Any Human Heart
- TV Mini Series
A novelist's life ricochets from 1920s Paris to '50s New York and '80s London. Along the way he meets Ernest Hemingway, Ian Fleming and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor - the exiled British k... Read allA novelist's life ricochets from 1920s Paris to '50s New York and '80s London. Along the way he meets Ernest Hemingway, Ian Fleming and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor - the exiled British king and his mistress Wallis Simpson.A novelist's life ricochets from 1920s Paris to '50s New York and '80s London. Along the way he meets Ernest Hemingway, Ian Fleming and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor - the exiled British king and his mistress Wallis Simpson.
As a television drama, it's not nearly so successful. Most obviously, Logan's own words are lost, leaving us the story without the commentary. In its place, tedious flashbacks, and scenes of an elderly Logan reviewing his life, just in case we had forgotten the plot. Secondly, television is a much less imaginative medium, and many drama series set over decades struggle to truly convey the passage of time. 'Our Friends in the North' was one that succeeded; this one does not. The random happenings in Logan's life no longer appear like chance events, retrospectively interesting, in a story driven by its own imperatives, but rather as implausible plot; instead of Logan making acquaintances who transpire to be famous, there's a feeling of shallow name-dropping (here he meets Hemmingway, there the Duchess of Windsor); and coincidences seem contrived when they're all there is. The background of ordinary life, behind which Boyd so successfully disguised his somewhat preposterous tale, is lost. I'm reminded of the disastrous television adaptation of 'A Dance to the Music of Time'; that was worse, as it compressed not one book but thirteen, but there's something of the same problem here. There are also other similarities, in the tale of an aristocratic writer in an where aristocracy is in decline. I didn't see the similarities when I read the book, but they are enhanced not just because of the televisual medium but for other reasons as well: the simplification of the character of Peter Scabius (making him an almost Widmerpool-style figure), and a reluctance to paint the world of Logan's youth in anything other than familiar 'Brideshead'-style colours. Related to the latter, the desire for a certain aesthetic has led the director to cast a stunningly beautiful woman in the role of almost everyone with whom Logan has an affair; the younger Logan is also very dashing, although the older Logan is allowed to age (he still has a final fling, however, with a very pretty French lady, and before that, with an attractive prostitute). While the original character had a messy personal life, there was never the feeling of perpetual glamour one gets when watching this production. To make it worse, we have to be shown Logan having sex with every one of them, an unimaginative and eventually tiresomely repetitive decision. What can be slyly implied in one line of a book becomes an endless succession of sweaty bodies, as if we couldn't be trusted to imagine it for ourselves.
This feels like a bitter review. But the book was good. It's become a series that is merely good looking; and sadly, utterly lacking in heart.
- Dec 19, 2010