Joanna and her baby are living with Tommy's parents who read news of a likely armistice to her whilst in privation-hit Germany William and Susan also hear that peace is imminent. On the Western Front...
Tommy and his friends are ordered forward wearing cumbersome gas masks which they tear off as they restrict their vision. However there is a gas attack and, having being rescued by a married soldier ...
Retelling of the First World War from Two Young Persons' Perspective
Many years ago anyone staying at home during the day could watch THE SULLIVANS on ITV - an Australian soap opera that told of the experiences of a middle-class Melbourne family and the effect that World War II had on their lives. The series was very people- centered, and music was often used to set the mood of a scene in a technique that was very different from British soaps (this was in the ways when CORONATION STREET and CROSSROADS rules the network waves, and EASTENDERS had not been even thought of).
Memories of the long-forgotten Australian series were evoked through THE PASSING BELLS: written by Tony Jordan, it tells the story of World War One through the eyes of two young soldiers (Patrick Gibson, Jack Lowden), from the heady days of patriotism as they enlist, confident in the belief that the conflict will be over by Christmas, to the disillusion of 1918, when the aspirations of an entire generation were completely destroyed.
In planning a series like this for prime-time viewing before the 9 p.m. watershed on BBC, director Brendan Maher could have encountered a problem; how to emphasize the bloodiness of the conflict without resorting to graphic violence. Sensibly he chooses instead to focus on the human element; what is interesting about THE PASSING BELLS is the way the characters interact - or fail to interact - with one another. The camaraderie of episode one soon dissipates as the youngsters understand the true horror of the trenches; but even in the midst of war, some kind of friendship develops between the troops from opposite sides. This is historically accurate: hostilities inevitably ceased on Christmas Day, and the troops ventured into no-man's land to exchange a scrap of festive cheer.
And the music? In THE PASSING BELLS it is used to create mood; to emphasize the contrast between the edenic, community-focused world of prewar England and the living hell of battle, where young men had to live cheek-by-jowl in a sea of mud. Some of it might be a tad obtrusive, especially in the first episode, but the overall purpose is a good one; to make viewers aware of the social consequences of the War both at home and at the Front.
As a serial, THE PASSING BELLS works extremely well, despite the odd verbal anachronism (would people in the Edwardian era actually refer to "boyfriends" and "girlfriends"?), while not shying away from showing the destructive effects of war.
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