Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

The Village

Here's the problem with a series like this: the characters are conceived as representative historical types- the "new" woman (who arrives symbolically on the village's very first bus bringing the modern world with her), the brittle aristocrat, the sadistic schoolmaster, the last of the peasant farmers- and if we're to have real drama- as opposed to dramatized social history- they're going to have to break out of their shells at some point and become individual human beings. There are signs- as the first episode progresses- that this may be going to happen. I hope so- because when did we last have a historical drama skewed towards the experience of the working class? Or when was there ever a show set in Derbyshire? The scheme- if it holds- is to take us, through several seasons, right down the length of the last 100 years- starting with the breaking of nations in 1914. All these people are under pressure- and if some of them are behaving hideously it's because the shifting of the tectonic plates is putting them under intolerable pressure. The schoolmaster (turned down by the army for being too short) is full to bursting with the anger he attributes (in class) to the Viking invaders, the peasant farmer tyrannizes over his family because their non-compliance threatens the destruction of the only kind of life he has ever known. His wife and sons have scented freedom- even if its only the freedom to go and get killed on the Western Front- and he cannot bear it.  The scene where he makes the youngest boy lie down on the floor and see how it's been worn by the tramping of the family over two hundred years rather wonderfully combines menace with pathos-  and its sequel where, unobserved, he performs the same ritual himself has the authentic smell of tragedy about it. The writing is deep and crisp and even. It trusts the viewer to make connections; it doesn't explain too much. The acting- especially from John Simm- for whom this could be prove a career-defining role- is terrific.
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