15 March 2007 | davidlmartin
Fallen Angel rises like a phoenix
I enjoyed Fallen Angel on ITV1 this week. It's not your conventional murder mystery we are so used to seeing. I like the innovative "rewind" format used to trace the life of serial killer Rosie (Emilia Fox) back to 1991 and 1979. We uncover her motives and influences that made her what she is - more a whydunit than a whodunit. There are no obvious quick fixes pinning down a single reason for Rosie's behaviour. The complex story arc neatly ties the complex relationships between Rosie, her clergyman father David (Charles Dance), family friend Wendy (Clare Holman) and adversary Michael (Oliver Dimsdale). Running through the core of all three episodes is a subplot about an allegedly murderous clergyman from the 1920's, Francis Ulgreave, who practised child sacrifice. Although long dead, his story casts a long shadow over all the characters with disastrous consequences. Fallen Angel is a provocative and intelligent tale of the need for love and the consequences of keeping secrets. I've already put Andrew Taylor's novels in my Amazon wish list.
Fallen Angel - Behind the Scenes on ITV3 provided further enlightenment. It had psychologists detailing scenes in the serial which exemplified the motivations of psychopathic killers. One example, where Rosie storms out after she mistakenly believes that David accused her of stealing stepmother Vanessa's (Niamh Cusack) ring, demonstrates a psychopath's impulsiveness. Andrew Taylor deliberately made his killer female to counter society's preconceptions of beautiful women being all sweetness and light. One case he was influenced by was that of baby killer Beverley Allitt. The cast and crew discuss the nature / nurture debate as to what makes a person evil. One bit of trivia: Clare Holman had make up applied which creased her face to make her look older in the contemporary scenes. She was so well camouflaged that a crew member mistook her for a chaperon!
There were good performances all round. Charles Dance was studious as the repressed and sexually rapacious vicar. Niamh Cusack was effectively obsessive and tetchy as David's second wife, Vanessa, who is more interested in Francis Ulgreave's journals than satisfying her husband's hungry sexual appetite. Mark Benton was convincing as Eddie, the paedophile simpleton unwittingly manipulated by Rosie into doing her murderous bidding. Sheila Hancock gives a majestic performance as Francis Ulgreave's adopted daughter mischievously keeping her family secrets from the desperately fascinated Vanessa. Emilia Fox was cold and calculating as Rosie, but also gave her the soft, childlike vulnerability of someone who craves ultimate adult power, but hasn't grown up and is trapped and defined by her tragic past and disappointments in life.
The young child actors were splendid too. Jade Sharif as Michael's kidnapped daughter portrayed a captivating and heart-melting innocence that belied her ignorance of the dangerous situation she was in. Tigerlily Hutchinson as the young Rosie was magnificent as the headstrong and inquisitive youngster tightly drawn into a web of religious obsession that drives her on the road to murder.