5 April 2006 | rsoonsa
Swift Classic With A Highly Amended Storyline.
Those fortunate ones who have read Jonathan Swift's ever popular novel Gulliver's Travels will know that it persists as a satiric masterpiece of world literature, but will not recognize much of this capricious enlargement of the opening book of the classic that depicts the shipwrecked naval surgeon being stranded upon the diminutive island of Lilliput, a land where all proportions are scaled at one inch to a reader's twelve. Since the narrative is related in the first person by Lemuel Gulliver, with his circumstances being so physically extraordinary, it is a difficult piece to film other than by animation, and this curious, rather disjointed attempt actually focuses not on Gulliver himself but instead upon a lesser character from the novel, Lady Flimnap (Elisabeth Sladen), a coquettish member of the Lilliputian royal court, wife to a cuckolded minister, a lady whom we are to believe becomes enamoured of the affable giant from Wapping. Sladen is an able performer and her role's romantic intrigues make for a pleasing tale but Swift's incisive vision is seldom revealed, with even the famous argument over which end of an egg properly should be broken being addressed in an offhand and virtually literal manner, Swift's biting work of satire becoming principally a romantic conflict between Lady Flimnap and Lilliput's Queen Smilinda (Linda Polan), each of whom craves Lemuel's attention, while the military actions between Lilliput and her warlike neighbour nation Blefescu is dealt with only verbally and with line drawings, due in the main to the film's restricted budget. Produced for BBC with a teleplay by director Barry Letts, an old hand at these types of "adaptations", the work is distinguished by a good deal of verbal and visual wit, including artful wordplay that accurately reflects the time of Swift, and although a viewer will recognize that this film is only marginally reflective of the original, there yet is much here to enjoy. Included in these advantages are solid playing from a veteran cast of BBC actors that benefits from few retakes, a well-crafted and appropriate score by Stephen Deutsch, skillful makeup from Pamela Meager and, despite not all of the costumes being designed for this production, those that are created and selected by Amy Roberts are delightful for a film that, in considering that it is at its heart a farce, brings enjoyment throughout its length; it travels quite round Swift, but is diverting on its own terms.