Website: The Pillars of the Earth
Review Rating: 8
Based on the books of the same name by Ken Follet, a story of intrigue love and betrayal, set against a backdrop of 12th centuryEngland.
Okay, so. It is a miniseries, and yes I did enjoy it. Each character is generally wrought with extreme care, the backdrops and sets and costumes and such were all exquisitely and historically accurately represented, and all those things combine to make an awesome show. Or would, if it had been more widely advertised. I was barely aware that it was coming out on the STARZ channel, much less when, I think I caught it considerably after the premiere. But hey, that just means I can watch all the episodes without pesky interruption or having to wait for next week.
It seems to be a series that centers around love in it’s myriad manner of expression. I didn’t say love of a person necessarily though, but other stranger things – love of ambition and wealth, love of power and the ability to do anything to get it, even the love of one’s own skill and the desire to make it last for decades if not centuries. To begin with we have Tom the Builder, stonemason artist who’s touring the countryside with his family, looking for work. Phillip is a monk who eventually becomes the Prior of Kingsbridge, where Tom sort of settles. Aliena is the Noblewoman who loses her father to intrigue in the Court, taking her brother and scratching out a living for themselves, despite the challenges for a woman with a biting tongue in these times. Lord William is a sadistic Nobleman with an even worse mother, whose entire family ambitions (other than incest) seem to be to get William to rise as high as possible in the Court. To do this, mother arranges all sorts of nasty dealings with Bishop Waleran, an ambitious and hardly holy man, who is by turns capricious and forgiving. Jack Jackson is the son of supposed witch (near the beginning) Ellen, who was cast out of Kingsbridge and lives on the fringes, still yet a good life. Jack was apparently the issue of a run-in with a single prisoner Ellen took pity on some years ago, who escaped a fiery boat of Nobles and Royals capsizing, that led to Lord William and his mother, and Bishop Walern for that matter, all their rises to power. The King is a man beset by terrible visions of the atrocities he’s committed, and continues to do so, despite what it does to his health and conscience. The cast of characters brought to vivid if dirty life on the small screen gives us a fine performance. The show creators take great pains to display to the audience just how each piece of the whole weaves it’s way among the other, how everything is connected, to even the slowest of audiences. However, you do have to be a fan of this sort of medieval story, similar perhaps to Braveheart or Pope Joan, both of which I enjoyed immensely.
There are some scenes where the reality of the setting presented to us gets a little too real – rape, robbery, murder, corruption in the House of the Lord, all that stuff. Please bear in mind, it’s just a story and not some semi-accurate portrayal of 12th century English Noble life. However I do think it was an amazingly well-made piece of cinema, and if you want the mega-happy ending, go elsewhere.
Donald Sutherland stars as Bartholomew, Noble father of Aliena. Ian McShane of Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides fame, stars as Bishop Waleran; how wicked he is. Rufus Sewell of Dark City is Tom Builder, he did a very fine job at evoking love for his characters craft. Eddie Redmayne of My Week With Marilyn notoriety is Jack Jackson, whether speaking or mute delivers an awesome performance. Hayley Atwell, who starred in Captain America as Peggy, is Aliena, strongest female this side of Kingsbridge and then some. Matthew Macfayden of the recent Three Musketeers remake name, stars as Phillip, the Prior of Kingsbridge, and his performance was worth any pause there might have been in the story itself. Richard, brother to Aliena who go off to war, stars as Sam Claflin, also from Pirates of the Carribean. Other names and actor faces you may recognize are scattered throughout the show, and it’s worth it to watch even to just play name that celebrity.