hutch0 (hutch0) wrote,

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red riding

Last night saw the first instalment of Channel 4's dramatisation of David Peace's Red Riding Quartet, and strong stuff it was indeed, although necessarily not nearly as strong as the source material. I once told someone that James Ellroy would have trouble following Peace's fiction, and it was always going to be difficult to adapt to the screen - The Damned United is a blamelessly mainstream novel in comparison to this accretion of corruption and despair that casts West Yorkshire as the Heart of Darkness and even the best of its people as powerless against the forces of evil.
Having said that, it wasn't a bad try. There has been an enormous amount of compression and elision, but the series - at least on viewing the first episode - accurately captures the tone of Peace's novels, the sense of an Original Sin which destroys people and careers for decades to come. It wasn't a verbatim adaptation, but I'm not sure that would be possible in a commercial production.
It simplified things enormously, but it did give a sense of ordinary people caught up in events entirely beyond their comprehension, which Peace does better than any other writer I've enountered.
Best things? Sean Bean's property developer based (in my opinion) on John Poulson. Venal, entirely above `ordinary' morality. Brilliant performance. Eddie Marsan's Yorkshire Post journalist, shaded with conflict.
Worst things? Well, this wasn't a problem for me, but I watched it with a Southerner who said he quite often couldn't understand what people were saying. He says he won't be following the rest of the series. But I will. This is dark, intelligent stuff, well-made and well-performed, and it demands that its audience makes an effort, which is rare in today's television climate.
It's interesting that this has come out at the same time as Watchmen, a tale of conflicted superheroes, because the protagonists of Peace's books all set out to Right Wrongs. They all think of themselves as being able to unravel the evil and corruption besetting West Yorkshire, but find themselves in the end entirely unequal to the task, and as the evil gathers pace down the years it takes on a momentum that bulldozes ordinary people.
Extraordinary stuff.

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