" is available here:
Now we just need to find the lost tapes of the series itself!
Memory plays tricks! The title of the song is in fact "La route est dure" - based on a song of the French Resistance (So ignore my previous nonsense). I came across a copy on 7" vinyl. The performance by Georgia Brown is every bit as vivid as I had remembered, raw and impassioned, and way ahead of it's time as TV theme music.
it's pretty strange reading these remarks, something of an 'I thought
it was just me' moment.
I saw the series as a teenager, had never even heard of Sartre, but the series just captivated me.
I still sing the theme music to myself and remember little snippets of action and dialogue - the knife through the hand, the wrestling match between a man and his teenage lover.
anyhow, the BFI definitely have a copy in their archive goodness only knows how that helps
maybe we should try to lobby BBC4 or something
This film seemed to me to be very close to the atmosphere of the books. The film characters of Mathieu, Daniel, Lola etc all seem practically perfect renditions of the book characters. The wretched TV company says it has no plans to repeat it.
I was 15 at the time and living with my ex-pat family from England in
California, where I watched Roads to Freedom via Masterpiece Theatre on
This show used to draw conversation with my friends and myself at our high school art class each week; to whether or not we saw the current episode, and to what we thought of it. My family only had a black and white TV at the time; however, I remember watching it in colour also at my best friends home; whom also, by the way, remembers the show and it's theme.
The theme, believe it or not, I still have on an old audio tape somewhere in a cluttered draw. When the first tape cassette recorders came out, I got one for Christmas, and I taped the theme to Roads to Freedom by holding up a microphone in front of the television speaker.
Home video recorders were not readily available to most consumers back in 1970/71, and if there were any obscure models about, they would have been unaffordable for most people, and probably technically crude in their quality of recording. Still, however, I believe that there may still be some hope in the recovery of all of those lost episodes from Roads to Freedom; even if the BBC did in fact erase them from their archives forever. The reason for this assumption, is because the BBC exported copies of this production abroad, as I was indeed a regular viewer when I resided in the US as a teenager, so I know this for a fact; and I would suspect that the programme would have been exported to other countries also, So, if the BBC did delete this programme; the possibility still stands that their could be copies elsewhere in the world in some archive vault; PBS, perhaps.
Before I close, I would like to make a comment about EwanScott's entry about Roads to Freedom being the flagship programme which announced the start of BBC 2. BBC 2 was launched in 1964, not in 1970/71 Or could it be that he was referring to the first show to start the evening broadcast?
I saw this series after reading the first book and found
whole series to be a wonderful viewing experience.
The theme song is excellent and I have wanted to find a recording for years.
If you are luck enough to see any episodes or hear the theme song then take the opportunity.
If anyone knows of video or CD recordings of the series or title song then I would be most interested. Paul Downing (email@example.com)
In common with may other posters I remember this series during its original broadcast as being an example of the kind of TV that before home video and time shifting one would stay home to watch and look forward to. I was disappointed when it was over and there was no more. Even the theme tune haunted me and I have been looking for a copy for years. The excellent casting period atmosphere and tone are sustained throughout the series. Contrary to some posters memory this was produced in colour although that is difficult to tell from the opening credits over a shot of Rodin's "Thinker" which lacks colour. I am less pessimistic about the availability of source material for a DVD release than some others but suspect that the difficulty and expense of negotiating the many rights involved in a re-issue would prove prohibitive. Sadly it would be inconceivable for the BBC to produce something with the same scale and ambition today. Not just because of the costs but because it is a work that is a, Foreign and b, about ideas. We can only hope that the new markets for DVD Internet broadcast and niche channels will eventually make it worthwhile remastering this forgotten masterpiece. In the meanwhile and in the absence of the opportunity to see the series I have re-read the books several times over the years always imagining Michael Bryant as Mathieu.
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