Living quietly in the small village of King's Abbot, sleuth Hercule Poirot becomes involved in the murder of successful industrialist Roger Ackroyd. The number of potential killers is almost as great as the population of the village itself. As Poirot investigates he sees that there might be a connection to the suicide of a local woman, and the death the previous year of her husband. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The book on which this is based is one of the cleverest in all literature. The detective story is a matter of intellectual battle between the reader and the writer for control over the larger arc of the story. In most cases, the writer's avatar is the narrator. But what if the narrator is a character in the story and caught up in motivations from the fictional world?
It is a fantastic idea, that of the untrusted narrator. And it is one that clever writers and filmmakers have been using for a long time. Kubrick was one over on the film side and still after all those viewings most people take him literally. Just goes to show that it is very hard to do one of these untrusted narrator things in film. And it is nearly impossible if you have to aim as low as a TeeVee audience.
Clive Exton, the adapter, is the long time defiler of Christie. Who will do these again in my lifetime now that he has ruined the magic of them? In this case, he transforms the clever narrative device into a journal that Poirot reads as we see the story unfold. Exton doesn't go as far as inferring that what we see is literally what Poirot reads and in fact its sort of a muddle. One gets the impression it is there to mollify curmudgeons like us who wonder where the book fits in.
As with all Exton adaptations, complexities are eliminated, suspects erased and endings turned into dramatic TeeVee events.
But there is some joy here. As dull as the adapter is, the director tries to be clever. The opening shot, where Poirot recovers the journal, is a terrific piece of staging and I would be proud of it if it were mine. Throughout, he artfully plays on the nature of shadows. Just a little more would have been welcome.
Each of these plays by the BBC rulebook of places and faces. One of those rules is that one of the young women must be very pretty. In the past, we've even seen Polly Walker. Here, the duty falls to Daisy Beaumont.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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