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This report is taken from PN Review 209, Volume 39 Number 3, January - February 2013.

Parade's End John Muckle
Tom Stoppard's adaptation of Parade's End for BBC TV opened with some elegant prismatic credits and a long overhead dollying shot of empty tables set for dinner that was reminiscent of Scorsese's film of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, a stylish invitation to panoramic vistas, shifts of perspective, strange mirrorings, and everything modernist from Vorticist canapés to Cubist cruets; but soon resolved itself into a recognisable BBC drama series. 'She's bitched me - I don't even know if the child is mine,' Benedict Cumberbatch's Christopher Tietjens mutters with tight-lipped fury as Rebecca Hall's Sylvia is overcome on the floor by the lover who's knocked her up, and we flip to two months earlier and the now married couple's first violent sex in a railway carriage. Plot and relationships are going to be sketched in, if not spelled out, in a way they're not in Ford Madox Ford's novels. 'A Godsend is what Chris­topher Tietjens is not,' Sylvia explains to his brother (Rupert Everett with a beard) as Tietjens is elaborated as a decent sort, an unwilling 'good father' (a mirror image of philandering Edward Ashburnham, the 'Good Soldier' of Ford's earlier masterpiece). Benedict Cumberbatch was born for this part. His withheld quality, ugly-powerful looks, a collage of facial tropes, almost Cubist, made Tietjens convincingly attractive to the women in his life, not quite the tedious smug reactionary Adelaide Clemens' young suffragette Valentine Wannop might otherwise have found him, and a good foil for his dark, sexually magnetic wife.


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