I recently watched the final episode of the BBC series, Parade’s End, based on the book by Ford Maddox Ford. I’ve mentioned before that I was really enjoying this, but I thought it was worth a post to itself as it really was superb. Ford Maddox Ford is an author who has rather fallen off our radar in Britain, but I for one am going to make an effort to read him after this inspiring adaption. Parade’s End is about perhaps the last decent man in England, a man who believes in marriage, chastity and monogamy, who has the bad luck to marry inappropriately and then fall in love elsewhere. As his values and, indeed, his life, falls down around him, Christopher has to cope with WW1, the suicide of his father and regular humiliations from his wife.
This adaption was full of wonderful quotes, for example when Christopher advises his army colleague ‘Don’t let yourself go; you might go further than you would wish.’ I love that kind of low-key wisdom. I’ve ordered the book so I can check whether these bon mots are mainly Ford or whether the wonderful Sir Tom Stoppard (who wrote the script) was the source.
I really enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as Christopher Teitjens but the real stand out performance for me was from Rebecca Hall. Her character, Sylvia Teitjens, was a bit of a gift anyway, but she really made it her own. She was absolutely vile to the long-suffering Christopher, but, despite myself, I couldn’t help liking her. Through that character, some of the lost potential in women of that era was communicated very poignantly, Here was a woman who was obviously very, very clever and yet had no outlet for it beyond manipulating those around her and causing dramas. Her misery and frustration was very well-played by Hall. Sometimes, the two main actors were on the edge of over-acting, but in the context of Sylvia’s veiled cries for help and Christopher’s inhuman stoicism, I think it worked.
If I had one criticism, it was that I found the first episode a little confusing. I felt like I had missed an essential chunk of information that would have made sense of some of the new characters and how Christopher and Valentine ended up on a midnight coach ride. I watched this section twice and was none the wiser unfortunately, so I will read the book to resolve that one! After that first episode however, I found it much easier to follow and really enjoyed a stunning period drama. I’ve had a quick look on Amazon and it looks as if the DVD will be released shortly, so you can still see it even if you missed it on television.