October 30th, 2011
Yes, I’ll own it publicly. I am, like many women interested in historic fashion, generally a sucker for BBC literary miniseries. I loved North and South, Bleak House, and Daniel Deronda. And I even went so far as to purchase my own copy of Pride and Prejudice. So you can imagine my excitement when the DVD of Barchester Chronicles arrived last week. Filmed in the 1980s, it’s chock-a-block with BBC stock players, exquisite (and mostly accurate) costumes, and more lace curtains than you can shake a stick at. Alan Rickman steals the show as Rev. Slope, revealing many of the mannerisms that he would later use for the slightly-less-slimy Professor Snape of Harry Potter fame.
But for all that, I couldn’t seem to enjoy the film. Perhaps it was too long (nearly five hours). Or perhaps it was the script. I shall never understand why modern writers feel the need to revise dialogue written by literary masters. It just dripped along, without any of the clever sparkle that enlivened the books — particularly Barchester Towers, which made me laugh out loud.
And while I’m at it, I have one last quibble. The books were written in the late 1850s, early 1860s. But for some reason, the film’s costumers chose to include a number of dresses that were so obviously early 1850s. It’s almost as though they had left-overs from a Dickens production, which, come to think of it, they probably did.