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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I will begin by saying that I am a fan of the novel and that I entered
into this adaptation with some trepidation. I need not have. It's not
the same as the novel, as no TV/adaptation ever is, but it is true to
it. It's true to the feel more so than sticking religiously to the
story. Without giving too much away the scenes set in 1910 are thick
and heavy with meaning and heat and sexual frustration. They're meant
to be slow, lazy, decadent days; they are the kind of days you want to
sink your teeth into. The colours are lush and rich. They contrast
beautifully with the war scenes, with their bleached, washed out
palette. This is an unfamiliar and alien land but visually it has it's
own striking features. The first days of the Somme, the battle we're
leading up to, were fought in heat and dust and dirt. The rain and the
mud came later.
The main characters are not meant to be likable. They begin as self focused, blinkered lovers and end as broken and damaged souls. Their self obsession runs deep, they hurt those around them and they leave little left of one another. Both actors portray this well. They're short on time to go from strangers to obsessive lovers, not a problem the novel has, but the glances are weighty and they're both rather wonderful to look at, like the well bred, out of control aristocrats they portray, all lips, eyes and cheekbones.
It's slow, it's interwoven and it involves a certain amount of accepting that love, war and sex can lead to all sorts of madness but if you let yourself melt into it I don't think you'll be sorry. If you then read the novel you'll be less sorry still.
Interesting backlash on this adaptation, this is the trouble when you try and put the subtlety of words in to pictures. I thought it was a great adaptation; I read the book and was pleased they got the main themes in (all bar the third storyline). I remember reading the book and not liking Stephen much and I didn't like him much here either and that continuity was pleasing. Yes some of it failed to get going, I thought the scene with the old lady and her daughter in the book was much more fraught and tense. But you know what, that was me reading into the work, you can't really do that when you are watching it. The graphics were a real weak link, the CGI battlefields were pitiful, lots of emotion as usual a distinct lack of blood or pain! With the centenary of the First World War coming up I can imagine they are holding some of their war cards close to their chest, but they could have put a little more effort into that. I enjoyed the acting and what they conveyed in a short space of time. I would have liked to have seen more character development of the soldiers, but hay we can't have everything. In all I thought it was a worthy piece of drama, and to all those who go on about the oral sex scene being unrealistic. Are you all experts in early 20th Century sexual practises?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I would recommend this to anybody that likes a good romance or
I personal thought the storyline was fantastic and having not read the book i really want to read it now. the actors are brilliant and the two main actors have great chemistry and play the individual parts amazingly.
i think Philip Martin's work unbelievably good and i think this was one of his greatest works.
I want to be a director when i'm older and this is exactly the sort of i want to direct.
The drama reminded me of Atonment quite a lot, particularly the romance side of it anyway. The rest of the cast was superb as well. for example, you have Richard Madden and Joseph Mawle from a Game of Thrones.
Each character has different sides to them and they react differently to the events throughout the drama. in the scenes where Stephen is in the trenches you get a feeling of what is was like to be in the trenches back then, obviously unless you were there, we really have no idea of what the terrible things the brave soldiers must have seen.
The music for this drama is a beautiful piece with only piano and violins playing softly in the background, there is a lovely simplicity to it and i love it. The buildings and the clothes are wonderful and i deeply enjoy dramas where it is set in the early nineteen hundreds as you get a feel of what it was like back then.
I thought this was truly a master piece and i loved every second of it. It made me cry, in fact, i couldn't stop for a while... and i was left wanting more and wanting to find out what happens next...
If you enjoyed it. Then like me, you will have something to look forward to during the week.
thanks for reading... enjoy Birdsong
I read the book Birdsong (the basis for this series) by Sebastian
Faulks many years ago and really enjoyed it, particularly the sections
about life in the trenches, which I found very gripping and evocative.
Perhaps my memory is playing up, but I seemed to remember that this was
the main point of the book, not the romance between Stephen and his
french girlfriend, which was the main focus of this disappointing
I am amazed how the production team managed to turn such a good book about WW1 into such a dull and plodding romantic drama. The dialogue was stilted, and although I am English and therefore used to the various English dialects, I struggled most of the time to understand what was being said so had to turn the volume up higher than normal. The acting was also poor - involving lots of staring mournfully at each other and simpering. I'm not sure if this was the actors' / director's faults or whether it was such a bad script that there was just no dialogue to work with. I've never watched a drama with so many long silences in it (except maybe the Twilight films); I'm sure this wasn't a feature of the book. I found myself getting very frustrated with the slow pace and kept wanting to reach for the FF button on the remote. I also found the casting of several of the characters very odd - especially the normally excellent Matthew Goode and Eddie Redmayne.
The one redeeming feature of the series was that it looked good.
In summary then, one to avoid and read the book instead.
First let me say that there are not enough movies made about WWI. Thats
I didn't read the book, in fact I had never heard of this until one night in May of 2012, when I had promised to take my daughter to see "The Avengers" only to discover it was sold out when we got to the theater. We came back home and turned on the TV set and this movie was about to come on. Being a fan of WWI movies like "The Lost Battalion","Flyboys" and "The Trench", I thought that I'd give this movie a look.
I was so glad I watched this movie. I was glued to my TV for both nights that it was on. I found the story gripping and moving. I didn't want to get out of my chair (not even to go get a soda from the refrigerator). I found the cinematography to be absolutely beautiful. The battle scenes were very moving, I felt like I was down in that crawlspace with them. I know that most people will call this a love story, but I would call it a human story. Amazing Story about coming of age, falling in love and going to war. I cant praise this movie enough.
The acting is very well done, The Cinematography is amazing, the sets are very realistic, and the music score is good. I loved this movie. After watching a serious emotional movie like this, I wasn't in the mood to see cartoon-ish movie like "The Avengers" for a while.
I loved this movie I purchased a copy on DVD
Although there was a lot left out of the original book, the storytelling in this TV miniseries was beautiful. I have been loving Eddie Redmayne for a while now, but after this film, I'm hooked! I am in love with him as was Isabelle. :) I loved the actress who played her as well. She reminded me of young Juliette Binoche. I thought it was a passionate and beautifully told story. The cinematography was spectacular and the massive destruction that WWII left was very well depicted here. More films should show how the Wealthy Upper classes acted as the Generals who would order the lower classes to put themselves on the frontlines basically for suicide missions to keep everyone else in good standing, including those who sat around thinking up brilliant ideas to have innocent young soldiers killed.
I was expecting much from Birdsong. I had read the book three years ago for my English A Levels course, and found myself utterly transfixed by the poignant and gut-wrenching story. Since then, Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong has become one of my favourite books of all time. This series does have its good parts. It is photographed beautifully, exquisitely even, the scenery is wonderful in the whole part of the story before Stephen goes off to war, I liked the contrast between the lush pre-war scenes and the bleak colour palette of war itself the music is effective in its simplicity and there are two good performances, the scene-stealing Jack Firebrace of Joseph Mawle and the emotionally complex Jeanne of Marie-Josee Croze. Sadly, I never found myself convinced by the story and characters. This is not helped by a script that is largely incoherent, characters that excepting perhaps Jeanne are lifeless cardboard cut-outs(I know they are not likable characters to begin with but still there is a difference between that and the characters having no life at all) and sluggish pacing. I also found Eddie Redmayne and Clemence Posey miscast, Redmayne is handsome certainly but he was also wooden and uncharismatic while Posey has no chemistry with him and looks like twenty years younger than her novelistic counterpart. The story has scenes that are either condensed(naturally considering the time) or almost endlessly stretched out(not so much), but it was the lack of atmosphere and drama that really spoiled Birdsong. The intimate scenes between Stephen and Isabelle weren't that intimate to me as both actors looked in pain during those scenes, and the war scenes due to the poorly rendered battlefields weren't poignant, tense or gut-wrenching enough. Overall, does have some good things such as the beautiful photography, but the pacing and lack of drama made Birdsong rather dull in my opinion, sorry. 5/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just watched "Birdsong" on PBS. Didn't know anything about it other
than it had Eddie Redmayne in it. His work in "Savage Grace", "The Good
Shepherd", and "Les Miserable" sets him apart from other actors of his
generation. As does his work here. He pretty much carries "Birdsong" on
his shoulders singlehandedly which saved this fairly flawed film. It is
a "made for TV product" but on some levels; acting, art direction, and
cinematography, it's Oscar material - and then at others like;
screenplay, and... well, really just the screenplay, it's a mess. That
being said, the essence of what the movie is trying to convey is more
than vaulted into the viewers mind and senses. This three hour "thing"
I just watched is more of a performance (Redmayne) than a film.
Fortunately that worked because Redmayne's performance is a powerful
sensory overload that is moving and overwhelming. He could do the whole
film without ever uttering a word and you'd walk away knowing; that war
is hell, how it ruins people, how it makes heroes of some and distant
memories of others, and that the carnage of war can come in the form of
a letter from home as lethally as from a bomb or a bullet. I,
personally, believe that Eddie Redmayne is one of the most gifted
actors working today. It's in his eyes. Every wonderful, horrible,
Stephen, the main character played by Eddie Redmayne, is in France on the front line during WWI. He is a harsh and aloof lieutenant. In one of the opening scenes, however, a soldier is fatally wounded and Stephen holds his hand as he is dying and asks him, "do you have a sweetheart", "what's her name", "hold on", "think of the last thing you said to her and the first thing you'll say when you see her again". He knows he'll never see his sweetheart again but maybe this soldier saw her beautiful face in his mind before he died instead of the hellscape he died in. The woman Stephen loved and lost scrolls through his mind constantly. His memory of her is what keeps him alive and believing there will be a tomorrow beyond the hell he is in now. Their story is told, you will see, in recollections and flashbacks during his worst times at war. Those memories are his only grasp on sanity in an insane place.
So, this is a war story, and we've seen them before. Right? Right. However, having visited the very moving and sobering Viet Nam War Memorial in Washington, DC, and the American Cemetery in Normandy, France (three times - one of the saddest and most beautiful places on Earth), as effective as those experiences were, they don't, and aren't meant to, convey the terror and madness experienced by those soldiers when they died. This film and its stars, come about as close as one can to showing us what it is like to hold a dying soldiers hand, to be mortally wounded, to see in your mind the faces of the ones you love as your life slips away from you, or how random life and death on the battlefield can be. It's in their eyes. It's especially in the eyes of Eddie Redmayne.
So, despite the fact that the script has real problems and the editing not much better (another reviewer mentioned that piano arpeggio "borrowed" from Avo Part's "Spiegle Im Spiegle"? Overdone does not come close to describing how much this plot device was overused), the film succeeds in many ways and on many levels. One of those is the acting from Eddie Redmayne, Joseph Mawle, and Richard Madden. They effectively establish the bond between men who share the life and death experiences of an ugly war. In particular, the storyline between Redmayne's character, Stephen Wraysford, and Joseph Mawle's character, Jack Firebrace, is powerful. It, more than the love story, in the fulcrum of this narrative. Their performances convey what a mind and body are put through when they're at war, and the inevitable carnage that will live in the memory forever of one of them and die with the other. Through their relationship, Stephen becomes a man.
And while I don't like doing this, I am going to take issue with some of the reviews I've read here that attack the lead actor based on his looks and acting skill. As for the looks, since when is a soldier supposed to look like anything more than an average guy? Because that's who goes to war. Average, regular, guys. Though I would also take issue with describing Redmayne as "average". He has a compelling on screen handsomeness that is undeniable. As for the swipes at his acting skills, especially that he is "wooden" (?), everyone is entitled to an opinion, I just gave mine, but some of these comments read like they were written by someone using an alias who was up for the lead role and didn't get it. Seriously. Eddie Redmayne can find a perfect pitch in any role he does. His filmography has a varied scope of characters that he has played with a realness that is unparalleled. While others "act", he "lives" the characters he plays on screen. This film is very much worth consideration.
First of all, BIRDSONG is beautifully filmed and acted. Joseph Mawle is
especially memorable as Jack Firebrace--who I quote in my title here--a
friend and sort of foil character to the protagonist (Stephen
Wraysford) played by Eddie Redmayne. Agree: American audiences may find
all the British brogues a bit hard to follow without the subtitles.
While there is a palpable storyline and a good surprise at the end, BIRDSONG appeals more to the heart than to the head. It's quite a sad story, of course, but it avoids going too far in the direction of melodrama. It successfully incorporates some really huge themes: Love, forgiveness, loyalty, and others. There is also a great deal of WWI battle footage: BIRDSONG will probably appeal to most war film aficionados. Warning: Some really graphic scenes of carnage at the Somme and various other battles.
Part I shifts every few minutes from Wraysford's illicit 1910 love affair with the wife of a French business partner to his service in the British army between 1916-18. The two time settings are extremely well-synchronized: The directors and producers did a fine job of making the two stories into one. Part II, though it follows the same general pattern, is a little more of a straightforward, solidified story.
I haven't read Sebastian Faulks's original novel, but I've heard nothing but good things about it. It's probably a hard book to cinematize, but Masterpiece Theater did about the best job possible here.
Though I haven't read the book yet and I also had no idea this was
split into two TV-movies. It came out as one single very long movie on
DVD in Germany, so I watched it like that. It did appeal to me,
especially acting, though some choices seemed weird. For a TV movie it
is surprising I reckon that there is nudity. For regular TV I guess,
but then again, we're way past that already.
The structure does seem fitting for a novel and it makes more sense in the book form (or at least seems to). Even without having read it, you can do more in the head of a reader than in a film. Still this seems more than decent enough to stand on its own, especially if the viewer is unaware of its source material.
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