24 December 2006 | mark_r_harris
Perceptive View of the 1920s
I have very fond memories of this adaptation, which I saw when it first aired and, I believe, in re-runs, but have not seen in more than thirty years. I would very much like for it to re-surface. I was a fourteen-year-old high school freshman when this was shown on Masterpiece Theatre in 1973, and it fired my imagination to learn more about the fascinating decade of the 1920s. Everything I watched on PBS had a similar effect; it was such a stimulating network for budding young intellectuals (of which there were many, in those days, and we didn't need to be bribed to watch; my high school had a cadre of Masterpiece Theatre viewers).
It is interesting to learn that this mini-series was actually produced in 1968, which puts it at a mere four decades remove from the era it is depicting; the exact same remove that we have from the 1960s now. As a youngster, the events of the 1920s (goodness, even those of the 1950s) seemed terribly remote to me because they fell before any time I could remember; but I see clearly now that for mature adults, the 1920s were not impossibly remote in 1968. Indeed, they were still vivid in recollection, although becoming "historical," as the 1960s and 1970s are becoming for us.
I would dispute the other reviewer who finds Aldous Huxley a mediocre novelist notable only for Brave New World. Point Counter Point is actually a very fine novel (hardly a "loser"!), well worth reading, as are Huxley's others. I would also dispute the point that adapters should only look to novelists' best-known titles; the freshness has been sucked out of many properties that way, since later adapters often tend to rework earlier adaptations rather than refreshing their work at the original sources. Recent successful adaptations of Dickens's Our Mutual Friend and Trollope's The Way We Live Now (great novels, but scarcely household words) demonstrate that there is plenty of scope to be found among lesser-known titles (and, for that matter, lesser-known authors).
The title Point Counter Point has, in addition to other meanings, a musical one; Beethoven's chamber music figures prominently and movingly in the storyline. Huxley demonstrates his own contrapuntal technique as a novelist by weaving a large cast of characters and their doings into a brilliant narrative. This approach is post-Dickensian and pre-Altmanesque, and especially after seeing Gosford Park, one can imagine Robert Altman working wonders with Point Counter Point. But the British mini-series would always possess the unique perspective of when it was made, exactly forty years after the novel was issued. We think of adaptation and translation as neutral activities in relation to their own time period and culture, but they are not; they are inevitably reflective of and revealing about their own period and culture, and the relation of that period and culture to the period and culture that are being adapted or translated. This is why there are no "definitive" translations, and why classics need to be re-translated every generation or two. This adaptation of Point Counter Point has permanent value and is worthy of a DVD release.