Wednesday, 23 January 2008

The Fivesyte Saga

Some further thoughts on the Forsyte Saga which should have been in yesterday's post, but were omitted because I forgotted of a production error.

  • The locations and settings are, not surprisingly, sumptuous and lavishly filmed, in contrast to the 1967 series which was shot with five cameras, virtually live, in the studio. The other amazing thing about that series was that it was made in black and white just as the BBC was switching over to colour transmissions. The story goes that people who had become hooked watching at home made a special effort to go round to their wealthier friends to see it on the new colour sets, only to find it was in black and white for everyone.
  • Galsworthy in his preface nails what it is about Soames. He's not a bad man, but he has one overwhelming quality: "One has noticed that readers, as they wade on through the salt waters of the Saga, are inclined more and more to pity Soames, and to think that in doing so they are in revolt against the mood of his creator. Far from it! He, too, pities Soames, the tragedy of whose life is the very simple, uncontrollable tragedy of being unlovable, without quite a thick enough skin to be thoroughly unconscious of the fact."
  • Not even his only daughter Fleur, Galsworthy points out, loves him the way he expects to be loved. In the Granada adaptation she doesn't love him at all, until he reveals the terrible secret of his and Irene's disastrous marriage. At which point she realises that he is suffering the agony of undimmed guilt, and his remorse breaks through to her. The scene in which he confesses to her was strikingly reminiscent of the moment in Godfather Part Three when Michael confesses the murder of Fredo, and we see that far from being unrepentant, he is in fact utterly stricken with grief and a regret that cannot ever be resolved.
  • The ending is doubly touching, then, in that we have seen Fleur go off on honeymoon with a man she does not love (as neither Irene nor Annette loved Soames) leaving Jon Forsyte (Irene's son with Jolyon) to mourn the loss of his true love forever, just as Soames has done. He brings a painting, a Dégas copy which he bought long ago, to give to Jon, because it reminded everyone of Fleur. When he first met Irene she was disdainful of his approach to art as commodity to be traded, but now he makes clear the painting is "of little value, but important". She too cracks and finally shakes his hand as they separate forever.
  • On the downside, there are several French characters in the story, one of whom is Annette, Soames' second wife. She's played by Beatriz Batarda, who's of Portuguese background, with a French grandmother, according to IMDB. She's of the school that believes in accents, less is more. The other two, one of them playing her mother, are simply awful. As if their English isn't bad enough, they're called on to speak words of French which they clearly cannot do. There's no excuse for this. The worst offender, simply because he's playing a sizeable role and is around a lot, is Prosper Profond, played by Michael Maloney. His accent is simply dreadful, more of a caricature that Pepe Le Pew's, less realistic than Peter Ustinov as Poirot, more ridiculous than Peter Sellers as Clouseau. Here's a photo of the guy, just so you can mock him if ever you see him in the street.