23 August 2003 | eunce
It's no Brideshead
I have to disagree with Mary Smith from America who said that this series was better than Brideshead Revisited. A Dance to the Music of time is almost completely devoid of any charismatic or otherwise engaging characters, with the exception of the likeable Stringham and the repulsive Widmerpool. It gestures towards Brideshead far too obviously (perhaps this was inevitable given the subject matter and the era) and in a way that only demonstrates its relative inferiority. The dialogue and direction are far too stagey, with the result that the character's words just don't ring true. Moreover I felt no concern for any of the characters: they wander aimlessly through their lives and we are offered nothing more than disconnected snapshots to develop our interest. There seems to be no analysis of or motivation for any of their actions: one character kisses another, some people get married, some divorce and some die. There is little by way of analysis: we "see" a lot, but understand (or care for) little of what goes on.
I confess that I enjoyed this series in parts. The costumes really are very good and the better actors do try valiantly with this stilted and sterile script. But it really is almost embarrassing compared to the infinitely superior Brideshead. Apart from a few entertaining scenes involving people dying at parties, and a rather enthusiastic display of nudity in the early scenes, this mini-series is really only for those who have read the books, and even then only as a curiosity piece.
Perhaps I have come to expect too much of British mini-series after being spoilt by productions such as Brideshead Revisited, Martin Chuzzlewit and Pride and Prejudice. Nonetheless, A Dance to the Music of Time is a barely entertaining, wasted opportunity.