The Crimson Petal and the White


I love Michel Faber’s writing and it’s  a toss up between this and Under The Skin for his greatest work.  The two could be no more different; Under the Skin is a taught contemporary sci fi horror set in Scotland and this; an 800 page monstrous take on Dickensian Victorian London.

Both are really great books and consequently both run the risk of taking a good pasting when put on screen.

There has been many year’s of talk that TCPATW would be Hollywood-made and for a while rumour had it that Kirsten Dunst was to be the heroine, Sugar.  However it fell eventually to the BBC to make this near epic adaptation.  I say near epic because big and bold as it was I think it had even greater potential.

The previews did not make great reading; the panel on Newsnight Review, with the honourable exception of Maureen Lipman, annihilated it, so I approached fearing the worst.

I needn’t have worried.

The, at times, over tricksy focus pulling in the camera work was a bit heavy handed but this was overcome on balance because otherwise it was excellent (moody, creepy, almost surreal in places and beautifully emphasised by a particularly odd (in a good way) score written by newcomer Cristobal Tapai de Veer).

The set and costumes are astounding and the acting of the entire cast, but Particularly Chris O’Dowd (the IT team) and Romola Garai were of BAFTA winning standards, and had to be to pull it off.

In particular O’Dowd’s tortured portrayal of sappy rich boy William Rackham is magnificent.  It’s as if he can’t decide how to play the role, but that’s just how Faber wrote it.  In the end he comes across as merely a weak sap who is  only in it for himself.  Perhaps he cannot help it as we frequently see when he is led astray by his particularly vulgar “friends”.

Romola Garai, by contrast, is nailed to the tracks in the conviction of her character, as the upwardly mobile Sugar; pulling herself out of the stench thanks to the interest of Rackham who gradually exalts her social profile in a London where status was everything (and boy did she have status in the underworld, starting off as the top prostitute in London).  Her gritty but sometimes tender performance is the beating heart of the book and this ultimately excellent adaptation.

It’s still on iplayer but I’d wait for the DVD and splash out.

For me it would play out better as an epic four hour movie rather than a four part TV series.

Wonderful.  Bring on the BAFTAs. (And the Emmys).

3 thoughts on “The Crimson Petal and the White

  1. Had been wondering what you thought of it, Mark. (I remember you reading the book while at 1576.) Have yet to see the final episode, but I’m in broad agreement with you. Particularly about Chris O’Dowd. I thought he was brilliant.

    Like

    • Good memory Mr C. I take it you have partaken of Mr Faber’s magnificent words? Last episode is excellent. Finishes rather abruptly (hence my point that they could have stretched it even more). Overall though. Superb.

      Like

Come on folks. Don't just sit there gawping. Say something. Get involved.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s