Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Going Between

I'm sorry if it's turning out to be a critics forum here, but whilst the BBC are showing English classics every Sunday it would seem rude not to comment from an Unmitigated England perspective. And it's raining again. The latest offering I was dreading, the main reason being that The Go-Between of 1971 is quite possibly my favourite film, and L.P.Hartley's book one that I continually go back to. But I think it's probably unwise to compare Joseph Losey's two hour film masterpiece with a once again cut-down comfortable Sunday evening view in front of the telly. As it went on though I did find a lot of merit in the new attempt, not the least because of its concentration on the hurt and confusion that can ruin lives and leave poor old Leo Colston (Jim Broadbent) with his 'ashes and cinders' expression looking brokenly into the distance. So I'm going to restrict myself to just one big gripe, and if you saw it you'll know what's coming.

The opening caption told us 'Norfolk, 1900'. In the convention of such things we obviously know it ain't 1900, but by any stretch of the imagination we couldn't be fooled into thinking this was Norfolk. Perhaps the BBC creamed-off a greedy slice of the budget so that cast and crew had to drive an hour down the M4 to Theale everyday to shoot at Englefield House rather than living in Norfolk for a couple of weeks. It's just such a cheat. And it's that thing of producers thinking "well, who's going to know anyway, and what does it matter?". I hope I'm wrong, and that a determined effort was made to find an empty Norfolk house, after all there's enough of 'em. Anybody who knows the book and Losey's film will also appreciate that a Norfolk house and its surrounding acres are as much a character as Marian or Ted. But as usual I guessed that somewhere along the line (sorry) the green Southern Railway station at Horsted Keynes station in Sussex would once again be pressed into service, this time as a highly unlikely Norwich. Just as it is for Downton Abbey's local station, which they pretend is in Yorkshire.

The past is a foreign country, they don't bother with any of this there.


Dickie Straker said...

I too was worried Peter, the 1971 film is a huge favourite just like the Schlesinger Far From The Madding Crowd - they will not be bettered! After the initial Norfolk gripe, too many hills in this version, I did settle into it. Not too bad for a lazy Sunday evening on TV and I did like the way it was filmed - nicely shot. BUT, folks want chewing gum for the mind these days and easy viewing and this is what they got. Julie Christie and old Bates win every time for me! TTFN Dickie

Fiona Moate said...

The house was so wrong, even the sublime Melton Constable wasn't quite right in the Losey version. In the book (a little while since I last read it) the house is a stuccoed severely classical one. I thought they could have used Gunton for outside shots.
My main gripes are, the absence of Mr Maudsley, especially noticeable at the cricket match and in the smoking room. The change of Ted's song and the over egging of the sex scene. Also why did Leo go to the farm and discover Ted's suicide; not in the book.
It could have been worse though.

Peter Ashley said...

Dickie: Agree entirely. Did you know there's a fabulous book about the making of the original film? Norfolk Summer: Making The Go-Between by Christopher Hartop (John Adamson, Cambridge 2011).

Fiona: Melton Hall did it for me, and for the crew I expect because it was large enough (and empty enough) to contain both interior sets and rooms for equipment & make-up. But you're right about the original, illustrator Biro probably had it right on his first edition book jacket. Like you I couldn't understand the exclusion of Mr. Maudsley. Worst still to explain his absence by a throw-away unconvincing line "Oh he's in the City making money". The final scenes were, I agree, handled badly. Such a shame.

Peter Ashley said...

A comment has been made to me (outside of this forum) that perhaps the continual use of Horsted Keynes is that there aren't many appropriate stations that have steam trains running through them. As we know, this isn't the case. HK is used in Downton Abbey because, like the main locations of Highclere and Bampton, it's convenient for London. Whereas if they'd used a Yorkshire location they'd have had the Keighley & Worth Valley Line. If the new Go-Between really need a station (which it doesn't) and they were in Norfolk then the North Norfolk Railway would've stood in admirably. But carefully framed shooting around the fact that the budget won't extend to repainting sections of station could work as an alternative, as indeed it would for having the wrong locomotives and carriages.