Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Visiting Cranford

The Masterpiece season on PBS just ended Sunday with the final installment in an Elizabeth Gaskell adaptation, Cranford. This series was so much better than most of the pitiful Jane Austen adaptations we were given this year. The writing, acting, and pacing were just superb.

I have to admit I was curious how they would pull off a series based on a book with so little central plot. The producers (and writers I suppose) made the decision to incorporate plots from two other Gaskell works in addition to the characters and stories of Cranford itself.

For the most part, I thought this worked well. Unfortunately the lines from My Lady Ludlow did not work in quite as well, for me. They did not integrate well into Cranford society although I must admit that I loved all the scenes with Mr. Carter, Mrs. Gallindo, and Harry Gregson, whether they belonged in Cranford or not.

And, as I always say, with any work from Gaskell: don't get attached. She makes you love characters and then, inevitably, they die in truly heartrending fashion. Her humor is a different style from Austen, but it is there, and I highly commend the producers of this movie for getting both the humor and the pathos exactly spot on. Some of the actors were better than others (Dame Judi Dench is incomparable!) but for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed my three week sojourn in Cranford.

Now if we could get Austen adaptations of this caliber I'd stop complaining. Then again, maybe I wouldn't. But we'll most likely never get a chance to find out because anyone interested in producing Austen is always determined to make it "relevant" or "accessible". (READ: modernize it and destroy everything that first made it charming.)

But that's a sermon for another day.

If you'd like to watch it:

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