Parade’s End is a tv mini-series that has recently been broadcast on Australian television. It tells the story of Christopher Tietjens, (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) an uptight aristocrat, who is saddled with a wife that he met and had a liaison with on a train. Her baby may or may not be his, but even though he is unsure of the situation, Tietjens does the right thing and marries her. He’s that kind of chap.
Drawn from four novels written by Ford Maddox Ford set before, during and just after World War I, Parade’s End refers to the end point of Tietjens journey. By the end of the war, there will be no more parades for soldiers, and he won’t have to keep fronting up to meet his commitments and responsibilities. The war has changed so much, and despite his resistance, it has changed him. If his paradigm has historically been that one must do the responsible thing, the lesson from the story is that doing the responsible thing can damn near well kill you, and at the very least make you very unhappy. And it’s that acceptance of unhappiness that stands out as being so different from the norm today. Today, we are constantly exhorted to be happy, but for many of that pre-war generation, unhappiness was just part and parcel of life. And you just lived with your lot.
So while Tietjens starts out believing that his life is one of responsibility and honour – the symbol for this is the ancient Groby Tree on his family’s estate propped up and never to be cut down – the changes wrought by the war result in his acceptance that his life can be different. He is the one who can change it. This acceptance is symbolised when he throws of some of the wood from the tree, gleefully chopped down by his wife, onto a fire. Soon after, he takes up with his mistress, at long last ending the sexual tension between them.
The performances by all involved were fantastic, but it was such a complex story, I did find it difficult to follow. (I understand the books were the same.) The dialogue was complex and fast moving – you had to concentrate, like in West Wing – and the story jumped about a lot. I have no complaint with this, but I am glad I was able to watch it on line, and not interrupted by long-winded advertising.
This mini review aims to encourage people to watch it for themselves if they get a chance. If you like good drama, it’s worth it.
And, it was a good way of linking in to this week’s A Word a Week Challenge, Parade! http://suellewellyn2011.wordpress.com/a-word-a-week-photography-challenge/ – it doesn’t have to be a photo, does it? 🙂