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I love a good period drama, and The Crimson Petal and the White is exactly that. The book is a masterpiece, full of rich, memorable characters and a very interesting story line that draws you in from the word go, and this series lives up to it very, very well. Not only as an adaptation, but on its own terms, and it is addictive and easy to get into. I am not going to say which is better, the book or the series, I love them both equally.
Where The Crimson Petal and the White scores especially is in its setting and how it looks. The whole series is beautifully photographed, and the scenery and costumes are astounding. Not only that, the lighting and colours look so rich and vibrant in colour. The Crimson Petal and the White also succeeds in conveying a major asset that most period dramas have but some just lack, atmosphere. The atmosphere is so strong and authentic often that you don't feel you're watching a series, you feel as though you are being transported in time and reliving that moment for yourself.
I am also fond of good music in pretty much anything, being an aspiring singer and growing up into a musical family. The music for The Crimson Petal and the White is exquisite. Sometimes it is beautiful. Sometimes it is poignant. And sometimes it is haunting and intense when it needs to be. All these fit wonderfully with every scene, and are thankfully done in a subtle way in alternative to being done in an over-bearing and overly bombastic manner.
There is also a lot of depth in this series. Not that the book didn't, quite the contrary, but here the characters especially have the richness and perhaps even complexity of those in a Dickens dramatisation, in particular Amanda Hale's character. In fact for me, characterisation wise, The Crimson Petal and the White is the most in-depth series I have seen in the past year or so.
The Crimson Petal and the White benefits from really strong writing. It is very intelligent and literate with a dark quality to it too and never jars from the scene it appears in or in the characters it helps shape. The story helped by the atmosphere is hugely compelling, with subplots and the like developed very nicely without feeling too underdeveloped or padded out. The length and pacing should be credited, The Crimson Petal and the White considering how mammoth the book is, doesn't feel to me like it was too short, too rushed, too long or too meandering, instead it is perfect.
The direction also helps, it is very stylish and elegant, very like the camera work and settings for the series. The acting is superb, my favourite being Amanda Hale who gives real credibility to her increasingly tormented character instead of making her fall in caricature. Gillian Anderson is almost unrecognisable and is very good, she always is very good, but the thing about Anderson is that the more I see of her the more she impresses me. And this is pretty much the same with Romola Garai, I liked her very much in Atonement and Emma but I loved her here as she plays for my money her most interesting character to date. The biggest surprise though, and in a good way, is Chris O'Dowd, when I think of O'Dowd his style of acting(cheeky and spontaneous boyish charm) is very different to what is seen here, and overall he does do a really good job.
Overall, an amazing series. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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