I loved Birdsong when it came out (and Sebastian Faulks’ other novels, especially Charlotte Grey) and I was greatly relieved to see that the humanity which Faulks brings to World War One in his writing was carried through to the screened version. The brutal reality of trench warfare was brought into our living rooms last night, along with a sense of comradeship and love which went far beyond World War One.
With much twitching of moustaches and many significant looks, we began the slow build up of Stephen and Isabelle’s emotional involvement, touched on the rising tension of the mill workers, and wondered about the issues clearly faced by M’seur Azaire. The criss-crossing back and forth in time, the relationship between Stephen and Jack Firebrace, and the portrayal of Stephen as An Officer Conflicted, all conspired to paint a picture of love and loss, hope and fear. I look forward to next Sunday. I shall have a large handkerchief to hand.
The course of true love never does run smooth, Eddie, and I fear that you and Fleur Delacourt are about to find this out for yourselves. But if you could just let me know whether it was your carriage you escaped in last night, or whether you stole it from the textile baron, I’d be ever so grateful. It’s been bothering me.
I am still struggling to understand why, with a history degree behind me and an interest in history generally, I was very happy to watch Birdsong last night but have not the slightest desire to go to see Warhorse. Is it the desire to avoid the Hollywood schmaltz which tugs at the heartstrings, or the fact that I don’t want to see ‘acting horses’ who, despite all assurances to the contrary, must have been traumatised in some way by reenacting scenes from World War One? If not by doing that, then being paraded down the red carpet in the full glare of the paparazzi lenses?
They’re not Mr Ed. They can’t tell us.
I did wonder if some level of economy had been practiced and a set share had been arranged between Mr Spielberg and the BBC. It would have been prudent, surely, and might have appealed to the license fee payers as an austerity measure.
I read this morning that Birdsong is now a compulsory set school text. I am glad, for Faulks’ portrayal of the mud, fear and hell of the Flanders trenches is a masterpiece. And the BBC has done it justice. Hopefully this programme will do for World War One what Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ did for cementing awareness of the horror of World War Two in the minds of a generation.