22 May 2009 | ferbs54
Dame Is The Name Of The Game
Almost 20 years before being proclaimed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Diana Rigg was portraying a dame of a very different order--that of a fully inducted member of a Benedictine abbey--in the 1975 TV film "In This House of Brede." Perhaps I should mention here that I have not read (Margaret) Rumer Godden's 1969 source novel, and can only comment on the film that I have seen. Many of my fellow reviewers here seem to feel that this televised version cannot hold a vestal candle to its original source, and that does not surprise me; isn't the book always fuller, richer, deeper? Still, what HAS been put on screen still offers much. Here, Diana plays Philippa Talbot, a British businesswoman who has suffered some genuine tragedies in her life and who finds her current lot empty and meaningless. Thus, her application to Brede, where we follow her, over the course of nine years, as she progresses from postulant to novice to junior to dame. Her life at Brede is made complicated by the jealousy and mistrust of elderly Sister Agnes, by the arrival of a group of Japanese girls whom she must instruct, and most especially by the advent of Joanna, a young postulant (well played by Judi Bowker) who arouses Philippa's maternal instincts. Although all the actresses on display here are quite good, it is Diana Rigg, naturally, who takes top honors. How exceptional she is, especially in her emotionally conflicted scenes with Joanna, in her final moments with Agnes, and in her touching scenes with (head Mother) Catherine (again, nicely played by Gwen Watford). Dame Philippa is about as different a role as can be imagined from a certain supersexy secret agent that Rigg had popularized eight years earlier, and to the actress' great credit, she makes a very convincing job of it. Only...just one question from this Jewish reviewer: Do all cloistered nuns wear so much freakin' lipstick?!?