Friday, 12 December 2014
I am still mulling over tonight's screening of Testament of Youth. There was a polite ripple of applause at the end. But it fell short of that visceral rage and grief in Vera Brittain's book.
There was a Q&A at the end with the screenwriter and the beautiful Swedish (yes, Swedish) actress who plays Vera. They made a big deal of how they were wary of emotional overkill and melodrama.
And so ...
When Vera gets the telephone call at Christmas telling her that her fiancé Roland has been killed when she's expecting him home on leave ... they had to go one step further and make out that it was their wedding day.
Although it's true that Vera's brother turned up injured at the hospital where she was nursing, he was tucked up in his pyjamas in hospital in London ... and she didn't simply trip over him in a casualty clearing station at the Front.
How mawkish is this! Having Vera learn the brutal details of how Roland died in agony, not from his Colonel, but from George Catlin the man she would later marry. Trouble is, it was several years after the war before Vera even met him.
Oh, that last one got me muttering and grumbling. What a crude, clunky, pointless invention. It's not as if the true story is devoid of drama and emotion, is it?
Of course, it looks stunning - the costumes are wonderful - and you couldn't fail to be moved when the camera sweeps across so many rows of stretchers outside a battlefield hospital. But it has a glossy, Pride and Prejudice quality that doesn't pack anything like the punch that I remember from the old BBC adaptation when I was young. (I had a long wallow a few months ago watching it again on YouTube.