Birdsong

20/01/2012 § Leave a comment

Today I have a post at MostlyFilm previewing the forthcoming BBC adaptation of Birdsong. I’m not actually mad about the novel, but I think there’s scope in it for a more interesting adaptation than this one:

[Philip] Martin and [Abi] Morgan have spoken about their intention to get away from highly politicised interpretations of the First World War such as Richard Attenborough’s film of Joan Littlewood’s revue Oh! What a Lovely War. Setting aside the question of whether it’s even possible to ‘depoliticise’ a historical disaster in which over 35 million people died, there’s certainly space for a more nuanced take on the conflict than Oh! What a Lovely War – which is, let us not forget, a Brechtian musical satire rather than a realistic depiction of war – but Morgan and Martin’s Birdsong is not it. In depoliticising the war, in trying to avoid the clichés of beautiful and doomed youth, lions led by donkeys, Birdsong adopts other clichés: the one about the Edenic pre-1914 world, lost forever in the horror of the trenches; another of the highly strung officer, muscle twitching in his jaw, unable to bear the horrors that rougher men take for granted. Even the relationship between Isabelle and René is crashingly unsubtle: he is the strike-breaking capitalist whose impotence makes him beat his wife; she’s the angelic innocent who secretly takes bread to his striking workers.

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