The Living and the Dead Episode 6 and Overall Series Review

BBC Description for Episode 6: “After the events of recent weeks, Nathan and Charlotte’s marriage faces its greatest test yet.”



Credits:

Nathan Appleby: Colin Morgan
Charlotte Appleby: Charlotte Spencer
Matthew Denning: Nicholas Woodeson
Gwen Pearce: Kerrie Hayes
Gideon Langtree: Malcolm Storry
Lara: Chloe Pirrie
Sylvia: Diana Quick
William Payne: David Oakes
Gabriel: Arthur Bateman
Dr Kahn: Sudha Bhuchar
Ben: Royce Pierreson
Harriet Denning: Tallulah Haddon
Mary Denning: Marianne Oldham
Masked Man: Jacob Fortune-Lloyd
Writer: Simon Tyrrell
Producer: Eliza Mellor
Director: Sam Donovan
Psychiatric Nurse: Syrus Lowe


… I copy/paste these credits from the BBC’s website. Why is the actor Syrus Lowe credited after the major production staff roles? Either someone was lazy adding it to the end instead of in correct order next to Sudha Bhuchar who he shares scenes with …or maybe its time to play the [play the racism card] due to an unintended slip up.


Victim of the Week: Nathan by his nearest and dearest (dead and alive and, unintentionally, not even born yet). Charlotte I guess due to her husbands mental instability (I don’t side with such aggressive behaviour towards the mentally ill which is excused due to the person being ‘frustrated’). The town as a whole really as the landowner has gone downhill rapidly.



Synopsis:
Nathan is stood at the edge of the lake mirrored on its surface. He demands Gabriel show himself. He will do whatever it takes to see him.

We see a modern interior and someone asleep in bed. Rock-a-by-baby is being sung by a boy walking down the corridor towards the woman in her bed. ITs red coat. She always looks cross-eyed. She asks what Gabriel wants. ‘Help me’ he says. The boy’s a bad actor. This episode is going to be fun…

Red coat is being served breakfast in bed by a man. It seems she is a mental hospital patient. I wish I could say I’m surprised but this series really comes across as an ardent skeptic told to write fantasy and so goes about it in the most half-hearted derogatory way possible. She is given her pills to take. She has a visitor so she can go down to the day room and he will take care of the baby. It’s going to be an inanimate doll isn’t it? She spits the pills out.

Red Coat’s name is Lara. Ben told granny Lara had admitted herself for seeing things. It’s her granny who has visited her. Asks how the baby is. Lara saw the boy. So did Lara apparently. It was blamed on post-natal depression. postpartum psychosis in Lara’s case. Granny brings an attaché case out and has Lara open it. Nathan is her great-great grandfather. RIGHT WELL THERE WE GO END OF SERIES – LETS ALL LEAVE NOW. WE KNOW THE UNBORN BABY THUS SURVIVES AND DOOPDY DOOPDY DOO WE GET HERE AND THE FAMILY HAS VAGUE TELEPATHIC ABILITIES CASE CLOSED. Gran calls him a handsome devil. Lara also see the boy’s photo. Granny recounts that Gabriel drowned. And then they look at Nathan’s work book from 1894 the year her mother was conceived. Lara photo’s them with her tablet. The Appleby house, Shepzoy, was sold when Lara was a baby and all of this was hidden from Lara’s mother (who at this point is the missing link of this family) but Granny reflects she should have let her know.

Granny hopes seeing this doesn’t make it worse. Lara replies maybe that’s what she needs – to get worse. to get better. (Movie logic which in real life would never be beneficial). The staff members, and Asian doctor and a black attendant (from earlier) discuss Lara’s request to leave. She claims the hallucinations have stopped though only last week she was reporting suicidal ideation. ‘And the family history’ she adds at the end. Lara’s mother killed herself when Lara was three months old. The doctor decides they must keep her in – under section if necessary.

Lara’s baby (who is real) is cradled by its daddy. He is mixed race. Why am I mentioning people’s’ ethnicities? Well recently the BBC have really taken to their equal representation policy seriously by having casts for as many shows as possible to have multiple ethnicities. If you saw the recent War and Peace production it definitely has a more varied cast than the 1970s version. In shows of fantasy or family orientated programming, such as Merlin, they always ensure this. My point? They had an all white cast in this series until this episode and seem to feel the need to include as many non-white actors now they can during the modern parts and its a bit of an overkill. They’ve had black actors in Charles Dickens productions before so they could have had some of the itinerant field workers be non-white without breaking the quasi-realism of the series. It almost feels like they believe there were only Western European Caucasians in Britain in 1894. Admittedly other ethnicities were much rarer but for their mandate I think everyone would have excused it. Is that why this series was premiered online as a box set? Because someone thought it wasn’t representative enough? That is an awkward situation if so. I would rather they just get the best actors for the roles than give the impression that they are being forced to follow a mandate when needed.

They say its a shame that she has to say but they’re the professionals and know best. She sends her partner to get a toy left in the day room while she steals the car keys and escapes with her child. They head to the Appleby house. You would think it is being lived in but apparently not. Partner leaves her a voice message noting his missing keys and child, named Lottie, and is concerned but just wants to know they are alright.

They arrive at the house and we see her enter as she did at the end of one of the other episodes. In the window we see Gabriel looking down.

Back in 1894 Gwen tells Charlotte that Mr Payne is waiting for her. so that’s his role in the story is it? To swoop in and save Charlotte? Charlotte doesn’t want to see him and asks if Gwen has seen her husband. NO. Unfortunately Mr PAyne has turned up and they have an awkward exchange similar to Hugh Grant in a rom-com. He has a proposition for her. Nathan appears dishevelled. Mr Payne hopes they do not miss the workers who hae abandoned their farm ‘a lack of faith’ he offers as reason. Charlotte says ‘we do not lack faith’ to which Nathan laughs disjointedly.

Mr Payne wishes to purchase the two acres of marshy land that border his estate. ‘By the lane? It’s worthless’ Nathan replies. Mr Payne intends to drain the field on his side and pump it. Charlotte says it is ambitious and takes a shine to him. Nathan stalks towards him commenting on him ‘advancing with your speculator’s fortune, step by step, parading you innovation and determination (So Nathan is no longer the man he was at the start, a man of science and modernity, but obsessed by the supernatural). Qualities he notes his wife admires. So he is also paranoid now. He says he was joking when Charlotte gets this impression too. ‘The bog is yours if my wife is willing’ he says as he exits.

She excuses him saying ‘he has been working late. Writing.’ Mr Payne politely says he is a gifted man. She excuses herself. She goes to Nathan and says she has suffered through hell with him and his madness. She asks if they can at least appear competent. Author on board condemning of mental illness rather than demonstrating how societal norms have changed. If the intention was otherwise this dialogue was a bit clumsy.

He notes she is being cold with him after she asked him to be more animated and that he had lost the spring in his step. She says she is going with mr Payne to look ast the land because they need more money to pay wages. ‘to keep going’ he mocks as he has clearly given up on life since the revelations regarding his son’s spirit still being around. He comments ‘A good man, an ideal husband.’ as she walks away.

In the field Charlotte and Mr Payne discuss matters but her dress gets caught on a rusty piece of metal protruding from the land. Is Payne a killer who has hidden his wife’s corpse? It seems like they want to hint this, or some other hidden agenda, but don’t dedicate to it.

Back in the house Nathan appears at the door to the kitchen surprising Gwen. He mocks that she took him ‘for a ghost of my former self’. She offers him breakfast but he says his appetite seems to have waned. He asks about her hedge witch cures. She is a witch (albeit actually quite a fair depiction of the ‘wise/cunning man/woman’ who used to actually exsist providing folk remedies and such to thier local community. I wish they had made more of this not just toy with the idea to explain why she had poison – in an era where posions in all homes were even more commonplace than they are now). He wants to see those. She shows him them in her locked case. He looks through the bottles. He finds a bottle of psilocybin mushrooms – hallucinogenics which Gwen claims are ‘to help explore a difficulty, to see it, to feel it differently. To be used with caution’. He says he saw them being used on two melancholy patients. One, a woman, broke through her malaise emerging shaken but much better but the other, a man, saw more tha his doctor bargained for before taking his own life. ‘kill or cure’. He finds a bottle containing deadly nightshade. She says she has only used a trace as ‘more could be the death of you’. He sees why she locks it, thanks her and leaves. Quickly she locks it again looking concerned.

Charlotte returns with Mr Payne and speaks to Gideon the foreman. They are short-handed but he has a merge collection of turnips. She commiserates the effect it has had on him being one of the few left.’Thems that left got fainter hearts’ he assures her ‘maybe we don’t need them’… but he is an old man and the signs of the strain show on him. She says he saw her with mr Payne. She asks if Gideon can help dig up the abandoned machinery there. Gideon wonders if that’s what he is after. Charlotte laughs about it being buried treasure. She thanks him and invites him to the kitchen for some warm cider brandy when he is done. He continues his work having thanked her.

Charlotte returns to see Nathan trying to see Gabriel in a mirror but she distracts him by appearing in it instead.

The reverend Denning is walking down the road as more people leave declaring to him the place to be cursed. He hopes may the lord watch over them and is returned the courtesy. Charlotte is walking behind them. The Reverend invites her into the Wheatsheaf to sit by the fire. In the now empty pub he gives her warm sugar-water and a dash of brandy. He asks how her husband is. ‘Somewhat remote. More so every day’ she answers. Then she begins to tear up saying that their baby is growing inside her and she doesn’t know what to do. The reverend offers to talk to him. There is a lot of people thanking each other in this episode.

Denning finds Nathan in the forest wandering. ‘Lost you flock’ Nathan mocks. ‘Always hoping to find one gone astray’ the Reverend answers back. Nathan apologises for mishandling him and for what he did to Harriet, Denning’s Daughter, but he is best left alone now. Denning says Charlotte fears for Nathan’s happiness. ‘What is happiness? A man needs peace of mind. you have your faith. You should be in a monastery. If I had it I would be. I’d sit in a cell. I would watch the light move from wall to wall. I would contemplate eternity.‘ Denning challenges him that he would not miss the world, his wife or the child that is coming? Nathan speaks of Gabriel which Denning believes is causing Nathan to fear that he will lose this child as well. But maybe tis not fear but guilt but the pregnancy is a gift. ‘A gift of God‘, Nathan mocks, ‘so it was God who took my son away, sending down this angel with her book of light to lead him to his doom, she who appeared to you daughter and to me? I fear… I fear she hasn’t Denning. His soul is living. His soul, which you believe, is not at peace. He’s isolated, he’s tormented.

‘Its YOU you are describing!‘ shouts Denning. ‘You in purgatory unable to move on. And its you pulling others into your unhappiness. My daughter. The village. It’s you Nathan!

Me. The lost soul? I must find a way out.‘ he replies.

Denning tells him to be with his wife not the dead. Nathan mocks that its sensible advice.

Back in modern times Lara’s partner has left another voice mail asking if she is okay as she checks the house. She breathes heavily… just to make it more creepy. The house is unlit and she is using a torch. She goes up the creaking stairs leaving the baby alone. Gabriel appears near the baby and looks down on it making it cry. Lara appears with the torch under he face. She has Nathan’s snowglobe and has found the cot. She makes the fire and they sit in that room. She listens to her partner’s voice mail saying he needs her to pick up the phone. Apparently he had also texted her. She texts back ‘Sorry I left like that, I just need a few days we’re fine’. It is 22.00 and she looks at old photos on her tablet. Hell of a battery life on that thing then. She looks at photos of Charlie, Martha, Jack and Nathan’s book. She notes references to a book of light and sees the stick figure drawing and finally pieces together its her it’s referring to. Apparently its an iPad specifically. How she can tell the brand of the item I have no idea but then this is part funded by American money so who knows. She hears a door bang and goes to investigate.

In the corridor, only lit by her iPad, she tells Gabriel she knows who he is. She wants to help him but doesn’t know how. Gabriel says ‘he wants a new baby’ and before she can explain he has disappeared.

Bak in 1894 Nathan is writing. He criticises Charlotte for not knocking and disrupting his privacy while he tries to find privacy. She says he doesn’t want the new baby. She asks if he wants her to fall down the stair and give him his miscarriage. ‘No, of course not.’ She says it’s what he wants – she can ‘feel it like ice’. He asks why would he want her to miscarry? ‘Because you cannot bear to be a father again’ she answers disdainfully then leaves saying she is going away from his cold eyes. ‘What do you think I’ll do, freeze the baby in your womb? And you look at me as if I’m the mad one. But it’s you. You’re afraid of giving birth, of motherhood, and so you project this infanticidal urge onto me, making me the thing you fear, which is not only unfair… but stupid!‘ She answers back ‘And you’re so clever because you found a profession where you could feel less damaged because everyone else is damaged more… and now down here you have to face it. There’s something wrong with your mind… and your heart… and your soul!‘ He attacks saying he can’t recall what he liked about her. She leaves holding back tears. He apologises after she leaves.

She walks across the fields with a hat on looking lost inside.

He is in his study taking baby shoes and other items out fo a box. He says ‘just us now just you and me’ looking at a photo of Gabriel.

The next morning Gwen apologises for arriving late and asks if Charlotte is there. Nathan tells her to take a few days off. He says Charlotte is gone and the sooner Gwen follows the better. So Gwen leaves confused.

In modern-day Lara is filming a walk through the dilapidated house going towards the kitchen. She is filming it for her grandmother. How does she know where this place is if it was sold shortly after her birth and no one spoke of it? Presumably the granny told her but it was off-screen. There are modern fixtures in the house so it wasn’t empty too long ago. Theres graffiti tags on the wall and Lottie, the baby, begins to cry again. She sets up a baby monitor so she can go explore the house. Quite prepared for someone who fled a mental ward and headed straight to the house. Of course Gabriel is lurking in the background.

Lara reads Nathan’s note-book recounting how Gabriel’s guardian angel was otherwise. ‘Who is the woman with the book of light? Gabriel saw her too. he drew her, thinking she was a guardian angel when she was the opposite… come to take him away. Did you lure him to the lake that day and let him drown?

She speculates, to thin air, that Gabriel wants someone to blame. ‘Well that’s not me‘ she states defiantly. ‘I am not here to be punished‘.

Gabriel is looking at the baby.

She is sat outside smoking wondering to herself what she is doing.

Then back inside she has a voice message from granny saying Ben, her partner, is worried and maybe Granny should have told her as it was ‘playing with fire’. Really? You told your grand-daughter in a mental ward about where she might find answers to her ghost delusions and you thought it was okay? Granny can guess where she is and is sure Lara doesn’t want her to say where she is but if she doesn’t come back soon she’ll have to. She says not to stay there to long.

…um yeah just do it now. She has a baby with her. Seriously. If you were that concerned you would. Don’t do this just for narrative conventions as it’ll still take them long enough to get over to the house so there is plenty of time.

Lara hears Gabriel singing rock-a-by-baby to the baby. She rushes over and sees him stood across the room from the baby. She begins explaining that Gabriel’s daddy wished he never lost him as she’s seen his notebook and that her would ‘give anything, ANYTHING, to have [him] back’

‘He didn’t save me’ Gabriel replies.

That’s not his fault, it’s no ones fault‘ Lara replies. Yes it is. Gabriel fell in instead of being cautious and he wasn’t supervised by someone who could save him. Hell I kind of hope it’ll turn out to reference the witch drowning thing as a sudden twist so it’s the townsfolk who are at fault hence why they kept on about how cursed the place was. Lara says Nathan is so desperate to see Gabriel. Does she think Gabriel will pass on just because she said that or he can time travel then? She tells him to go to him and tell him he forgives him. Tell him your alright. Well obviously Gabriel doesn’t. He’s one of those sorts of ghosts’ The sort to hold an everlasting grudge that can’t be resolved. Face it this is a horror film setting. Gabriel part 5: Ring-Around-The-Corpses.

Back in 1894 Nathan breaks into Gwen’s stash of poultices. Well actually he just turns the key. That isn’t very secure then. Did he get the key off her at some point? I know you don’t have to show everything of screen, in fact some director’s make it part of their style, but when you mention how a character locks something away and the other accesses it so easily you have to indicate why. ‘Plot convenience’ isn’t enough. So he heats something deadly. Swallows it. The camera pans back slowly and we cut to Mr Payne stood by the fireplace of the vicarage as he heard Charlotte. He heard she was there and was just passing. He has a pineapple. She notes how odd it is to just be walking about with a pineapple.He says he heard it was good for expectant mothers although it maybe hogwash. WOAH SLOW DOWN 1) She’s still married you lotharo and 2) that’s quite needy 3) we get it, you’re the more balanced guy and the better option for her with you indulging in hearsay but also happy to dismiss it.

She thanks him saying she has kind neighbours as Mrs Denning lent her a dress, which he says becomes her, just as Harriet walks in the room. He excuses himself saying he must leave her rest. Harriet calls him Charlotte’s guardian angel. ‘ wouldn’t call him that’. Harriet suggests ‘A saviour, perhaps?’

We cut to Nathan swaying back and forth before the fire in the study. the ‘do not cross the hayfield’ song from a previous episode plays. He is delusional and calling himself ‘one of them, a lost soul’. He hears Gabriel’s voice beckon him saying he is going to sail his boat.

Nathan goes down to the lake and relives the day Gabriel drowned. Gabriel was poking the boat further on using a long stick and leaning out over the pond/lake. (It might be missing the point of his costume in this episode but as Nathan is in an undershirt and suspenders he looks like he is from a tribute band for Mumord and Sons.) Of course he doesn’t save him and we see Gabriel’s ghost looking up at him from the pond’s jetty.

He returns to the house distraught and does a ‘I’m in distress/deep remorse’ pose of agony. Then he hears Lara’s voice speaking to Lottie. He chases her up the stairs and she keeps turning corners so we narrowly miss her. He gets to the end room and sees Gabriel stood there. Nathan is glad to see him and beckons the boy to him. Gabriel doesn’t move. Nathan asks if ‘she’ is here but Gabriel says he is on his own. (Was the actor told to speak in a monotone or does that come naturally – it’s not good and its unbelievably distracting in this pivotal scene. Also his ‘ghost status’ seems to be informed by having some wet/recently dried hair). He tells the boy he has been looking for him. ‘I’ve been hiding’ the boy replies. Nathan asks if he didn’t want to see him to which his son replies ‘you didn’t want to see me’. Well that’s realistic kid dialogue so well done on that.

Again Nathan, now in front of his son, says he would give anything. Gabriel tells him ‘stay with me, Daddy. Look after me.’ ‘How’ asks Nathan. ‘You know how’ answers the boy…. oh my goodness this is far too realistic children’s dialogue. Nathan blinks and the ghost is gone.

In the modern-day Lara is stood at the lake. then the camera cuts back suddenly to the same shot and she leaves to go to the house. What was the point of that edit? It was like some attempt at a subtle jump scare.

Inside we see from her perspective filming bits of the interior lit by her torch. So I’m guessing we are going to get a jump scare. She calls out to Nathan by name asking if he wants to know who she is. She explains she is his great-great-grand daughter and isn’t trying to haunt him or his son. she just wants to get on with her life. She just wants to go home she sobs. she just needs prove she’s not mad.

Is the baby going to die ironically in a mirroring of his circumstances. If it does they’ve really telegraphed it.

She wants to see Nathan and he has seen her. She sees… Harriet?… in a bloody dress. SO yes there was a jumpscare… Oh also shaky cam. So the last 20 minutes of this series has shifted drastically from drama to horror I guess.

Back to third person and she slams a door behind her sniffling. She checks her recording but the girl wasn’t caught on it. She phones Ben and in tears explains she had to come here to stop it from haunting her and Lottie. He says the police are involved. She realises they know where she is and that Sylvia, a.k.a. granny, told him. She puts the phone off and packs everything up in order to run. She loads the car and drives away with Lottie.

We see Nathan stood in the road shielding his eyes. – Remember a few episodes ago? Yes it’s coming full circle seeing it from her perspective. It looks like we are going to be checking the list off of all their crossover moments. She sways off the road.

Next we see her lying down and Gabriel stood over her says ‘Daddy’s coming’ – Is she dead? Probably. She asks what Gabriel means. Well its obvious but he repeats himself. (You know I just realised who she reminds me of. She has the exact same face as the actor Kevin Sussman who plays Stuart Bloom, the eternally down on his luck comic book shop owner, from The Big Bang Theory).

Nathan dresses and sits writing. He has an Ernest Hemingway look today. He recalls things Charlotte said about being alive and there’s just her and him. He scrunches up the start of a letter to her. It seems days are passing by and he doesn’t know how to word this suicide letter to her.

Charlotte is speaking to Mr Payne about photography and how timing is essential and the amount of light you admit. GET IT ITS ABOUT NATHAN CLOSING HIMSELF OFF AND EVERYTHING. ‘Like the moment you capture between the taker and the taken’ GET IT HE’S MAKING A MOVE ON HER and she is smiling. She brushes a strand of loose hair aside and Mr Payne reaches for it. She excuses herself and says she must go home to her husband. BIT LATE NOW.

Nathan takes bottles from Gwen’s stock. Lara is walking down a corridor. She can see him through the interior door and its lace netting. He is using a pestle and mortar. She rushes in shouting ‘No Nathan, stop!’ REMEMBER THAT SCENE WHEN HE DROPPED THE PIG’S BLOOD – it’s that except she saw him making a deadly substance while from his side she appeared when he was going to wash the bucket out. Obviously the rooms empty when she gets inside but Gabriel appears.

‘He’s killing himself’ she declares, ‘what about his wife and baby?’ – Um… you’re in the future so you know how it turns out. Why are you speaking in the present tense as if you can change history? Anyway Gabriel, the littlest grim reaper, declares they can come too. No they can’t otherwise there’s a time paradox where Lara’s great-grandmother isn’t both. She shouts No, no at him and leaves as he stares blankly at her. I swear the boy’s related to someone on the crew since he seems to just be serving as a place holder.

Back in 1894 and Charlotte is heading down the road while Mr Payne calls after her. She’s on foot and he’s in his trap and pony. That seems more effort than it’s worth to be honest considering the time to get it all ready would cause.

He fears for them both, her condition and Nathan’s desperate state, he implores her to stop. He understands she loves Nathan but sometimes a man needs to be left alone to lick his own wounds. He asks she give him one more day alone and return tomorrow. Considering how confusing the editing has been regarding Nathan putting his clothes on multiple times I don’t know if one more day makes any real difference. Really it might be revealed this too is a bit non-chronological too and Nathan’s events occurred a week or two before Charlotte’s thus she will find a bloated rotting corpse either way.

Mr Payne asks to drive her back to the vicarage but she hears Lara call out to her from the nearby boundary. ‘He’s going to kill himself’ she shouts and Charlotte hears her.

…Wait so it’s not just Nathan’s bloodline, the local bloodline, which has ‘ghost/time travelling communication’ skills? Maybe because of the baby she has them temporarily? I’m joking obviously but it makes sense in context.

Mr Payne asks what the matter then grabs Charlotte’s arm saying ‘Must I force you, like a lunatic, for your own good?’ Oh So he’s an antagonist with false positive traits revealed in the final act then… which was kind of obvious. *cough*Hans*cough*Frozen* (okay he had the ‘almost shot a man running away’ thing too but that probably happened more in reality than anyone likes to admit). She tells him to unhand her and he does. Then he does puppy dog eyes which is hilarious. It is Gif bait if I ever saw any.

Rotting fruit and the empty swing then we see Nathan preparing his poultice. Charlotte walks in the y say its good to see each other. Nathan says he is sorry he has to do this. she asks how they got there when they were going to be so happy. ‘My fault’ he says ‘you were damaged when you met me. Deeper than I knew’. She replies saying ‘your secret ingredient. You insoluble grief… I believed that one day I;d find a solution, I might be the solution and just by being with you I would erode it’.
Which is a classic mistake of those who are around depressed people. Of course what does she do? Blame him some more. Which is realistic sadly. No wonder he is going to kill himself with support like that.

He says she made him so happy but he has seen ‘him’ out there and spoken to him etc. She says ‘if you believe it, I will believe it… I think I’ve known for some time. Maybe even from the beginning. you want to join him?’
[Okay on a side note, though it’s never properly mentioned, I am assuming that Gabriel is his son from an earlier union. If it was mentioned I completely missed it. Seriously at this moment you could see some underlying aspect of her being a woman wanting ‘good prospects’ and latching onto Nathan due to his weakness. It’s an extreme reading of her character but she seems a bit too obsessed with ‘making him happy’ when he wasn’t morbid but demeaned him and ran once he became difficult to deal with.]

‘You want to leave me?’ she asks.
‘No’, he replies, ‘but I have to’.
She says ‘No you don’t. Let’s go together. Let me drink first. Trust me’.
She cradles his face in her hand as she holds the drink.
‘Is it strong enough for both of us?’

He says she doesn’t have to do this but she insists she does because she can’t live without him. As she raises the glass to her lips he slaps it out of her hand shouting ‘no’! They embrace and cry and he sees Gabriel. He shouts ‘I’m sorry I wasnt there. I’m sorry I failed you.’ Is he saying it to Gabriel or Charlotte? You decide. Then he adds ‘…I let you die’ as Gabriel stands there staring at him. ‘I love you’ Nathan says smiling. Gabriel was apparently smiling but stops doing so and goes into a neutral face.

Charlotte says he’s gone. We see he is gone at the kitchen door. Nathan says he’s gone. Yes he is gone. Part of me wishes every other character, the dead and the living, came in saying ‘he’s gone’ too. Such a hammy over wrought moment… The music swells, Nathan smiles, Charlotte’s face… is non-committal but maybe concerned? They say they love each other.

Gideon, the foreman, is walking through the fields towards the house and the doors open. he is surprised to see her there and says it’s a tonic to see them both. They both thank him. Good dog, lie down, roll over, now play dead.

He tells them they’ve been digging the old machine out od the east marsh and thinks they should see it.

SEQUEL HOOK TWIST TIME!!!!!!!!
It’s Lara’s car being pulled up by tethered horses. The yellow modern one. So she went off the road. She is dead. More importantly these country bumpkin’s need to get off to the patent’s office and get this stuff registered. It would kick British industry ahead of the world by about a century! No loss of empire or any of that! Old Blighty would remain old Blighty evermore!

Denning and everyone left is present and don’t know what to make of it.

Gwen says ‘maybe this is what’s troubling the land?’ Denning says ‘if it was it’s all over now’. Everyone moves to get a closer look but Nathan. We get a quick camera zoom up on Lara at the lake as she is seeing these events unfold.

She begins to relive the car crash. The snowglobe flying through the air. Did you see the film ‘Dredd’ about 2000AD’s Judge Dredd? It’s like the slo-mo scenes from that with the same sort of music. We see her head hit the windscreen and she shouts ‘no’ and in the distance people are huddled together.

Gabriel takes her hand. She wonders what happened to Lottie. Gabriel says her father came and took her home. She wasn’t hurt and she’s safe. (He knows she is the mother so why not call Lottie her… oh maybe Lottie wasn’t her daughter just she was in a relationship with a single father?)

Gabriel says Lottie is his mummy now. (I got 9th Doctor Who vibes from him earlier on… you know the episode I mean. The one with the gas mask ghost virus). It makes her her own adoptive Great-Great Aunt too logically then. She looks down at him and smiles as the music swells.

Nathan turns around from the crowd and sees Gabriel and Lara hand in hand and walking away into the forest. He looks sad but smiles acceptingly. Or has gas. One or the other.

Summer 1895 we see standing stones and the house. They baby has been born and Nathan cradles it in his arms by the fire as Charlotte strokes its head. Then a short moment of the couple walking across the fields as the sun sets. The director must have realised they got the shot and didn’t want to waste it though it is a bit jarring. Maybe they could have used this at the standing stone bit a few seconds earlier?
As he lay away at night, Charlotte asleep next to him, Nathan hears a man’s voice calls out to him asking if he is there. A woman giggles. SEANCE SEANCE SEANCE He puts on his evening gown and goes to look. Lights are on downstairs. It’s a modern lamp. The woman is continually giggling for a good 15 seconds so the joke must have been hilarious. Nathan asks if anyone is there. The man asks if anyone is with us. They all look up from the table. They are dressed in 1920s cocktail dresses and tuxedos. The man says that the ‘notorious Nathan Appleby’ is with them when Nathan reaches the foot of the stairs. He welcomes him to the land of the living and wants to ask a question.

“Why did you kill your wife?”

DUN DUN DURR ZOOM IN ON HIS FACE
Blatant sequel baiting stinger/hook…



Review:
Do I want to see more? Personally I felt it wasn’t focused enough and the final scene on its own would have been an excellent twist. The Lara stuff was pointless. If they omitted her sequences to maintain the mystery (although she is a modern-day person obviously) this would be a far better series as the question of ‘is it ghosts or just mental illness and bad luck’ would have been more than strong enough. The car appearing in 1894 is completely out-of-place and some effort to create an unexplainable mystery to make people want answers. There will be time travel or more likely a return to the ‘its purgatory’ twist used in the writer’s previous work. I feel like there must have been some outside interference here insisting it be more like Life On Mars and so the modern era stuff was forced into it. Also I think the cinematography is very similar to Poldark so that either has the same team or they were told to replicate it as trailer fodder.

It felt uneven and I think it’s because they didn’t make clear certain things:

Charlotte’s relation to Gabriel (his biological mother or just the second wife of his father?)

Why did he return? Did his parents die? Did he leave after Gabriel’s death? Was there a first wife? (Well the ending implies this and maybe I just wasn’t paying attention when a first wife was mentioned – thus Charlotte is safe and it’s not going to be a case of ‘why did he kill Charlotte’ if there is a second series.)

Gwen’s sex scenes, except to make clear she isn’t a prim and proper Victorian woman (and imply paganism as ‘sex = pagan’ in some writer’s minds), provide nothing extra to the narrative. She is a hedge witch but these scenes feel forced in for no good reason and otherwise she is nothing but a sycophantic servant saying ‘yes sir/ma’m’ in most of her scenes.

Charlotte’s whole character development is a very jaded character. Initially she is a progressive woman in the early episodes, aping Bathsheba Everdene from the novel ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’, only to later give way to becoming a opportunisitic critic of her husband, abandoning him but then suddenly deciding in the end to love him once he seeks death. It paints a quite sexist image of women throughout the series as the only women not to be helpless or hysterical are those not focused on in any great detail (e.g. Mrs Denning, Charlie’s mother, field workers). Even more so than an intentionally sexist depiction it suggests Charlotte chose to break her vow, both marital and personal, to always support him which in those days was a very serious breach of decorum (and probably why novels like Moll Flanders and Anna Karenina were so popular of course).

Charlotte’s character seems to have taken a very sudden and severe shift. The progression from loving wife to hard-hearted mistress in this single episode has neither been developed over the series nor justified save that Nathan has given into his grief over his dead son. I have to wonder if there was a member of the production staff supervising the continuity of the series as we have a scene early on where Charlotte notes the dark side of Nathan’s personality and vows to be there for him to keep it from consuming him but when that time comes… she condemns him and moves into the Reverend’s house. Of course there was. This is no accident but an intentional development in her character and it is very bitter. Again the writers are showing a very pessimistic view of their character’s humanity towards each other under the guise of a Victorian ghost story series. When times are good she is loving. When they are bad she ascribes to the depiction of married women as harridens sniping at their suffering husband when given the opportunity. The recovery at the end is forced and far too quick. Would a woman who had fled the home because of her husbands mental instability really be so quick to return to him? She saw a ghost and that is all that is needed to recover the relationship? Convenient.

I cannot in the final scene feel any connection or sympathy with the main characters due to how throughout the series little effort, beyond heavyhanded moments, is made to endear them to the audience. They try but there is no energy in the interaction when you contrast it with something like Poldark. Maybe the actors didn’t have chemistry? But if that was the case edit around it, do things to create for the audience the atmosphere at least – not just a smile, giggle and kiss. This is a married couple not school children. Saying that maybe, in the event of there being a second season, we will be presented by people who knew Nathan before his son’s death and it be explained he has always been a bit detached. They tried at the start of the series with Charlotte saying how he had been stoic but… it all just rings so hollow in the end result.

Overall the series is well done on the technical side. The cinematography, lighting and sound are all to be commended. However all this is for naught in a multi episode drama if the script is weak and sadly I find fault in it time and time again. At the start of the series the near parodically unblemishable ‘goodness’ of the protagonists is almost a caricature. They come in and improve society taking up the reigns of the previous generation and try to improve it but, as whould be expected in a better drama, their challenges seem to have little effect on them. After the farming machinery fails it goes unmentioned until the last episode. People dying in the community seems to have little effect on their estate and day to day lives if they don’t get involved. They’re just drifting through the events of the series and only get truly affected once Gabriel becomes involved.

Perhaps the writers meant to show us how they are not so perfect with Charlotte’s efforts to be farm manager and to modernise the processes failing? But that conflict is a reasonable narrative drive for a storyline not a narrative device to be used so flippantly. Are we to accept that Charlotte, having purchased a very expensive piece of equipment, would leave it to rust after its initial breakdown? Even for that era the Applebys would have sought the aid of an engineer to repair the machine and ensure workers know how to maintain it correctly. But no its just gone after the first episode or so, and ignored until the last, to be a red herring for the reveal of the modern car. However it fails if that was the intention.

There is no consistent logic to the diegesis as we are meant to accept one thing at one point then expected to shift our opinion on the basis of a single scene. Charlotte the loving supportive wife becomes the damning wife over the course of one opening scene in episode 5 but after the attempted suicide at the denouemount of episode 6 we are to believe they made up so quickly? You can argue that between the suicide scene and the ‘twist’ in the series final scene that quite an extensive period of time has occurred. Enough that their daughter has been born and they have settled back into a routine but as the transition is so sudden the average audience will be caught unaware by the off-screen re-establishment of their relationship. Due to her quick assumption of the role as farm manager and her behaviour during Nathan’s mental breakdown she ultimately comes across more as a character concerned about control than a sympathetic figure who we are meant to vie for.

Nathan is a bland lead. We are told he is a practitioner of the new science of psychology thus a young, handsome, well off male protagonist who is also intelligent. However when do we see his skills used and not just suggested in passing? Admittedly they can only use the level of psychology that was available at the time which was pre-Freud/Jung. So what Nathan uses is an even more basic version than those now surpassed, yet well established in the public consciousness, landmark works. So how do they present it in the series? He hypnotises Harriet Denning twice during the series. You could argue he applies his skills when dealing with others during the series but really could we not argue that his words could have come from any other character in the positions he finds himself in? His major arc is seeing ghosts which he initially dismisses but eventually is driven to a state of high agitation by.

We see him in turn either be the authoritarian landowner ordering his workers about or in scenes where he sympathises with distraught characters – except he is at these points patronising them as he himself hasn’t seen Gabriel’s ghost yet which causes him to act in the exact same way as them. The change in his character is too sharp a turn. The fall from ‘man of science’ early on debating Denning to ‘occult dabbler’ hoping for reunion with his deceased son is done in the space of, the space of about 4 scenes bridging episodes 5 and 6.

The other characters are a mixed bag. Some have greater potential than they are allowed (Denning, Harriet and Charlie’s family), others serve their purpose well as supporting characters (Gideon, Maud Hare and her son) while others feel underdeveloped (Gwen, the old man of episode 2) and some poorly implemented (the deceased whose backstories serve as the crux of each episode specific story).

Each episode has a good concept for a standalone story but overall the narrative across the series doesn’t flow smoothly and feels more like we reach checkpoints where the next major development must occur. There is a way to do this but I feel that somewhere in the process, perhaps the episode editing, the developments occur so jarringly that we as an audience are given little time to accept developments and so with each episode the overarching storyline regarding Nathan and Gabriel, supported somewhat at odds with the modern-day narrative which itself ultimately serves little point other than to create plot teasing conveniences for the 1894 storyline, leaves the series feeling poorly paced and somewhat aimless unintentionally.

They seemed to have a theme to each episode but it was always handled clumsily. Episode one we had farming practises and possession. The end result was people were stuck in their old way and potentially lethal methods (baptism of an unconscious person which likely would result in drowning). Episode two was child labour. The end result was… inconclusive really. The story wrapped itself up but this episode does seem out of keeping with the tone or the rest of the series. Episode three we had anti-intellectualism with the character missing from the rest of the series. Episode four was elopement and homosexuality where, through a sequence of convoluted situations, the lovers are both dead and the lesbian is shot dead at point-blank range by the character depicted having heterosexual promiscuous encounters with itinerant-workers. Episode five Nathan has a mental breakdown due to seeing Gabriel’s ghost and Charlotte abandons him. Episode six Lara escapes a mental ward in a hospital with her baby runs away to the house and gets in a car crash having seen Nathan as a ghost.

Lovely life affirming messages and social commentary here. It doesn’t know if it wants to be. A drama discussing social issues, a supernatural horror or commentary of an isolated community. It wants to be something to everyone but ends up being a less than pleasing sequence of events featuring predominantly unlikable characters. The Dennings, Hares, Charlie’s and Gideon’s families are the backbone of the series and I wish it had focused on them with the Applebys being far less in focus as there was much more potential for the series as an ensemble piece than what we got.

I would however be happy to see a second series as there is great potential here and the technical side of the series is very strong if somewhat behind its contemporaries, in a period where many BBC dramas are almost nearing instant classics through both talent and the budget they receive allowing more freedom, but the writing and pacing here needs to be seriously focused on next time and anything like the modern-day teasers needs to be reviewed and potentially excised if it doesn’t serve the main storyline where it was little than a distraction and made the final episode a damp squib of a resolution.

Good idea, good technical side and good acting but something about the execution of the end result was off. Thus making this more in line with the Merlin, Musketeers, Atlantis level of BBC dramas and not anywhere near the level of Sherlock, War and Peace or the period dramas the BBC is famous for producing – nor indeed anywhere near the standard of writing we saw in Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes.


Comment, like or follow if you want. Or don’t. It seems like no one watched this in the end as seems the case with their adaptions of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent…

The Living and the Dead Episode 5

BBC Description: “When the village is engulfed by murderous spirits, Nathan and Charlotte must fight to put an end to these terrifying events.”



Credits:
Nathan Appleby: Colin Morgan
Charlotte Appleby: Charlotte Spencer
Matthew Denning: Nicholas Woodeson
Gwen Pearce: Kerrie Hayes
Gideon Langtree: Malcolm Storry
Maud Hare: Elizabeth Berrington
Harriet Denning: Tallulah Haddon
Lara: Chloe Pirrie
Smith: Harry Peacock
Lizzie Merrifield: Sarah Counsell
Simon Merrifield: Ben Fox
Mary Denning: Marianne Oldham
Writer: Peter McKenna
Producer: Eliza Mellor
Director: Sam Donovan


Victim of the episode: Everyone really as it is the ‘third act’ of the series. Nathan via Gabriel, Maud via hysteria, Harriet being used by Nathan, reverend Denning through failure to perform the exorcism successfully (and thus a loss of faith possibly?), Charlotte being emotionally shut out by her husband and in turn shutting him out harshly in return when he breaks down. The community being flooded by ghosts.


Synopsis:
It’s night-time and Charlotte is wandering the house as there’s banging coming from a room. It’s Nathan opening a crate. ‘It was meant to be a surprise’ he announces. She opens the crate with little effort in comparison to his loud attempt that brought her here. Inside is a crib for their baby. They have a moment together.

Outside and an empty swing sways in the breeze. Gwen is having it off again in the bracken and plays kiss chase but the guy lets out a hideous scream. Nathan walks out the house demanding someone show themselves. It’s a misty night filled with the screams of the damned. DUN DUN DURR

A voiceover talks of the massacre during the Civil War when the Roundheads massacred people in the town. Children run through the town with sacks on their heads around a scarecrow with a noose around its neck, crows caw, Gideon the foreman sacrifices/kills a pig. Peters mother Maud says that Gwen’s ‘bit on the side’ saw a disemboweled woman hanging from the tree. She thinks it’s an omen. It can’t be believed as ‘railway lads are townies’. Gideon doesn’t believe it himself.

Nathan and Payne walk through a work site and he asks where he saw something but Payne doesn’t want to recount it. He thinks something is wrong here and doesn’t like the place. The work for the aqueduct is stopped as they need to find new workers willing to come here. (The village is a ghost town which is probably meant as a bit of dramatic irony considering what is about to happen). Charlotte says damn them and the railway. He feels any time they make progress something happens. Nathan thinks something is going on but Charlotte is more dismissive only accepting what she sees and nothing more. She wants them to focus on the farm and the future. GET IT? SHE IS MORE AND MORE BECOMING THE LEVEL HEADED ONE NOW WHILE HE IS GIVING INTO THE ‘MAGICAL’ SIDE OF THINGS.

Gwen routes around the library and finds the dead son’s picture and the Ouija board but quickly hides it before the Applbys’ return. (They are depicting her being shifty but there is no pay off later as she seems to be set up as a red herring).

Charlotte is photoing the costumed townsfolk and children. Nathan is at the swing in the forest looking for evidence. He finds runes carved on a tree trunk. He sees the modern-day red coat woman in the distance and runs towards her but she disappears behind a tree. Charlotte sees him in the distance and he sees the woman in red in the distance crossing a field. He says he is alright when she seems concerned. Charlotte photos the masked children and villagers with only Nathan remaining unmasked. They remain still for a few seconds and then Charlotte says they’re all done.

Nathan hears a baby in the house as he ascends the stairs. He sees the red coat woman run from one room to another. When he gets into the room all he sees is the crib stood in the middle of the empty room’s floor.

Reverend’s daughter Harriet , wearing a cloak and hood, walks through the town seeing the traditional pagan like festivities around her. Nathan rides up on a horse and says he needs her help. She says she is expected at home. He insists its important and needs their attention this evening. He is very insistent.

He uses pig’s blood to draw on the wall as Harriet watches and he asks if she remembers how they did it before. He intends to hypnotise her. Does the ‘focus on the watch and let all else fade away’ routine as common for portrayals of hypnotism of that era.

Maud Hare walks out her door and hears screaming in the distance. (Did her son Peter die? I honestly forgot the end of that episode by apparently he did).

Nathan wants the now hypnotised Harriet to tell the red coat woman he has seen her and ask her what she wants. She seems to just be unconscious but suddenly, as a minor jump scare, speaks in a raspy voice saying they’re coming for you just as he was about to wake her. That is all he gets. Cryptic.

A loaded cart goes down the road as more workers leave the village.

Mrs Hare complains of it to the Foreman. The butcher’s wife is wanting through the stores and hears noises. Creaking, rats, all that. Blood drips on some dusty vases.

In the pub the foreman supports the Appleby’s but Mrs Hare says maybe the workers had the right idea as they can all see whats happening. He asks where would they go? Somewhere new where they’re not living side by side with evil.

Charlotte calls for Gwen. She sees the drawing on the wall. It was done in pig’s blood. ‘Nothing good comes from inviting the dead back into your life’ she says.

Denning and his wife are in the living room. Harriet comes back home. Harriet explains Mr Appleby her tardiness but doesn’t explain the details.

Charlotte scolds her husband for involving the girl. He says about seeing the red coat woman and how if she saw what he saw she would believe. he describes how the woman has pictures which move as if alive and knows the names of Peter Hare and others.

Denning shouts about involving his daughter in these matters and says to not involve her in their misadventures. In the distance they see a fire has been set alight. They go to explore. The Denning says not to bother as itll burn out by the time they get their. So Nathan resolves to go look in the morning.

We see him stood under the charred tree the next morning as Denning arrives ‘to satisfy his own curiosity’. Theres not signs of a burning but Nathan is certain. Denning is annoyed by Nathan saying ‘I believe in God and man and very little in between’. They haven’t found the remains – yet.

Charlotte processes her photos. She notes in the background of one a boy holding a wooden toy boat who wasnt there before. Gwen distracts her regarding food being ready. She seems dismayed as if her husband perhaps has a point.

Nathan explains about the red coat woman ghost to Denning who is irritated by Nathan. He is sure she is orchestrating it all. He thinks it will escalate unless they do an exorcism. Denning refutes it saying exorcisms are only for the most extraordinary cases. He refuses. Nathan is insistent.

Walking down a path with a horse and cart Charlotte asks Gwen if she believes in ghosts. Gwen says she’s not certain she believes in ghosts but there is ‘more than just man and beast’. They talk of spirits lingering.

Mrs Hare, working the fields reveals she has marks around her neck she is covering. Foreman hears the screaming voices. The workers run towards Charlotte calling out about soldiers and spirits and such. Through the mists she sees Roundhead soldiers on horseback rush past the. No one is sure whats going on. Mrs Hare runs off. It’s all Hallow’s Eve. She recounts that this is when the Roundheads committed the massacre then calls on everyone to run away as far as they can.

Nathan asks the pig blood drawing to tell him what it wants. As he goes to empty the bucket he sees the red coat woman run up and tell him to stop. The blood spills across the floor.

Denning talks to his wife in the church and Harriet enters. He is a skeptic regarding the occult but he doesn’t know what to make of this. Someone bangs on the doors so he goes to look but when he opens it no one is to be seen. Harriet feels something choking her as she claws at her throat. When her parents come back they see her levitating as if being hung. They run beneath her to support her. The wife keeps shouting she is choking. Her father runs for baptismal water and ‘in the father, and the holy ghost’ exorcises her. She descends and her tells them to go wait at home as he has to go do something.

At Nathan’s house he agrees to do the exorcism. Charlotte rushes in and speaks of the events in the woods. Nathan seems overjoyed everyone is seeing what he has been seeing. The workers are outside. He tells them to go home as Reverend Denning will perform a ceremony to get rid of this darkness.

Charlotte asks Denning if he believes this is all the work of ghosts and the dead. He says he knows he has “… seen terrible and unexplainable things and whatever hand is behind them must be stopped.”

She asks if he can banish only the evil spirits and not the benign. ‘I have no room for such distinctions. All that is present must be cast out’. Charlotte recalls the boy. ‘it is imperative if Shepscoy is to have any peace’.

People run down the road and crowd into the pub.

Denning does the holy rites at the Appleby house – its depicted like a major moment. Gwen also watches. Candles flutter out. Doors close by themselves. Shadows scuttle by. Nathan believes its working. Then the gramophone with Gabriel’s voice starts up. Denning says to ignore it. It’s not his son; the devil takes on many forms. Nathan cannot resist but to listen. The voice mentions playing with his boat. The wet boat boy was their dead son… of course as he drowned. Charlotte shows Nathan the photo. HEnce why she asked about benign spirits being also cast out. Nathan is angry she knew but didn’t show him the photo, NAthan goes to stop Denning. Denning says the boy’s soul is with God and chastises him trying to stop the exorcism. Nathan forces him out of the house. He goes as far as telling Denning he will take his gun to him if he doesn’t leave. Resigned Denning leaves.

Mrs Hare leaves her house under cover of night.

Charlotte hears the banging outside return and scolds her husband that Gabriel is dead. ‘He is still my son’ Nathan replies while looking at photos of him.

The people in the pub’s basement are scared.

Denning hears screams and sees blood dripping into a puddle. Mrs Hare runs through the forest. Denning calls out to no avail. Mrs Hare falls over and sees her hand covered in blood. She turns and sees a hung man. Elsewhere Denning sees the same above him. Terrified Mrs Hare runs into a fork in a tree and presumably breaks her own neck with the force. Dennings screams out seeing the trail lined with hanging bodies. We cut back to Mrs Hare and somehow she laughed herself onto the fork in the tree and is unable to work herself free from it as she is suspended off the ground. She soon succumbs and dies. Denning, holding up his lamp, sees the path no longer has the bodies.

Foreman announces to the people ‘they’re gone’. Denning meanwhile breaks down into sobs.

The next morning people g through the forest looking for Maud Hare finding her shawl and such along the way. He found her suspended body in the tree.

Nathan is writing in his journal saying he feels his sons ghost all around him. Charlotte with the workers calls out and says they found Maud’s body. THey thought he was going to get rid of this. He tells I decided not to proceed with the ceremony’. Why the foreman asks. ‘I had good reasons. Very important ones.’ He hears Gabriel’s voice singing from the house. He runs back inside and demand ‘give back my son’. Charlotte rushes in after him shouting ‘you do realise none of them will work for us again?’ but he is too preoccupied. He shows her the photo which she tries to grab and rip up while shouting ‘I just want him to leave us alone’. but Nathan unintentionally strikes her while trying to get the photo back. She of course is shocked, she draws back and there’s blood on her lip. It’s probably not ironic that this episode she has had a red blouse on and he seems to be wearing what would be modern clothing. He reaches to her but she shouts ‘No!’ and runs away. We see the pig blood drawing and Gwen approaching the bloody rag she affixes to the tree in episode one which by now is dirty.

Charlotte takes out a negative of her husband in a field. it’s the photo she took at the start of episode one. Next we see Gwen is in a coat and hat in the kitchen. Has she seen Nathan. Gwen says no and advises she and the baby leave for their own safety. She even offers to go with them so she isn’t alone. Charlotte says she can’t leave her husband. Gwen says she wont abandon her. This would be a nice scene if it wasn’t for the fact they seem to be hinting Gwen is out-of-place here and probably a witch and thus involved in the events. (Spoiler: They kind of abandon all this hinting and she is a benign, if over subserviant, red herring figure).

We cut to a scene of Nathan playing with the toy boat by the lake sending it out onto the water. The water ripples and the episode ends.



Review:
A penultimate episode and all that you would expect it to entail. It was Denning’s big moment to be honest and if they had filmed it a bit differently or had more intense music it would have improved the scene. I’m not sure if they perhaps made Nathan a bit too… not unlikable but definitely not amicable… a character right from the start so when we see this unravelling of him it isn’t as big a shock. I mean that is also an issue of ‘boxset’ releasing this show. I am watching the last two episodes on a separate day as it felt like this was going to be the real meat of the series with everything leading up to it but honestly right now I feel like with some good editing you could knock this series down to 2 maybe 3 hours by omitting the mining boys of episode two and cutting down the other episodes.

Gabriel, though it is never stated explicitly, is Nathan’s son from a previous relationship – in fact I was even go as far as to assume marriage. At some point I feel a scene wa omitted indicating these facts but the series likes to tease it. If this was the case I would think that from the very start Charlotte, although clearly enamoured with her husband, would have behaved slightly differently when arriving to this town and all its reminders of his son. It seems she is aware of Gabriel’s history but she never refers to him as Nathan’s son – that is to say that of the pairing of the Applebys on Nathan has a connection to the boy.

This dancing around a few facts seems a vain attempt at maintaining a mystery which need not exist. If anything the revelation she is not his first wife would give the audience more questions to answer but it honestly feels like they are stringing it out as if they already knew they would have a second season commissioned even before filming began. It’s pointless and the efforts to hide it end up deterring much-needed time for developing the narrative they are telling right now. Either make it an outright mystery resolved in the final episode or don’t waste the audiences time acting as if we need to piece together minor plot points. Again this series seems to feel smarter than it is and wants to impress that upon an audeince it seems to be speaking down to.

Charlotte’s character development is very pessimistic in tone. I have to wonder if there was a member of staff supervising the continuity of the series as we have a scene early on where Charlotte notes the dark side of Nathan’s personality and vows to be there for him to keep it from consuming him but when that time comes she confides in Gwen who I keep feeling is being kept in the background to be the cause of distrust and such now she has Charlotte’s confidence but this never comes to fruition. She just seems to be a poorly implemented red herring in a show that hasn’t developed her that way save for her being a hedge witch (thus representing the ‘dark’ faith opposition to the ‘light’ version of reverend Denning and both in contrast to the logical science views represented by the Appleby couple.

Again the writers are showing a very pessimistic view of their character’s humanity towards each other under the guise of a Victorian ghost story series. What they did with Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes wherein they created a sort of hyperstylised version of the 1970s and 1980s eras of policing on television respectively doesn’t carry over here. You can see the influences to those series but here it seems they have taken a very broad concept, Victorian ghost stories, and done little to educate themselves about how to deconstruct it as they did with their previous works. Instead we get very heavyhanded commentary which often feels misguided or ill-informed.

What was a rather lack lustre, narratively ponderous, series becomes offensive in its depiction of mental health through symbolism of being haunting by the past.

The Living And The Dead Episode 3

BBC Episode 3 Description: “The farm and its future are under threat. Can Nathan and Charlotte save their crops and expose the dark secrets of a disturbed young man before he does any more damage?”



Credits
Nathan Appleby: Colin Morgan
Charlotte Appleby: Charlotte Spencer
Matthew Denning: Nicholas Woodeson
Gwen Pearce: Kerrie Hayes
Peter Hare: Robert Emms
Maud Hare: Elizabeth Berrington
Gideon Langtree: Malcolm Storry
Agnes Thatcher : Pooky Quesnel
Clarity Winlove:Katy Michael
Jack Langtree: Joel Gilman
Bathsheba Thatcher: Amber Fernee
Simon Merrifield: Ben Fox
Lizzie Merrifield: Sarah Counsell
John Roebuck: Steve Oram
Martha Enderby: Fiona O’Shaughnessy
Writer: Simon Tyrell
Producer: Eliza Mellor
Director: Alice Troughton


Victim(s) of the Episode: Peter Hare, due to persecution, and by extension his mother Maud. Clarity Winlove in the past due to similar persecution.



Synopsis

Nathan’s walking through the hay fields. The boys from last episode fade into the field, the modern-day red coat woman is flashed on-screen. Charlotte catches up to him and talks of the harvest. Banter. Backlit by the sunrise and kissing. Trailer shot accomplished.

Peter Hare dreams of being told he must make the sacrifice before waking. The voice tells him to ‘do it’ as he looms over his mother, Maud Hare, who awakes.

The workers are stood in a row awaiting Charlotte’s tasting of a single a grain and if she will declare if they’re to start the harvest today. She says tomorrow so the foreman, Gideon, tells them to all go. So she has gone from an urban house wife to knowing the intricacies of harvesting techniques which would take others a lifetime to develop? By this point she is a mary sue or as its more commonly called the protagonist of a romance novel. Or a pale shadow of Bathsheba Everdene. Your choice.

Charlie’s mother has packed up and is leaving after his death. Her three daughters sit silently on the cart. She says that he, the smart doctor, obviously knows their minds better than they do after he says it would be better for them if they stayed. She leaves in tears and the littlest girl has her doll wave and says ‘bye bye’. At least they are not ignoring that character’s have their own will but I feel there was more of a story that could have been told with them only for them to be gone now they’ve served their purpose.

The disturbed young man Peter goes for a swim. He sees a corpse and so goes and tells Nathan the ord of the manor authority figure. Nathan then himself goes for a swim to investigate. He doesn’t see the ghost/delusion. Peter, in front of Nathan, tells the voices in his head to shut up. Nathan notes maybe he needs help. Peter excuses himself and leaves as Nathan looks, bare-chested, into the distance. For the ladies. We get it – you’re marketing this towards a female audience you don’t need to be so heavy-handed about it.

Later all the fish in the lake/pond are dead so Nathan and Charlotte go back inside. She has her photo equipment and they talk of the mill’s history. Then he gets all soppy over a dandelion seed floating on his hand. Then as she sets her equipment up they make out.

The workers are down the pub complaining they’ll not be paid until next week and don’t like it. The reverend Denning sticks up for the Applebys toasting ‘the new and the old’. GET IT NEW AND OLD/LIVING AND DEAD/GABRIEL AND (SPOILER). Nathan visits the Peter’s mother Maude. Maude says the school master said he could go to university on a bursary but she thought it ‘better he learn a trade’. Nathan reckons Peter poisoned the mill pond. Nice leaping to conclusions with no evidence there Mr Protagonist. Then makes comments that he’s sure his, and his wife’s minds are fine… Peter says he’s glad it’s only dead fish and not dead people Nathan sees. FORESHADOWING. Charlotte develops her photos as Nathan bursts into her room. She sees a woman in her photograph but blames the bromide process having inadequacies.

They’re unlikable protagonists really as they seem so apathetic. They boss people around and stick their nose into things that are not their concern. But whatever – they own the land and by extension the people who work it in accord with feudalism traditions it seems. Are they landowners then to the level people pay rent and taxes to them?

Peter is told by the voices in his head to sacrifice his mother’s blood or else the harvest will fail. Very old school pagan view there. Wonder if they’ll indicate where he got these beliefs from as either way he had to have learnt it from somewhere as it is quite an old testament kind of idea.

Nathan is in his study at night and sees bugs on his copy book thus foreshadowing the next day’s events.

Next morning and Peter crosses paths with the Gideon, the foreman, who is suspicious of what he is doing up at that time of day.

Nathan has been up all night and written nothing. Black devil insects destroyed the harvest just as they did back in ’62. Foreman Gideon says Peter cursed the harvest. Again blaming him without proof. Wife declares they have an infestation and it’s not a curse nor are they devils. I’m quite sure the workers didn’t literally think they were devils. (Again it makes me less sympathetic to the character before the big conflict later in the series… ) So she says they’ll harvest the insects one by one then harvest the wheat. No magical answers here, just hard graft.

Peter says he hears voices. The woman under the water. What she told him about the sacrifice. Nathan says he doesn’t have to do that but doesn’t stop him either when he runs off and gets a sickle!?

Charlotte reads her farming books, instead of consult with at least Gideon about what to do, to see if there isn’t an answer and gets frustrated.

Nathan asks boy’s mother and she doesn’t remember it as she’s too young. She refutes it when Nathan said her son will become aggressive. He tells her to lock her bedroom door. He knows what will happen but lets her walk off!?

Charlotte creates a wonder solution ‘with science’! She is going to set some flammable incense off and needlessly tells the workers to ‘beware the crops catching fire’. You mean the workers who are not setting something on fire in the middle of the field and have been toiling away? She tells the workers to plant the others. I get the impression this stuff is actually similar to DDT and more hazardous than just accepting the crop failed.

Peter meets that actor Jack Langtree who reminds me of that actor who always plays west country rural workers. Clearly Peter has been like this before. The foreman Gideon, who it also passes is Jack’s uncle, says ‘the mistress has broken the spell so lets not have anymore of this okay’ to Peter still apparently believing he had a hand in the failed crops. Then Jack doused Peter in water ‘like a drowned rat’. So Peter is persecuted then by the others still.

The harvest is finished and Nathan asks Peter how he is then talks of insects ‘crawling into our minds’. Nice. Subtle. Not likely to spark him off whatsoever. Psychology 101 qualification don’t forget. Invites Peter to the Appleby house and hows him a photo of his mother as a child and Peter notices the lake woman in the photo. She was a healer who disappeared in the village. Charlotte asks if he is concerned about Peter but Nathan says ‘you can never be sure of what people are capable of’. Nice bit of prejudice there then, Peter is a worker with capabilities above his station being born intelligent and needs to be put back in his place and made to conform via persecution. No wonder he is so screwed up from living in this community. The writers might have had a point but by allowing Nathan to make such comments it makes him complicit and a far less sympathetic figure. (Again in the lead up to the part of the series where we are expected to be sympathetic to him).

Then at night Nathan sees the ghost woman as Charlotte lying next to him awakes and realises the harvest will be ruined by the sudden storm. He seems rattled by his experience just now. People toil in the field under the heavy rainfall. There’s some ominous Enya style music. ‘the devil wants to drown us all’. Peter has the voice tell him to do the sacrifice so they don’t blame him for the rain. His mother, Maude, had locked her door heeding Nathan’s advice from earlier. They discuss Clarity Winlove a.k.a. the drowned ghost woman. Maude denies knowing her. She adds terrified that though he might not love her she loves him. Peter calls her a liar and walks away.

Charlotte tells everyone to go home to rest and pray for better weather. Bossy boots Bathesheba wannabe. Jack and Gideon talk. Jack wants to end it ‘the old way’ but the Gideon is unsure. IS IT A DROWNING? IT’S A DROWNING ISN’T IT?

Nathan considers the events just a case of bad luck. They saved a quarter of the harvest. Nathan says maybe he brought the curse with him. Maybe its her Charlotte adds. YES LETS HAVE A PITY PARTY THAT’LL MAKE US GOOD PROTAGONISTS. She lists how she wasn’t born there, brought the machine and judged the reaping wrong. He says its lunatic talk, monomaniacal, the devil. The misfortunes nothing to do with her, there is no curse. She goes to change her wet cloths. He stares at the photo of Peter’s mother as a child and the healer woman.

He asks, the following day, if Maude knows Clarity Winlove. She denies it but then says Clarity went to America to see a distant cousin. Apparently that’s the ‘official’ story. Jack came looking for Peter and Nathan realises that Jack is going to attack Peter.

Jack find Peter in the old mill. He thinks that’s where Peter does his spells and such. Peter tries to run but he captures him easily.

Peter’s mother bangs on the Applebys’ door saying its her fault not her sons.

Jack ties Peter up to drown him as the ghost tells Peter that’s what was done to her. ‘You’ll reap what you sow’ and claims Peter is a witch as he floats in the pond so weighs him down before running off. Peter’s mother finds him face down. Nathan and his wife arrive and try to pump his lungs which works. His mother immediately goes to cut her wrist as payment for what she did years ago. She drowned Clarity due to the poor harvest just as Jack was going to drown Peter. She saw a potion Clarity had given her mother to put in her father’s meal to aid fertility. She knew what Clarity was but claimed she was a witch and had the others tie her in chains and drown her. Again she goes to cut herself but Peter runs up and tells her she must forgive herself.

Nathan looks pensively at the ghost of Clarity, stood in the doorway of the mill, as the others leave for home. He calls out to her to show herself saying she sat by his wife and touched her womb. ‘Was it a blessing or was it a curse?’ he demands before leaving and going to the pub to confront Jack.

Jack Langtree thought Peter was dead but Nathan assures him he isn’t otherwise he would hang Jack for murder. Jack says there’s something wrong here as he was trying to rid them, the community, of evil. Nathan tells him to go and never return to his land as he is banished. Jack defiantly claims he was going anyway and that the place is damned, calling on the others to deny it, ever since Nathan returned.

Charlotte urinated on some flowers to see if she is pregnant. Gwen says she think she is. Charlotte doesn’t want Nathan to know until she is sure.

The workers are gathered in the field as the last of the grain is gathered and Charlotte recites a rhyme before everyone celebrates in the night. Reverend Denning says it has been a strange summer. Foreman Gideon apologises to Peter for what his nephew Jack did. Nathan intrudes on the conversation and asks what Peter thinks. ‘water under the bridge’ and Nathan tells Gideon to get himself a drink.

Then Nathan and his wife dance as everyone around them sings. Nathan says he feels so alive. SO SO ALIVE. NOTHING WRONG CAN HAPPEN NOW.

Then of course we need a cliffhanger mysterious stinger to keep you watching the rest of the series at this halfway point. Cut to a wet child holding a toy wooden yacht watching them. This won’t be covered in the next episode so it’s a random tease of Gabriel who was stated to have drowned in the lake.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03z7h8b/player


Review

There is a theme of anti-intellectualism by the common folk in today’s episode. Poor, poor, landowners being put upon by their indentured serf workforce. It is a good episode in that capacity but the series long arc regarding the Applebys takes away time from developing what would have been a far more evocative narrative.

Wait Peter didn’t die? But he isn’t seen anywhere in the rest of the series and [spoilers which you would expect his reaction to]. What happened to him? I don’t think it is explained and I spent the rest of the series under the impression he was dead.

The ending part reminds me of ‘How Green Was My Valley’ as it seems the leads have no concept what they perceive is a very rose-tinted view of the community. The workers are not celebrating their own work, not they are celebrating their masters the Applebys.

There is nothing very supernatural here really as they present Peter as delusional throughout never as someone being haunted. It also becomes jarring as we are never shown Peter seeking isolation or other things which would imply secretive behaviour. He is a misfit but otherwise seems to keep in line until the events of this episode which amount to Gideon seeing him out early one day. PErhaps the creators thought what was presented was enough but I feel an extra scene with him talking to himself in front of other village folk, not just Nathan which might have been a one-off event, would make us understand the persecution more. Presenting irrational persecution as purely irrational, giving no reason for people to single Peter out until now, doesn’t make sense in and of itself.

As a counter point we are presented with Gwen’s hedge witch behaviour (which is how she defines herself later in the series).I have to wonder if the village folk know of it or if it is kept secret (aside from Nathan and Charlotte knowing of it). If they killed Clarity for her abilities wouldn’t they also want to kill Gwen? Admittedly maybe Clarity’s ability was miraculous while Gwen’s are herbal, thus traditional and ‘good’ in the minds of the village folk, but still there seems to be double standards. We never really learn much about Gwen during the series either – she just appears in one scene after the Appleby’s arrival and she is already Charlotte’s righthand woman. Do they protect her from persecution? It makes no really sense in the narrative as everything else seems fair game for challenging by the Applebys’ modern perspective in criticising their workforce.


 

Like, Follow or Comment – Give it a go.

Has anyone been watching this? It seems to not know which audience it wants to aim for and thus tries to be something to everyone but ends up nothing to anyone.

A delay on uploading as I was busy. The BBC apparently have stopped uploading preview clips to YouTube and their embed function on their own series page just gives the link not an embedded video. They also stopped doing episode specific galleries (correction they are just delayed by a fortnight or so which is fine as the images will be up prior to an international audience seeing the series but for Brits its a disservice). They must already have given up on promoting the series seriously for the British audience a third of the way into it’s run which is a shame as someone probably took promotion photos and everything and now won’t see the fruits of their labour… or maybe there will be a tie-in book with all of it in. Probably not but it used to be a given the BBC would do that with many series. I like the production design I just feel it’s scripts are not focused on depicting things effectively.

The Living And The Dead Episode 2

BBC episode 2 description: “When a little boy is disturbed by terrifying visions Nathan must do everything he can to protect him. But Nathan has been having visions of his own.”

Credits:
Nathan Appleby: Colin Morgan
Charlotte Appleby: Charlotte Spencer
Matthew Denning: Nicholas Woodeson
Gwen Pearce: Kerrie Hayes
Gideon Langtree: Malcolm Storry
Charlie Thatcher: Isaac Andrews
Ebenezer Alsop: Michael Byrne
Smith: Harry Peacock
Agnes Thatcher: Pooky Quesnel
Harriet Denning: Tallulah Haddon
Simon Merrifield: Ben Fox
Bathsheba Thatcher: Amber Fernee
Mr Woolford: Rupert Procter
Jack Langtree: Joel Gilman
Mary Denning: Marianne Oldham
Producer: Eliza Mellor
Director: Alice Troughton
Writer: Ashley Pharoah


Victims of the Episode:
Charlie and by extension his mother in 1894 with a penitent Ebenezer. The ghost boys who died in the unsafe mining conditions back in the days of Nathan’s grandfather.



Synopsis:

I end up going into West Country mode again during this account of events…

Charlotte notes she hasn’t conceived yet but wants Nathan’s baby. More sitting in fields admiring the scenery and the workers complaining about changes like the surveyors blowing massive holes in nearby fields to see if an aqueduct can be put through the area. A boy named Charlie sees ghosts so he talks to him.

Then later a modern-day ghost car rushes towards him on a lane after the boy has disappeared. FORESHADOWING (In a very heavy-handed way). So everyone goes searching for him. After some spooky music he finds Charlie and brings him home. the boy swears calling them all Bastards and liars. His mother says he ain’t like that he ain’t. So they go and talk about him in the corridor. He was worried bout the changes he is she insists. Next day Charlotte has more ideas how to progress the farm – husband he does and goes tells her be the new farm manager she should. I reckon she likes the idea. Be a right Bathsheba she will. Then there’s bloke wandering in the field and back to the boy in his bed. Has the boy show him, with use of tin soldiers, how the ghost boys did circle him.

There’s gathering of workers as Charlotte, with Gwen in tow, does tell thems she is the new farm manager so she is. Maid/valet/henchwoman Gwen does back her up when there is silence gainst her. Charlotte does admit she got lot to learn. Will be ‘first there in morning and last to leave’ if and she does say so herself. Silence. Says theres a lot of preparation for the harvest needs doing and does walk away laving them to it. As they walk away Gwen says that went well.

Workers aint best pleased. ‘Off to hell in a handcart’ one does say.

Nathan does interview boy’s mother. Says can’t be no secrets if he’s to be helping. They goes to her house and reveal Charlie’s real mother did ‘fall into low company’. Brings out a lock of the woman’s hair that she done kept locked in a safe. Took boy in as her own and got letter from the real mother explain all if n when he wants it. Nathan says she done fine job and will know when time is right to tell him. Aye is foreshadowing boy will find out very soon.
A scream and Charlie boy is stood in the field covered in red clay what does looks like blood. The old guy from before is stood on a tree and wandering the field where he do find workers eating their lunch. One of the workers finds entrance to something. Nathan is teaching boy how to shoot a rifle. Admits he thought he would be teaching his own son. Charlie says he liked Gabriel and they used to play together. They has bonding but boy points the gun at him. Nathan tells him put it down. Charlie fires the gun as he has seen Gabriel stood by the lake where he did drown. Then he runs away. Old guy recites names and walks to the house. Ominous I dare say n all.

Down the pub reverend Denning reckons the boy is playing up pretending about seeing Gabriel. Nathan reckons Gabriel is trying to be in touch as Denning’s daughter Harriet drew a drawing like one his son did on the wall in the last episode and all that. Workers be chatting doing traditional stuff. The old guy comes at Charlotte with a scythe swinging it at her. Cut back to Nathan and Denning as a worker runs in to get him.

Next thing we be back with the boy Charlie and his mother. asks if she’s his mother. She finds it odd as he was told he don’t belong to the village and all. She tells him it’s where he belongs.

Nathan’s wife Charlotte is fine. Said the old man is confused but Nathan is enraged and wants to be giving the man a talking to so he does. The old man is cryptic and all talking of voices drawing him back because of the Appleby mine where he done work as a wee lad. Weren’t good place to be working. Turns out the dead boys be his workmates what died in them mines as boys back then and been haunting it ever since.

Meanwhile the ghosts call on Charlie as he lies in bed. He ain’t liking it.

Old man was the trapper and the boys were cart pushers. he was tasked with opening and closing the doors to let them through.

Charlie gets up and sees the tin soldiers. Five in a row. His mother’s asleep. His three sisters are sleeping in another room. They serve no purpose to the plot except to indicate how overburdened the mother is who took him in as well. A saint she is. Sees after a bit of night-time snooping the letter meant for him from his real mother. DRAMA BOMB!

Old man were an orphan. Left mine without permission and the mine collapsed. As the trapper he was meant to sound the alarm but he wasnt there to do it. Went to overseer, old man Appleby, who is Nathans grandfather. Calls on him for help. hears the boys screams for days til he don’t no more. ‘Only workhouse boys’, he reflects sadly. Orphans so what does it matter to other folk? But now he hears them again.

Next day Denning is going with Nathan down into the mine opening to find Charlie who has wandered off down into them. Land worker comments on the land swallowing them up. Charlotte orders people about to get supplies. She is leading her people like a natural leader – i.e. shouts at people to do things and does nothing herself.

Later, to the maid Gwen, Charlotte says Nathan was dashing young man dedicated to his work but when he stopped he was a sad bloke. When they first met and she vowed to love the sadness out of him. Wants children with him. Bring him that joy again. Maid says she’s sure she will. (So Charlotte is his second wife? This is a thread left open for the possibility of a second season so don’t expect any answers about this).

Down in the mine, which is very spacious considering they laboured the point it’s barely enough for a child to work in, Denning needs to stop a moment. They find stuff and Nathan vows to keep asking questions. This is meant to be heroic but its a bit too ‘made for the trailers’ in its bluntness.

The old man wanders the heathlands some more. Nathan finds the corpses of the boys huddled together. OH THE HUMANITY. The old man collapses above ground unable to breathe. Reverend Denning says some prayers over the mummified corpses of the boys as Nathan ventures onwards. He finds Charlie almost immediately. However the ground is settling overhead and a worker suggests they evacuate. Charlotte defiantly takes exception saying she will judge if its something to worry about or not! No basic scientifically recordable events like gravity, soil density and other factors will. The entrance, under the immense weight of third act drama pressure, collapses. Nathan and Denning hear a croaky voice further in the mines so go to investigate it. Oh wait no they got out alive as this was the entrance. Denning first and then after a dramatic pause Nathan carrying Charlie who is unconscious. So that was a bit pointless. The mother begins to cry in the distance so Charlie, we assume, is dead? The old man says Charlie’s name so I guess he is also suddenly dead. The ghosts apparently claimed them out of the blue with no lead up. That’s lazy writing. DIABLO EX MACHINA!DRAMA CONVENIENCE!

Then Nathan gives a morbid account of seeing his son, Gabriel, die in the lake. Feels he has failed Charlie too now. It’s all about him obviously not the bereaved family or clearing up and burying the old man. He didn’t want to believe there were ghosts (which considering the previous episode’s events makes it a bit suspicious and he’s denying it out of spite when he has already seen evidence). Wife reassures him ‘there are no ghosts there’s just you and me and [that he, Nathan] is alive. They embrace a moment before making out and starting the baby making process. If you saw Poldark its a bit like that. All sensual and such. All this while some reflective sad music plays and we see the dead boys walking arm in arm into the field fading away into history.


Review:
A decent episode with a few good moments and the cinematography is, as through the rest of the series, very strong. As it is the second one I am still giving them a chance but it feels uneven when trying to integrate the Applebys’ story arc with the otherwise episodic nature of the series. It has the most interesting side family of the series as we never learn anything about Charlie’s step sisters so there seems a lot more that could be done with this family but they are put on a cart at the start of the next episode fleeing the cursed community. On that point we are never really made to identify with the old man. His name is Ebenezer (get it? Like in A Christmas Carol – He’s an old man) but good luck knowing that from just watching the episode and not looking it up. Even now I am calling him ‘the old man’ as whatever name he is given is never stated or if so it is said inconsequentially in the middle of more important exposition or dialogue. He is more a narrative device than a man whose only purpose is to explain today’s ghost’s origin story. We don’t learn what he has been doing since running away all those years ago and might as well have been revealed to be a ghost to. In fact he is so inconsequential we are never reminded of him, or the events of this episode, later in the series.

I like it and wish the series stayed true to this episodic nature instead of its gradual descent into melodrama as they don’t make the continuity between episodes strong enough (people fleeing the town aside) but don’t make each episode a strong enough single narrative. Instead there is a lot of padding with the Applebys’ melodrama which for me became quickly tiresome as the early depiction of them made me dislike them so the later events just seem like an ironic karma. The ahead of her time woman becomes dependant on others once pregnant. The man of science descends into madness when he has an unquestionably encounter with a ghost from his own past.

The scythe scene is the only unquestionable issue I have with this episode. It feels like it is there as an advert break cliffhanger rather than part of a BBC drama being watched as a single, uninterrupted, piece. I understand there may have been foreign investment but the scene makes no sense. If the old man was seeking help why would he pick up the scythe at all? Because the workers earlier were not receptive to a strange old man muttering strange things when he emerged from the wilderness? Welcome to the rural, superstitious, town old friend you might remember you lived here and should have known how they would react.

There is a lack of internal logic to the series which often destroys my immersion. The 1894 workforce find an access point to the mines. Was this always present or are they implying the aqueduct works revealed it? If, at the end of the episode, Nathan and Denning were close enough to the entrance (and it is definitely the same access point they went down since everyone is there when they emerge out) to escape so quickly does that mean they completely missed Charlie by, I assume, turning to the left when they would have found him instantly if they turned right? That’s the only way I can explain the inconsistency with the amount of time they’re implied to be down there versus the almost instance it took for them to escape. What killed Charlie exactly? He was possibly weak from not eating yes but not injured in any way and was a healthy boy. Are they implying the ghost boys took his soul? Why, apart from drama, did Ebenezer die too? Just because he was an old man? Because he corrected his wrong by helping them be found? He was off wandering again over land so was he implied to be running away again?

I did like the poetic image of the young boys ghosts walking into the golden fields closing out the episode. Potential – that’s the word that comes to mind often with this series. If the scripts were more focused or more ensemble pieces then it could work but the way they do it comes across as the level of writing I expect from the Saturday evening adventure series like Merlin, Atlantis, Robin Hood and maybe even the Musketeers (which actually has had good writing throughout while balancing adventure and melodrama elements) not a big budget drama series from people as notable as the creators of Ashes To Ashes.

On a side note I am finding it hilarious that I have to go to the official website on the BBC to find the names of these episodes. THey actually give decent clips and galleries on there so go check it out if you like the look of the series.


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The Living And The Dead Episode 1

This week, and each week following, I will be covering each episode of the BBC series ‘The Living and the Dead’ which premiered on their iPlayer service recently. This first episode review is brief and acts as an overview of the major characters. The following entries will be more in-depth when covering the later episodes.

So let’s be introduced to the series and meet our cast of central characters!

Nathan Appleby and his wife return to his farming community hometown as he inherited his family’s estate, farm and the workforce attached to it. When he arrives ghosts begin to harm the townsfolk and its up to him to solve the mystery. Are the ghosts real or just figments of the superstitious people’s minds? will he be able to explain the spooky going ons with his professional skills in the budding field of psychology?

Part ghost detective series, part ‘the old ways were better’ cozy Sunday afternoon TV visuals’ similar to Larkrise to Candleford and part ‘the times they are achanging’ industrial revolution on an agricultural farm drama. It alternates in tone between Victorian ghost story and the aforementioned rural life drama tones very successfully though I wish it was one or the other to be honest. Overall it seems to be about the prevalence of the Spiritualist movement which became more and more popular towards the end of the Nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth.

From the minds that brought you Ashes to Ashes… so there is a twist which was obvious at the end of the first episode. He is investigating ghosts but he himself, or someone else, is seen as a ghost by modern-day people. So it’s a bit like the Nicole Kidman film The Others. Except for the most part the series doesn’t seem to want to make up its mind whether it embraces if the ghosts are real or if they are just figments of people’s imagination until the last episode where it turns into ‘I hate the mentally ill’ and there is explicitly at least one ghost whose existence is unquestionably real. Oh and the last-minute ‘twist’ which you see coming a mile away – in fact I guessed it even before watching tone minute of the series though, if they do another series, it sets up some interesting possibilities.

I will only cover a few of the major recurring characters here as there are so many names and such it is easy to get lost. Suffice to say many characters, though reoccurring in later episodes, only play significant roles in one episode and support roles in others if at all.

Nathan Appleby: Colin Morgan
Merlin grew a beard and got a deeper voice. A psychiatrist whose come back home to his inherited farm lands after his parents deaths. A man of science who contrasts the Reverend Denning who is a man of faith. Is his faith in science unshakeable or will something arise which makes him question reality? A generic protagonist who offers little beyond reacting to events until his ‘twist’ towards the end and then he crumbles into some overwrought acting by someone’s idea of how the mentally ill behave rather than a more natural portrayal.

Charlotte Appleby: Charlotte Spencer
Nathan’s Wife and amateur photographer, which was an exceptionally expensive pastime for the era, who takes over the running of the farm while he… um… that’s a good question. If he wasn’t playing skeptical occult detective what would he be doing? She tends to order the servants about a bit and is not good at making the babies apparently at the start. She is trying to update the farming practises but meets opposition because ‘they havent updated their farming practises since the Roman days’ as she says in episode 2. Is she truly a loving wife or just over compensating? A generic ‘I want to be both a modern woman and a mother’ character, as required by BBC mandate to avoid complaints, set in a time period where such behaviour would be very unusual. Her efforts in running the farm made her come across like a pale imitation of Bathsheba Everdene from Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel Far from the Madding Crowd. Perhaps it is hinted she takes inspiration from the novel and tries to become the character but realises the difference between fiction and reality (which of course gets challenged by the existence of ghosts and other matters in the town). Then again maybe I am giving them too much credit considering some of the characterisation in the series.

They are one of those couples so into each other you figure there is a massive bust up on the horizon (oh how true this is) or they are simple-minded. Both are presented as very comfortable in enforcing class rules where their orders are followed without question. They also embody the generations disparaging view that as middle class people they are superior in all ways due to their formal education unlike their workers who rely on passed down skills, knowledge and folk practices. Their workers are little more than biblically named drone to do as they bid. This elitism extends as far as in episode 3 where Charlotte, whose only knowledge of farming is from her books and not personal experience, gets to dictate when they do the harvesting unchallenged. Of course the workers grumble about it down the pub but the fact they accept their lot in life is true to the mentality of the time until issues mount up over the run of the 6 episode series and many flee.

Matthew Denning: Nicholas Woodeson
The reverend of the local parish who lives with his wife and daughter. The foil to Nathan’s quasi-man of science during the series. In the first episode we see Nathan help his daughter and throughout the series he act as Nathan’s counterpoint. The Vicar Denning and his possessed daughter. He becomes a sort of Captain Haddock/Dr Watson like foil to Nathan. He gets his big scene in episode 5. Is his faith unshakeable? In a community where many old folk beliefs are still practised does he hold that much power?

Harriet Denning: Tallulah Haddon
The reverend Denning’s daughter who is possessed in the first episode of the series and serves the role of an unintentional clairvoyant. An ingenue who has a face that reminds me of the Engineers from the film Prometheus. When possessed she does a funny gravelly voice. If you know of the Conjuring 2 and the real life Enfield Poltergeist it was based on then you know the voice. It is not at all scary.

Gwen Pearce: Kerrie Hayes
Maid/house keeper/lady in waiting to Charlotte who ‘speaks with a regional accent so is working class’ stereotype. Yes marm, no marm, three bags full marm. I would die for you if you asked marn. Cops off with an intinerant worker at the end of episode 1 and again a bit later in the series. Otherwise she just says ‘Yes Mam’ to all Charlotte’s wishes and appeases her constantly while acting as all but her personal valet. The only time this image is broken is episode 4 when she is handing a rifle in a comfortable manner suggesting she has had a life long access to it but it’s never explained. IT comes across like an action movie star suddenly forced into a Victorian setting which is quite jarring. She is also a hedge witch. You see hints of it early on but it doesn’t come into play until the last episode or so. Is she a faithful servant or maybe the real power holder in the community as she is in the role of the traditional ‘wise woman’ practising folk remedies the community still believes in. Kerrie Hayes reminds me of Natalie Dormer.

Gideon Langtree: Malcolm Storry
The foreman of the workers. Old fashioned and faithful. He tends to be the go to character to show the old practises of harvest and such often acting as the voice of the workforce to his masters and as the voice of his masters to the workforce. A west country haywain stereotype who is more a narrative device, if that, than a satisfying character in and of himself. He reminds me of James Cromwell’s role as Farmer Hoggett in the film Babe.

Lara: Chloe Pirrie
Mystery character I can’t comment on without spoiling the series for you. Suffice to say once you see her its obvious what the twist of the series is upon sight. I am not sure what the creators were thinking showing her in the first episode as she probably should have only appeared in the last episode or so. But this is by the people who did Life On Mars so you know there will be some twist and I am guessing they were forced by producers or something to have a hook in the first episode to bring people back. She reminds me of the actor Kevin Sussman who plays Stuart Bloom, the comic book shop owner, from the comedy series The Big Bang Theory.

The field workers and village folk – West country ‘ooh arr ain’t got much o that book learning’ stereotypes. Don’t like progress and the changes from ‘the old ways’ both in cultural and work practises. A superstitious lot – but when there are ghosts and such it’s not a negative thing although the show makers obviously focus on the middle class leads. They ain’t much for change. Their the sort of ‘happy in servitude’ character’s Leo Tolstoy would have loved to write about. A few are named and play roles in various episodes but most are interchangeable.


Victim of the episode:
1) Harriet Dennings: possessed by the ghost of a man who wasn’t baptised. She swears a lot and acts out. Relevance to the overarching series plot: Drew a stick figure woman in red on the wall just like Nathan’s dead son did.


BBC’s Episode 1 Description: “Supernatural drama series. Pioneering psychologist Nathan is faced with a disturbing and eerie case – a young girl manifesting terrible voices.”


Synopsis:

I began writing notes and it devolved into a West Country’s accent. I would apologise but it makes the review more authentic. Just like that Chinese microwave meal you bought down the supermarket last week.

The opening reminds me of the work of Kyle Cooper who did the opening to Se7en and many other films. We see flashes of images and items that may, or may not, be relevant to the series overarching storyline. Its meant to set the tone and I feel is very successful in achieving this.

It’s the 1890s and we are in the rural West country of England. Nathan Appleby has a wife who is an amateur photographer. A very expensive hobby which means we definitely will at some point get some spirit photography during the series. They inherit a farmhouse and its land from his dead parents.

Charlotte, his wife, brings in one of them there new fangled steam engine things what does plowing without horses. needless to say staff dunst like it and its gets broken. Wuz it the staff, wuz it dem ghosts or wuz it just a fickle piece of rubbish? (… It’s never said but presumably its just a poor piece of equipment and there is no one around to fix it. Later in the series it apparently got stuck in some marshland and sank.)

but ahm getting head of ‘self. He is what you call a psychologist and this be heady way before their time stuff as its science only just now curring to people exists. There’s girl Harriet. Reverend’s daughter, and she got possessed by ghost o man who ain’t been baptised by his own priest father he weren’t. Things dus happen and servant girl Gwen has it up gainst tree with yearly field worker what says ‘see ya next year; and she replies ‘aye n even if ahm married’. Saucy cow that she is.

Well Nathan he done go an hypnotises girl Harriet and goes down tut river and has her own father baptise the ghost out o her. and that’s end of first episode.

E bye gum lad these reviews will be far longer and ain’t gonna be in this here accent from now on…


Review:

As Tolstoy said “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The Applebys are far too happy. It comes across as so overwrought you assume they are both lying but the end of the series suggests that no they really do feel this way. There is of course an issue which arises but it never felt like it was unrepairable until the denouement of the last episode – and please don’t think I couldn’t recognise a gradual escalation if it were presented but this is all too forced and unnaturally paced. The conflict seems very forced as Nathan continually makes clear how he is a man of science, in contrast to Denning who is present for these scenes specifically to be his foil as the local reverend, but we see Nathan completely shift in manner once the ghost of his son is present later on.

I think, having seen the whole series, Denning and his daughter Harriet could be far more interesting protagonists than the Applebys if they were developed more. Yes there is conflict during the series for the Appleby couple to overcome but many of the side characters who are part of the community seem more compelling. Charlie’s families (episode 2 and the first scene of episode 3) and the Hare family (Episode 3 and recurring) are far more interesting than the Applebys but are quickly sidelined for more panning shots for dark houses and tense looking people. Perhaps the Applebys are written to be bland protagonists so we project ourselves onto them but I feel this fails and so they go through the motions when there are characters with far more potential. Instead these characters get ‘ghost of the week’ episode issues which the Applebys resolve with varying levels of success and are soon returned to the background. This series would have been far stronger as an ensemble piece with no definitive central protagonists it feels.

The first episode comes across as if it were the standalone pilot and they should have removed the twist of the modern day person at the end for the released version. It’s a good stand alone episode and certainly, excluding the time dedicated to introducing the Applebys as our main characters, this is a nice ghost story in the classic mould.


More tomorrow hopefully but if not then be assured it will be uploaded the following day.

Comment, Like, Follow – all are welcome

Elena [2011 Russian Film a.k.a Елена]

The BBC’s description on iPlayer: “Drama in which a Moscow housewife and former nurse must take desperate measures to save an inheritance and solve all her family’s money worries.”

That is quite misleading and influences your perception of the film. Suffice to say I took quite a different reading of the narrative.

Elena (Russian: Елена) is a 2011 Russian drama film directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. It premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Prize.

At the core of the film is the interaction, or lack thereof, between Elena, a former nurse, and Vladimir her husband who can afford to live in a ‘good’ apartment area due to his earnings but refuses to subsidise his in-laws despite Elena’s pleading. he has a daughter, Katya, from a previous marriage/relationship, who he hasn’t seen in a while, is unemployed, ‘turned out like her mother only interested in life’s pleasures. A goddamn hedonist’ and yet whom he dotes on so, its implied, she has a good standard of living with few if any responsibilities.

In contrast Elena,from a previous marriage or at least relationship, has a grown son named Sergei who lives in a much poorer area where there are gangs of young men and graffiti on the interior walls of the apartment building’s stairwells. His wife is named Tanya and the couple have two children. Sasha who is of school leaver’s age and faces the choice between the statutory armed forces enlistment (which is common in a few countries) or going to university which the family cannot afford. Elena often tells Vladimir that Sasha has health concerns and wants him to provide the money for the boy’s tuition costs. The is the central concern of the film as Vladimir refuses seeing the army as a good option. There is also a baby who I missed the name of but only seems to exit to reinforce the idea Sergei cannot afford to provide for his family as its yet another mouth to feed.


Here follow the notes I made while watching the film with a few additions. The important bits I will highlight. If you want the overall review just scroll further down. Nothing particularly humourous but, if like me, you want to know what happens in some films you will rarely find any reasonable synopsis on Wikipedia. So while this may seem cumbersome it’s probably one of the rare times you will see any significant account of the movie’s events. Go see the film for yourself as reading this doesn’t do the narrative justice and is just here in case you feel you missed something after viewing it.


The film begins by holding on a static image of outside the couple’s apartment for what seems like an eternity and a crow flies onto a branch. This holds far too long.
Elena dresses older than she seems. She is a grandmother though. This is how women in the mid twentieth century dressed not modern times.


Sergei’s son, Sasha, looks far older than he probably is. Hard life asking for money from your mother. (I’m not sure it’s ever mentioned he has a job throughout the film).
Sparse use of music throughout. This makes it more effective compared to the never-ending dirge you usually get in film scores. I’m reminded of the previews of Batman and Robin where they bragged about how there was only 5 minutes in the entire film where there wasn’t music.


(When someone points something like that out to you it becomes all-encompassing to the point other aspects get ignored. I don’t remember if the 5 minutes was during an important scene. I would assume so.)


Money concerns – will Sasha, the grandson, go to university or into the army? No one seems particularly bothered either way as they don’t mention making an effort to get the money for themselves or that they barely have enough money for basic amenities.


Elena and Vladimir sleep in separate bedrooms. he watches tv, she listens to another while doing small household tasks. Theme seems to be that everyone is living separate lives though everyone is in the same family. Here and at the end we over hear the television programme and perhaps its meant to offer a meta-narrative discussing the desire for self-improvement. Perhaps its being hinted Elena got involved with Vladimir because she thought it meant she would have a better life but, just like this aspiration programme, its empty promises and the reality is far more harsh.


She and Vladimir even use different mirrors. She uses a vanity table at the start when preparing for the day and he uses a bathroom one 24 minutes into the film.


Vladimir is the patriarch though doesn’t spend time with his in-laws i.e. Elena’s family. He calls Sergei her son so obviously never connected with them. Vladimir doesn’t want to pay for Sasha’s education and considers the army ‘the best school there is’. He sees Sergei as lazy for not being able, or perhaps willing, to provide for his own family. Nor does Vladimir care for Sasha’s health. He isn’t by blood their grandfather. He has a daughter and clearly doesn’t deny her anything. (We never even get the impression he has met Sergei or his family at all).


Vlad and Elena chat. She says she needs the money by the 20th. He says will give his answer in a week. There is a clear power divide between the two. Also as he uses the term ‘hedonist’ and she doesn’t understand the word so he is also implied to be far better educated than her. she does house cleaning. he will go to the gym. there is tension between them. is a blunt kind of person. no romance just grabs her wrist and says ‘come with me’ in order to initiate intimacy in the bedroom. Everything has its place. She giggles so it’s not against her will but certainly he clearly isn’t someone who takes no as an answer. Their home is a very sparse coldly designed apartment of stark edges etc very art deco but with pine and khaki tones. In contrast Sergei’s apartment is cramped and ‘make do’.


When leaving she gives Vladimir his bag but there is no thanks, good-bye or kiss. He just leaves and gets into his quite expensive looking German AUDI car. This is not a man lacking money. She is not so much a wife as an indentured slave it seems. He listens to classic music as he leaves the multi-story car park. Then changes it to soft rock. A moment later and he has to wait as a line of overall wearing workmen cross the road before him. A car honks behind him… then another long drawn out scene looking at him as he drives to what looks like a docklands area. Soft classical music in the background. It’s the afternoon already. He is at the gym. It seems very exclusive as it provides him with towels before he goes on a track machine. H checks out a young woman on another machine then goes to the water cooler and checks her out again before heading to the swimming pool. He is very isolated as the only person swimming. Yet another drawn out sequence of his swimming a length or two in silence. No one else is around to speak to. Suddenly he has a heart attack and is face down floating in the pool but the lifeguard is reading a magazine and doesn’t immediately notice.


Elena is giving money to someone for a delivery of groceries. she accesses the desk safe and puts documents in it before sorting out the groceries. The phone rings. She is told Vladimir is in hospital. We see a nurse having just finished attending to him as Elena enters. He coughs. He recounts it’s exactly how they met 10 years ago when she was a nurse and he had appendicitis. He wishes he could wake up back then. He jokingly says the girls at the hospital don’t look bad. The doctor and nurse arrive so Elena leaves. He asks her to call his daughter Katya. she does immediately. she tells her Vladimir wants to see her. Katya says not today, tomorrow. Elena wants to meet first though and so in the next scene they meet for coffee.


They meet in a cafe. Katya has a padded coat with her hood up and sunglasses on. She is clearly more well off that Elena or her family.


Elena addresses her as Katya while Katya greets her with ‘hello Elena Analtoievna which immediately shows the animosity she has towards Elena veiled as respect. It is the ‘proper’ way to address older people and was the common mode of address if you ever read the classics of Russian literature where everyone is addressed by their given and patronymic names except those who are close and use diminutives. Katya is indicating they are not familiar in her use of language while, by insisting on calling her Katya is trying to force familiarity. (It might not come across as blatantly obvious this is the situation but I thought the subtitles did a good job of indicating the relationship between them without deviating from the spoken dialogue). Elena tells her of the heart attack and that Vladimir is weak. Katya says dryly he has probably felt his way through all the nurses already. She seems unconcerned by her father’s ailment as it’s probably something that has occurred before. Elena asks her ro go easy on him. Katya begins to smoke after refusing the offer of anything to drink. She is not her for pleasure.


Elena says he needs love and asks Katya to show him that. Katya and Vladimir see each other rarely apparently though Elena doesn’t understand why but says it’s not her business. Katya agrees – its not her business.


Katya never calls him but Elena thinks she should. Katya feels Elena is blaming her, the prodigal daughter, for the lack of contact. Heart attack. Vladimir obviously was as intense with her as he has been with Elena. Katya accuses her of playing the worried wife and congratulates her on it sarcastically. Elena tells her she loves Vladimir. Katya doesn’t deny the relationship is no doubt ‘until death do they part’ but Elena is trying to cure him and by extension Katya. Katya says she doesn’t need Elena’s treatment ‘I am what I am’. She is like her father – unfailingly stubborn and self-assured. Elena asks if she is not sorry for her father, not at all? Though it maybe rhetorical Katya answers. ‘I dont give a flying fuck’. Elena thinks maybe it’s not such a good idea Katya see him today. She says maybe its best only when he is better. In spite Katya comments ‘then why not tell me only when he is better?’ then asks which room ‘papa’ is in.


Elena, in a sudden cut is at a church and the receptionist asks her to cover her head in the house of the lord. This is common practise in Eastern Orthodox churches of course so it is perhaps notable that Elena doesn’t do this automatically. Elena asks which saint she should light a candle in prayer to for her husband. A prayer for health she is told which the priest will pray for during the service and place a candle before saint Nicholas and the mother of God. she asks where those icons are. so clearly she is not a very religious person but is going through the motions… she goes to do it and prays making a sign of the cross. Is this truly out of desperation or is she playing the role of the good wife?


Back at the hospital what to me seems a pivotal scene occurs. If this scene was omitted then Elena would be unquestionably a protagonist but with this scene we question the morality we have seen her so earnestly ‘acting as the good wife’ Katya mocked her as.



Vlad is still in the bed with Katya having poured herself a drink and drained the glass. She has on a long white coat draped over her shoulders in the Mediterranean style like a catalogue model. She stands at the window seeming as though she is only here out of obligation.


Vlad says ‘[he] doesn’t see [her] much these days. She mocks that ‘[he] only saying this because [she] is stood by the window’. ‘Not in that sense’ he retorts. ‘There is no sense’ she rebutted. He mocks when he looks at her ‘maybe that is true’ and she replies ‘maybe then its a good thing [he] doesn’t see [her] so much then’. She goes to his bedside and tells him that she was ‘never his reason to live’. ‘And thank God as they say’ she adds sarcastically.


He tells her she is wrong but she adds that ‘money has always been [his] only reason for living’. He asks if she is ‘tallying up [his] life’ telling her ‘[money] is important to [her] too’. Though she denies it. He says ‘probably because [she] has never had to earn it [her]self’. ‘Maybe because [he] spoilt [her] she retorts giving her everything on a plate which he takes a s a compliment.


‘You know I love you, keep it coming’ she replies smiling/smirking. This is how they interact so it seems confrontational but is normal for them.


He ‘doesn’t know what [she] is making him pay for’. She mocks ‘[he] is priceless’. He ‘doesn’t know why [she] plays these word games’. “Games help children come to terms with the cruel laws of reality’ she says. Children is the word he picks up on. She says she isn’t pregnant. ‘Too bad’ he answers as it would ‘sort her out’. she says she is sorted – ‘alcohol and drugs only on the weekend. It’s clean living now’ although, she adds, she is ‘still getting sex and drugs under control… but im working on it, trust me’.


she unshoulders one side of the coat onto the chair she is sat on. he asks if she is smoking in the hospital. she asks ‘why, [he] paid for a big suite (private room) and does what [he] likes. he asks if she is serious so she takes the coat off and declares she will go to smoke where she is allowed. he asks her to hold on and asks where she got this [attitude] from?
“Genes, Dad, Heritage, A rotten seed. We’re all bad seeds. Subhuman.” he tells her to go have some babies as maybe they will turn out differently. She informs him ‘there is no such thing as different nor do[es she] feel like experimenting. its painful, expensive and pointless’. he tells her ‘everything with [her] is pointless’, and that, ‘those are stupid points to avoid that responsibility’. she tells him ‘it’s irresponsible to produce offspring who will be sick and doomed when the parents themselves are too. Doing it because everyone else does, because there is ‘some higher meaning’ to it all which is not ours to comprehend since we are just its executors. She indicates that by that logic ‘shit must be tasty as millions of flies can’t be wrong’. ‘And’, she adds, ‘in case [he] hadn’t heard the world might end soon’ mockingly.


he laughs and says ‘its strange but [he] feels better listening to her’. she tells him ‘that’s exactly why you breed – to suck the life from your children by asking questions like ‘where does this all come from”. he laughs. saying ‘[she] is a twit sometimes’. she smiles laughing and thanks him embarrassed slightly.


He tells her he loves her very much and offers her his hand which she asks if ‘we can do without’ but he insists. she mocks ‘what one won’t do for money’ they tease each other and he has her kiss him. they both smile embrace to kiss and are happy.


Critically here Katya has declared one of the aspects of Vladimir’s morality which he must have held in his earlier years but has set aside in old age. it feels as if she is mockingly quoting back to him his own sagely advice from her childhood. Why have children when the parents themselves are wretched? Could we not consider Sergei’s family to be such people? An adult son who cannot take care of his own family and seems to be relying on his mother to get him funds so his son, who he cannot provide for, can avoid the responsibility of being enlisted as he is clearly not fit to enter higher academia under his own steam? During the conversation they mention money but it never a case of her asking for it or what amount. It could be interpreted that they use money as a substitute for love but her it seems more plausible that although Vladimir clearly does give her money and she has a dry sense of humour they do care for each other but prefer to maintain a distance emotionally because ‘its easier’. Although during the film Vladimir notes he doesn’t see Katya often it is not said with any negative context and he doesn’t express a wish to see her more often. Physical distance allows they to have their own space but in direct contrast we have Elena who gets on a bus, regularly it seems, and visits Sergei’s family in their cramped apartment. This is not a case of ‘the haves’ versus the ‘have nots’ but rather two lifestyles which contrast so immensely we end up asking how things ever worked between Vladimir and Elena since they have such differing views on life. Just because Vladimir hasn’t seen Katya recently it doesn’t mean neither party cares any less for the other but as we view the majority of the film from Elena’s perspective and she ascribed to the socially dominant view if not narrative tradition that a ‘good’ family member should provide freely for another and be in regular contact with the others then a more passive viewer will immediately see this entire exchange as Katya’s empty gesturing in order to ensure her money provisions are secured.


However look at how she dresses as it tells us more about Katya’s perspective than anyone else’s clothing. Meeting Elena she has a heavy dark coloured padded coat, sunglasses (which a more negative interpretation might take as her hiding her real intent or having a hangover hence why she couldn’t go the previous day to see Vladimir), smokes in Elena’s face without acknowledgement and refuses the offer of a drink. Everything screams ‘closed body language’ and a desire to not engage with Elena even before she speaks. With her father she wears light colours, her jacket is draped over her shoulders and later removed, she drinks an entire glass of water, smokes at a distance moving to leave the room and even when offering mild protest and resistant she complies with her father’s requests and feels at ease talking and joking. You could argue that everything with Katya is a facade I suppose but the funeral scene later seems to weigh the perception to a more positive, if not slightly tragic, view of her.


A baby on a bed with a mobile phone. Elena is caring for her son’s baby while everyone is out working presumably. She jokes about it phoning its mama. she picks it up and they go to the kitchen to watch sparrows out the window. This scene is mirrored at the end.
Next Elena is collecting Vlad who is leaving the hospital and is told to observe his medication schedule carefully, that diet is critical and to do nothing stressful. the doctor recommends hiring a qualified carer but Elena says she worked in a hospital for years caring for people and the doctor says ‘perfect’.


We then have an extended scene of the young nurse from earlier changing the duvet covers and such on Vlad’s former bed, tidying the room and opening the window. Was there a point? Maybe to prepare us for what Elena will be doing as Vlad’s carer and what she had been doing throughout the time she has known him.


Vlad watchs the tv sports in silence. She watches tv in a separate room. She goes to check on him, puts the television off and closes the curtains as he is asleep.
The next morning she serves him breakfast in bed. There is silence. He has something to tell her but she reminds him to take his pills first. He has decided to write a will. She admits it makes her uncomfortable. He says its important and the right thing to do as everyone wonders what will happen when he is gone.


He says ‘the only people [he] has in the world are her and his daughter’. His daughter will inherit almost everything and she as his spouse (so they are married!) will receive a life-annuity. he comments he built it up so long and shot it out in ten seconds once he got to it. He asks if there is something she wanted to say. She hesitates and says yes but not concerning what he was talking about as it seems the right time. It’s about Sasha.


He says her son, Sergei, should be taking care of his own son. she is disappointed. He asks what were they thinking when having him. (So we see what Katya said earlier is either influencing his own mind now or he is only now expressing why he will not pay for the boy’s education). ‘Something happened. An accident. Twice!’ Vlad mocks. She scolds him it’s no laughing matter. He challenges that both children were accidents and now he is expected to feed them.


He says it’s not the money that bothers him and she says ‘of course not… you give it all to your thoughtless daughter’. Apparently this is a conversation they have had many times about the inheritance/money. He says not all of it and that she is sensible but Elena doesn’t know her. Its clear the two sides of the family never integrated well. Elena considers her ‘thoughtless and derailed’ but he doesnt want to hear it. She adds ‘and apparently infertile’. (cultural / generational values dissonance). he says that’s foolish, it’s just she isn’t like he and Elena. She says ‘of course’ sarcastically. She is nothing like her son and his family. (a class barrier between his upper middle class life and her working class family). He agrees and she is exaggerates saying ‘oh God’ yet again. (she seems to call on God often but as seen earlier is not a regular attendee of church so it is just a phrase to her with no meaning).


She asks him what gives him the right to think he is special – because he has more money, more things – it can all change. How he asks. ” the last shall be the first” she quotes which he comments are biblical fairy tales ‘…for the poor and foolish’. ‘Quality and fraternity are only to be found in your Heavenly Kingdom, Elena’.


He dismisses her saying she probably has a lot to do. She agrees and asks if he wants anything. Only that she understood him he says. She says she does but obviously there is friction again. He asks they discuss it like adults. He wants a pen and paper as the lawyer is coming tomorrow so he can sketch out a draft of the will.


An extended sequence of her in the kitchen sorting things and getting the paper.
She is then on the phone to Sergei. He asks how Vlad is. She tells him she mentioned Sasha and that ‘we’ll have to deal with this ourselves… He says it’s your job, as a father, to deal with the problem’. Apparently Vladimir is the only option for the money in her mind.
She says she is upset herself but thinks there is some truth to what Vlad said. ‘We’ll figure it out ourselves. We’ll think of something’. Sergei, having put the phone down, calls Vlad a tight arse. He then goes to the fridge and calls out to Tanya, his wife, asking where his beers are. She asks if he got to baby formula but he is more concerned there was a beer in the fridge before. Sasha enters and is asked if he did his homework. Yes. Silence. Tanya enters and also sits at the kitchen table. Silence as they eat crisps. She asks him the same question.


We see again a contrast between Vladimir and Katya’s relationship with that of Elena’s family who though physically close are emotionally unavailable to each other. Most importantly we have Sergei finally in focus. He considers Vladimir a tight arse for not giving over his earnings to his in-laws. He feels they have some right to claim the money. We get no impression Sergei has done anything to contribute towards Sasha’s university fees himself to at least in part provide for his own son. It almost begins to give validity to Vlad’s expectation that Sergei should be, or at least trying to, provide for his own son.


When asks if the essential baby formulae is there he is more focused on his pleasurable drinking of a beer. The implication being we see he is someone who, like his mother, puts on the front of being hard done by but expects easy answers and external influences to aid them not to do things for themselves. Perhaps this is all a statement on the failure of the old commune mentality where the state provides for you versus the contemporary capitalist society where you get what you earn (however you go about earning it).


Elena therefore goes through a transition at this point where she takes the initiative to claim the money instead of expecting a handout in the last part of the film. She seeks to ‘earn’ the money by taking it by force rather than expect a handout charity Vladimir who can provide it but refuses because Sergei doesn’t match the expectations of him.


Elena is sat in silence at her vanity table and looks at herself in the mirror. She goes to look at the bookcase and takes a thick book to read in the kitchen. A medical encyclopedia. She is looking at medication types and goes to look at Vlad’s prescription. Then she is in the kitchen making a vegetable smoothie to serve him with his pills. She even serves those in a small plastic tumbler like a hospital nurse would. Playing the role of the nursemaid. His room, she comments, is a mess because of the balled up rejected drafts. He says it’s all coming out wrong and he can’t focus/concentrate. She tells him to take his medicine first before anything else. She returns to the kitchen waiting tensely. He calls to her to take the bed table away so he can nap. As she is clearing she takes away his bedside phone so he can not call the emergency services.


She walks past a large collection of family photos on the wall and the camera zooms in on one of her stood alone on a forest path smiling. I assume its her. We haven’t seen this wall before so the photos are hard to focus on in their brief moment we see them and it could easily influence our perception of the characters’ relationships. Maybe there are photos of Vladimir or Katya with Elena’s family which would be a massive indicator of their relationships. It is definitely out of keeping with the sterile environment of the apartment we have been presented so far in the film. Silence. We cut to her frowning and waiting pensively. Silence. She moves about and finally goes to check. she puts her head against the door to his room before opening the sliding door. and sees he is dead. She crumples to the floor before going to check his pulse. She tidies the room removing all evidence of his drafted will before checking it and burning the crumpled pages in a glass bowl. She watchs the flames before then dousing them and putting the extractor fan on. She is flustered. She places the box of medication next to his nightstand.


Next we see her sat with a doctor who is incredulous that no one told her to abstain [from sex though they don’t say it]. ‘It is strictly prohibited after a heart attack’. Like little kids, i swear. Dumb teenagers have more sense’ he laments. She says he could be a bit more tactful. She is playing the bereaved wife just as she played the nurse and the concerned wife.


Katya arrives at her father’s funeral with a handful of long stem roses dressed exactly as she was at the cafe. Coincidence or is this to subtly indicate that she is not as frivolous with the money she received as Elena no doubt assumed? Does it symbolise she has shut herself off emotionally again? We see from Katya’s face that she is having a hard time to hold herself in and not break down. We see her sit down and everyone grieves in silence… except Elena who, as Katya had commented earlier, plays her role well as the grieving widow. She is comforted by someone in a military uniform. Who is he? We do not know. We see none of Elena’s family there so must assume it is only Vladimir’s associates. Maybe this man is who inspires Vlad to believe the military to be a valid option for Sasha. Perhaps it was not out of spite he commented that it was the best school but having seen how well this man turned out? We cannot know but again are given options on how to see the events of the film. People stood outside are called in for the final farewells segment of the ceremony.


Next we see Elena lying in her own bed in the apartment running her hand against the wall. Her family haven’t appeared to console her after the death it seems. she gets up and sits at her vanity table brushing her hair as she did at the start of the film and pinning her hair up. Vladimir is gone but nothing has changed. This is her routine. It becomes more apparent that perhaps he was the burden to her rather, as she presented it, that he resented her. She is the one who created the distance between them not him possibly.
We cut to Katya lying on a sofa as bells chime. The camera remains as she slides down and the church bells continue. No trousers on. She is exposed both physically and emotionally. The world moves on but her world has become static. (I forgot to note down what her apartment looks like but there is a lot of natural light and stylish, if utilitarian but definitely not flamboyant, furniture).


Then a cut to Elena with her face lit in profile but otherwise a scene of pure black and silence. She opens the window on Vlad’s now empty but tidied room. We hear the sounds of traffic outside. She is in the kitchen listening to a cooking show eating porridge. We see the screen of the TV reflected on one of the cabinets of the kitchen. The people are comparing various sausages and their worth/quality. What was her relationship with Vladimir worth that she so easily killed him? What quality of a person is she, and by extension her family, to benefit from his death so easily?


Elena, in a later scene, opens the desk and is removing things and putting them into a parcel she puts in her handbag. She checks herself in the mirror and leaves. It was dark here but the windows are all open and sunlight pouring in as she sits down in the living room area. Classical music plays. The phone rings. She goes down to the taxi she ordered. She is putting on her facade again.


We see her look listlessly out of the window of the yellow cab which mirrors Vladimir’s car drive earlier in the film.


In a long shot down a corridor we see a waitress prepare tea. actually its the lawyer’s office which is all pastel creams and window allowing natural light to flood in. The lawyer had visited Vladimir at the hospital but hadn’t documented his wishes, as required by law, in order for them to be binding. He states he is forced therefore, due to a lack of a will, that the principle of legal succession will enter into force. He left no debts otherwise she would be liable to creditors. (So his affairs were in order so as not to burden her it seems). We see Katya sat intensely listening to him with her hair down. She has a blazer, its sleeves crumpled up to the upper arm, and a water effect, wave patterned, blue and white top on under it which seems to denote transition from a spoilt daughter to an adult woman in her own right. No make up of note. Casual smart. As he died Elena is entitled to a portion of the property acquired during marriage i.e. their share of the common property. Katya draws her cigarettes from her pocket. Elena also inherits an equal portion of the inheritance on an equal basis as the other heirs in regards to his personal property.


However, in this case as they were married only just over 2 years, (so during the 8 years of the relationship they were common law partners or having an affair – it is hard to tell as we never hear anything about Katya’s mother) and no common property was acquired. So there can be no talk of a spousal share. Elena looks tense wearing a simple button up cardigan top and her hair pinned back. Elena is in control of herself but, with her hair down, Katya is not its implied in the visuals of the costume design. Elena will only inherit on an equal basis with Katya his common law and personal property. As, to his knowledge, there are no other heirs it will be divided between the two of them.


Katya mentions her father kept a sizeable amount of money in his home safe. (How would she know? Obviously he told her or we have been misled and she has been to visit him just not as often as Elena visit’s her son’s family). Elena claims there was nothing. Katya challenges this. Elena asks she believe her.


He asks if they would like a break as Katya gets up to smoke but she says continue ‘Right, Elena Anatolievna?’ she says and Elena agrees. Katya knows something happened but her hands are tied. She can only suspect and speculate as Elena was thorough in removing any evidence of her actions. It’s the words of a grieving widow against a grown daughter who still received money from her father.


We see Katya smoke often – which is common in Russia so perhaps not something of note but we could take it as her coping mechanism for stress. Meeting Elena is stressful as this is a woman who has ‘intruded’ into her father’s life without bringing anything Katya would consider a benefit to him. When in the hospital she is with her father who just had a heart attack and this too is stressful. We do not see Katya smoke at the funeral (I might be wrong about that) and her apartment – why? Is smoking only something to be done in the presence of others? Is it a social thing? Or, in her grief, she abstains from it. But the habit returns and she needs a cigarette to calm down when she knows Elena has taken the money but cannot prove it. But to reiterate smoking is not as taboo as it is here so maybe it is foolish to interpret it as anything other than what it is at face value.


Next Elena is on a train platform. She is sat alone and overhears conversations. (Unsubtitled sadly as they would probably act as a Greek chorus as the television shows do in this film). The train stops. A muffled voice calls out over the tannoy. People move through the cabin and the door squeakyly opens and closes. The train moves as she looks out the window. A dead white horse lies at a level crossing being inspected by a group of men stood over it. Symbolic – of what I haven’t a clue. Loss of innocence, death of the breadwinner, come to your own conclusions.


Smoke billows out of some cooling towers near Sergei’s apartment. Elena goes up and gives Sergei the money from the safe. Thick bundles of cash. How much? More than they could ever need. He says this is something they should drink to. Elena is beaming with joy at seeing how elated her family are. he asks if there is anything to drink and Tanya says there is something in the fridge. The baby is on Elena’s lap but Sasha is nowhere to be seen. Tanya pulls out a bottle of wine hidden above the kitchen’s upper cabinets. Was this her secret stash? It’s the only bit of characterisation for her we would get in the film if so. Sergei says ‘let’s drink to Vladimir. He did one decent thing in his life, at least’. Ungrateful parasite. Elena suggest they drink to Sasha. #she doesn’t even want to acknowledge Vladimir now she has her ill-gotten gains. Sergei calls to his son and gets a ‘what’ shouted back disrespectfully. He comes into the living room. Sergei calls him ‘college boy’. Sasha asks about the money and Sergei teases that Sasha has never seen so much in his life. As if Sergei has?


Tanya suggests toasting to a new life. Sergei tells his mother they have another surprised for her. Tanya and he are having another baby. She thinks this is wonderful. Sergei says if he has a boy he will call it Vladimir. Tanya hopes it’s a girl. Elena says ‘Yeah, a girl would be better! To a girl!” they drink to the toast. Tanya tells Sergei to go easy on the wine to which Sergei challenges ‘dont rain on my parade woman’. So they will have another child they couldn’t provide for and now have a windfall which they will likely waste having had no experience of dealing with such an amount of money.


The electricity to the apartment cuts out suddenly leaving them sat in the dark. Sasha mocks ‘Game over’. He had been playing games earlier and it seems this is the one note of his character. He speaks not as someone with his own mind but parroting the words of others from his limited experience.


Sergei says it’s probably just the circuit breaker. Elena grips at his arm so tight Sergei says she is going to break his arm. Is she scared of what might happen to him knowing that anything could happen? Anything like a wife killing you with prescribed medicine? Is she becoming a bit like Lady Macbeth? No. But it’s nice to think there would be consequences to her actions. Sergei goes to check and notes ‘looks like the whole building’s out.’ A neighbour calls back to him ‘the whole world!’ “Arseholes” he mutters as laughter is heard down the corridor from the gang of young men.


Someone calles ‘Hey Aleksei” as they check the circuit breaker box but no one knows whats going on. The whole blocks been cut off. ‘Arseholes’, Sergei reiterates, ‘they cut and we pay’ but Aleksei tells him to forget it. Sergei takes no responsibility for his own circumstances choosing to project it onto others. Now we really are challenged to see Elena’s earlier portrayal of the family in a positive light. There is an old saying regarding ‘who you are in the dark’ and we are being exposed to how there was some truth to the dim view Vladimir and Katya held of Elena’s family. The gang of youths walk past Sergei and Aleksei with Sasha leaving to go ‘on a walk’ so Sergei tells him to be back by 11.
Sergei asks Tanya if they’ve any candles. ‘why would we?’ she asks. The family doesn’t make plans for the future they live in the moment and so their circumstances are their own fault. They would prefer to buy beer and computer games rather than invest in their future. It becomes more apparent Vladimir was the back up plan for his money not a valid relative who was part of their family.


We, as an audience, begin to wonder if the division between Vladimir/Katya and Elena/Sergei et al was, as suggested earlier, due to the supposedly elitist father and daughter, a mutual disinterest/disdain or in fact spurred by some resentment by the less well-off family who were jealous of the others circumstances?


Sasha whistles calling out to Vitya and Lesha, his friends unseen until now unless they were part of the young gang Elena passed during her first visit to the building, he runs out to where the youths are. They ask what took him so long. He says his grandmother was on his case. She wasn’t and had actually brought him good news but he is ungrateful. Again we are shown that Elena’s family are undeserving of anything Vladimir would have given to them. They thought he chickened out and almost went without him. He gets offended and they tell him to calm down and offer him a drink which he downs so they tell him to leave some for them as he guzzles it. Clearly the sense of entitlement to others property isn’t just a characteristic of Elena and Sergei. He asks if ‘they’ are there. they all leave together. ‘They’ are an unnamed other and in the morality of Sergei’s family ‘others’ are to be hated without challenge or question. Vladimir and Katya are also other so its easy to see how in fact the animosity seems to come from the family Elena views with rose-tinted glasses and not the more privileged pair.


The gang walks down the road and across the dual carriageway telling a driver to fuck off when he honks at them. They go into the overgrowth by the cooling towers where a long tracking one-shot of them approaching the camp fire and they attack the people around it. One shouts ‘kill him’. It’s a gang fight with sticks and rocks being hurled. Sasha runs away as he is chased. He pulls a knife but Dima, of the ‘other’ gang, singlehandedly beats him and runs off with his friend. Sasha lies still. He is dead it seems but coughs and rolls over. A long-held shot as he rises. Elena’s family are easy to judge others but incapable of dealing with the consequences. If Vladimir had not died what would the consequences have been? We can only speculate but it goes without question this is not someone who deserves to be rewarded for his ill-considered actions. Just like his grandmother he resorts to excess violence to resolve matters when he feels he has lost control of them.


Elena is tidying up Vladimir’s flat with the baby crying on the vacant bed with Tanya eventually attending to it. They have moved in there. Sergei asks why they need sliding doors – he could put a wall in and Sasha could have his own room. Already they seek to change their surrounding to suit them rather than adapt. Elena says they can’t decide anything without Katya. Sergei says ‘We’ll figure something out’ echoing her words tellingly from earlier. She doubts it but he is sure. Sasha, as he did at the start spits off the edge of the balcony. A crow caws in the distance and he looks up and as he looks over his shoulder to the interior we see he has a black eye and a scar over his eyebrow.


Sergei asks his mother if they have any beer. She says look in the fridge. So he has moved into Vladimir’s apartment and now drinks his beer assuring the audience of his parasitic attitude. We hear the TV as he walks out on the balcony with his beer.


As the camera pans across the apartment we hear a contestant on a dating show (similar to blind date) saying ‘I don’t think it matters whose prize you are’
Another ‘he’s got qualities i like. he leads an interesting life, he’s got kind eyes’.


Walking past his son Sergei tussles Sasha’s hair. There seem no consequences to Sasha’s gang fight – if anything this seems to imply that Sergei approves of his son or, like his mother does with him, views his son’s actions through rose-tinted glasses.


Back in the room we hear the presenter ask ‘Choose Katya or Dasha, there’s no difference… whichever one takes your fancy.
You’ll be a trophy!’ other people on the TV say ‘that was so cool, you were better than all of them. Don’t listen to anyone’.


Elena, Tanya and Sergei are sat watching the TV. His arms are outstretched as though he already owns this place. His mother at his right arm but Tanya sat over on another seat. Elena asks if the baby is asleep which Tanya confirms. Tanya remarks ‘Elena Anatolievna, this is amazing!’ and Elena asks if anyone wants tea. Tanya offers to help and Sergei asks Tanya for nuts while watching the pretty women on tv as Tanya tidies the table mirroring the behaviour of Vladimir earlier. He has usurped Vladimir’s lace but is an ill replacement morally as he expects others to provide for him.


We hear the dialogue on TV again: ‘I feel like I am 90 years old, and I want to grumble because you are all younger than me, except Leonid. I think you are all empty-headed bimbos.’
‘Keep it in perspective or you’ll be sitting here until your pension’
The audience on television applaud.
‘She wants a lot, but she doesn’t know what she’s going to give yet’
‘Zhenya what did you think of Lena?’
‘I don’t know what to tell you. Basically… there’s nothing I can say.’


Could we not take the same view of the characters we have seen during this film?


Sasha is still looking out over the balcony and hears young men shouting as they play football. There is a long shot watching the players – some in black t-shirts and the others in orange tabards. Aspiration – this is what Sergei’s family are about but having now gained a better housing situation they are still dissatisfied and desire more. Sasha here still seeks to belong as he looks at the football players but it is aspiration not achievement. Talking of what could be but never making the effort to achieve it for themselves but instead rely on the work of others and if it is not given to them they resort to violence due to their self-assured sense of entitlement.


The baby sleeps turned to the side, just as Vladimir had done earlier, on his vacated bed. Music creeps up as the baby awakens and sits up.


We get the same shot as the start of the film of the window outside Vladimir’s apartment but this time with the family around the table instead of darkness. It’s a bittersweet ending. This image on its own is joyous but what was done to achieve it and if it is sustainable are questions they would rather ignore.


The cycles of behaviour continue unchecked. Elena is unpunished. The insertion of the scene between Vladimir and Katya if removed would have completely shifted the tone of this film. Selfishness won out. There is no justice. Vladimir provided for both Katya and Elena because, after sacrificing everything to achieve what he has, they are all he truly has. For all Elena knew he may have been giving her a greater share in his will but we will never know and she doesn’t care as she has got what she needs albeit through needless evil. If anything its interesting to see how one added scene can make you sympathetic to characters who in another film we would, as an audience, judge as the outright antagonists.


The BBC’s synopsis suggests to me no one actually watched this film but just lifted the description from elsewhere. There was no ‘saving an inheritance’ here but making sure Elena got as much as she could.


If I had to make a comparison in terms of what kind of narrative this is I immediately recall Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Here similar thematics play out as if Vladimir is holding back Elena’s family from living just as Gregor Samsa did his through invalidity. Both were the breadwinner in their mutual situations. Does Elena have any right to expect Vladimir to provide for her family? It is presented as if this is a given initially and if only he would provide the financing then all her families’ worries would be solved. Were they all resolved at the end? It seemed so although they expect to be able to alter their surroundings to suit themselves, Sergei wanting to put in a wall, and their behaviour isn’t fitting for their surrounds with Sergei being loud and Sasha spitting off the balcony.
They aspired to a better quality of life, have got it from their provider’s efforts, but don’t seem able to adapt to it. Metaphorically Gregor’s transformation is indicative of an incapability to change when his family move on and so he is left behind. In that story after Gregor’s death the family are seen to improve in their situation and so we question the ‘reality’ of the presented scenario. It is well note Kafka stated to never depict Gregor as a ‘ungeheures Ungeziefer’ (usually translated as ‘monstrous vermin’. Was Vladimir such a figure? Was his refusal to give all the money for Sasha to go to university truly monsterous? He at first wishes to consider it, then later gives reason for denying it and in later scenes we see that there was some validity to his assumptions (whether he knew it to be true of Sergei and his family or not is debatable). Certainly how Elena seems to serve him makes him come across, as Gregor did, as a burden to the family after his ability to provide is gone. As soon as he is gone, and Sergei’s family have moved in, Vladimir and by extension Katya are no longer a serious consideration in the family’s affairs though they benefitted from them.


Vladimir worked for his money, or at least we are never told how he gained his money so perhaps it wasn’t indicated well in the subtitles if it was by immoral behaviour during the 1990s. We can only speculate. Certainly he is a man used to getting his way as seen by how he initiates intimacy with Elena and it goes unchallenged he checks out younger women. Is this a sign of villainous behaviour, as Elena presents it, or merely the wandering eye of an alpha male as Katya teases him. We could speculate that he did have Katya’s mother around when he met Elena and thus Katya’s distance and disdain for Elena and her family could easily be explained but it is mere speculation. The more we learn the more we stop seeing Elena as the protagonist of the film and just as its focal point which is an important distinction to make. With the opening scenes we sympathise for her Cinderella like lifestyle of servitude but the more we learn and see the more we question until she crosses the moral line and the truth is slowly unveiled about how worthy of charity her family really are.


We as an audience should interpret the film for ourselves and I feel the BBC’s description of Elena ‘saving’ an inheritance is very leading and almost approving of the villainous behaviour of Elena.


‘but she had good reason to’ someone might declare. She needed to provide for her family and Katya would just waste it. But, in contrast Elena did not earn that money, as we see in the lawyer’s office very few if any assets have been bought since she and Vladimir began their relationship so everything we have seen was purchased by Vladimir’s money alone and as his spouse she has a right to half of it and, taking an Elena sympathising view, we are meant to feel she is ‘cheated’ of the rest of his property because Katya is also a rightful inheritor even though Elena stole the money from the safe rather than declare it. it is a point of argument and that is the point. There is no one universal correct answer here. Elena wants to provide for her family and they need the money. Katya is presented as being hedonistic but we only have the comments of other characters to confirm this. We, as an audience, only have what is presented in frame to interpret and it goes without saying that each of the characters has a bias.


Vladimir: Is he an emotionally cold man used to being in absolute control over people or a man putting up a facade to deceive himself that he is not as isolated as he is presented in all his scenes? He shows love towards Katya and speaks frankly with Elena about why he can’t provide the money. So is his love selfish, as he ensures Katya is okay but ignores others or is he a moral man who comes across cold because he must make such choices so he doesn’t allow himself to be manipulated by charity cases?


Elena: Is she more a live in carer than a lover? Katya is his stubborn daughter who he deeply cares for and despite putting up a front does sincerely reciprocate his love. Sergei’s family we never see him interact with but who Elena expects him to provide for. Is she truly a loving and doting wife or did she aspire to a better lifestyle and only later regretted leaping at the first and easiest opportunity for this? At what point did Vladimir’s fortune become the priority in Elena’s assessment of things – from their first meeting, as she aspired to a better standard of life, or only when he refused to subsidise Sasha’s draft dodge and she had an opportunity to ensure she got her desired result? Vladimir is an emotionally cold person towards her but one who guarantees, due solely to his money, a good standard of life. One which she wishes to share with her son’s family by ‘buying’ Sasha’s way into university so he can avoid the obligatory military service many young men of his age have to. Katya is the daughter from another marriage and things are cold between them. We never see Elena take Katya into consideration only consulting her in order to influence Vladimir when he becomes stubborn and to ‘play the good wife’. There is no love lost between the two. Sergei’s family she sees through rose-tinted glasses doting on them and travelling to see them.


Katya: Is she living off her father’s money or does he, as Elena does, provide to his child without question having never really cut ties as a parent? Does she see him very little because of some issue in the past like his meeting Elena which makes her uneasy? Did she and Elena ever get on at all? Elena calls her by her diminutive but is that sincere or an act as Katya doesn’t return it? Was Katya’s hospital visit all an act to ensure continued financial support? Does she just play the good, if emotionally reticent, daughter to him or does she truly care but has learned from him to keep her emotions guarded behind a facade of dry humour? What we know of her is generally given by other characters but we see her take responsibility by attending the funeral and the lawyer’s office and challenge, as best she could give the lack of evidence, the missing money from the safe. She is a character who practises restraint even at a funeral but at times shows her true personality which are positive characteristics like standing up for herself, mourning her father’s passing and calling out inconsistencies (the missing money). Sasha in contrast to her is easily controlled and does act out in ungrateful rebellion towards his parents despite being clearly spoiled by them.Is it just teenage rebellion or signs of him growing into an immoral adult who sees aggression as an effective tool to resolve conflict and get what he wants?


Just like Vladimir she puts on a front of being cold but it is a facade that is easily broken between the mutually loving father and daughter. Or maybe you think they, either one or both, are lying when no one else, except the audience, is watching which is a possible perception of the scene. Elena is an unwelcome figure to Katya. We must ask is Katya unaccepting, believing her mother (who I think is never actually mentioned) should be the only woman in Vladimir’s life and Elena therefore is an unwelcome interloper? Or does she know Elena to have never been a loving person and clearly only there for the inheritance? Katya I don’t recall mentioning Sergei’s family except when Elena mentions them and expresses the same view as her father: Sergei is a grown man and should provide for his own family not expect handouts.


Do we as an audience view Vladimir’s money support as being obligatory due to familial ties or as an act of charity Elena expects of him without compensation? ‘But she has put up with him for years!’ someone cries. And? There were other things Elena could do to support her family but she expects Vladimir’s money, which we later learn was all but completely earned before his meeting her, to be her money also. What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine too.


Certainly we don’t see Sergei or his family make any express effort towards keeping Sasha out of the army themselves. If anything it seems like an inevitability and something that would draw him away from the gang lifestyle he seems to be aspiring too. Of course in the 90s the people who profited the most were unscrupulous business men or criminals and Vladimir must have been one or the other we assume but both required risk and effort. Sasha wants the easy route, the criminal route, but in contrast we have Vladimir who worked for his lifestyle and who is resistant to giving someone he isn’t responsible for an easy life though he spoils Katya as a doting father. you could argue he is making up for past indiscretions but it is, like many things regarding his past, speculation on our part.


We can take the procession of events as either Sergei’s family fully expecting Elena to get the money for them or that, unspoken, there is a belief that Sasha would benefit from the army – after all when we focus on Sasha he is either involved with the gang of youths (and later is beaten up because of it) or playing computer games (which is quite lazy ‘older generation’ imagery for wasting time just as for their generation watching television would have been the equivalent though it’s now presented in a less judgemental way).


Sasha is the one character in the film we have focus on (Tanya plays the generic background wife and has no impact on the narrative whatsoever) where we do not have the option of interpreting his character. At the start he was heading out to be with the gang, then denied this he sits playing computer games and his father tries to bond with him while doing so to explain why he can’t, and then later Sasha, having defied his parent’s choice, is involved in a gang fight with the final scene of him being one where he is spitting off the balcony the family has moved into.


If this was an American film there would be a direct-to-video sequel where Elena tries to kill Katya too so she can get all the inheritance or thriller where Katya gets revenge for her father’s murder. Instead we are left with the image of a family given more than they deserve and wanting to change it to suit them rather than adjust and ‘improve’ themselves. Parasites. Parasites who leave us questioning if Elena began her relationship with Vladimir because of the prospect that his money would improve her family’s life. A selfless individual to those who sympathise but a parasite to those who see her behaviour for what it is: a lazy answer to universal struggle and one where she speeds the desired result up and steals the money from the safe getting half of his lifetime’s accrued assets for a few years of a passionless relationship having, as Katya puts it, played the role of the good wife.


Summary review: Elena is a divisive character and one who raises interesting questions about morality and society. The film is one I definitely recommend as long as you understand it is a slow-paced drama and it is all about characters’ interactions and coming to your own understanding of who is or is not sympathetic. Nadezhda Markina and Elena Lyadova are both fantastic in their roles and I hope to see them in more though all around the cast is tremendously strong. It is a film which is better reflected on, shared and discussed with others as there is enough space here to raise questions of morality and society’s expectations of individuals. There is no justice in the world – just your survival and ensuring the survival of those you love.


Credits

Elena – Nadezhda Markina
Vladimir – Andrey Smirnov
Katerina – Elena Lyadova
Sergey – Aleksey Rozin
Tatyana – Evgeniya Konushkina
Aleksandr – Igor Ogurtsov

Director – Andrey Zvyagintsev
Cinematography – Mikhail Krichman
Producer – Aleksandr Rodnyansky
Writers – Oleg Negin and Andrey Zvyagintsev
Music – Phillip Glass


Quite a rambling review but the points are made. You could also take other readings of the narrative I didn’t touch upon such as how it reflects the failure of the social values of the Communist era where the emphasis isn’t placed on the individual to provide for society but of how much society can provide for the individual. Questions of how this reflects the inherent corruption of the Soviet system which has been internalized by those who needed to cheat the system just to survive and now expect to be provided for. It could be seen as a ‘morganatic marriage nearly a century after the October Revolution’ as someone said. You could even go as far as to argue it represents the conflicts of the early twentieth century in which the Tsar, having failed to successfully provide for his people, was overthrown by the Bolsheviks. It would be a bit of a stretch but it could be done.


Yet again I have an issue with WordPress’ layout system so everything has to be sectioned off so it isn’t a massive block of text…


Comment, Like, Follow – All are welcome. What was your view of the film if you have seen it?

Eurovision 2016

The 61st contest which this year is set in Stockholm.

Graham Norton is commentating for the UK audience on the BBC broadcast. He is still nothing compared to Terry Wogan’s coverage sadly.

My first impressions of each song and performance are noted below. I didn’t watch all the lead up semi-finals etc so I am seeing these for the first time.

There is an epilepsy warning accompanied by a pseudo-catwalk fashion show in the introductions of the competitors projecting their national flags onto avant-garde fashion designs worn by the models. It is a spectacle but could easily outshine the costumes of the competitors’ performances in its extravagance unfortunately. I remember that, year on year, there would be competitors with very unique appearances and performances but if it is going to be anything like last year? I feel like everything is going to feel very toned down compared to the past.


Details on each performer can be found at: http://www.eurovision.tv/page/stockholm-2016/participants


The presenters: No idea who they are. Home crowd loves them obviously. Cheesy jokes – but that happens every year. ‘put our differences aside and join in our love of music’ Petra declares – shame no one said that around the time of the Iraq war as it feels like Britain is still paying for a choice our government made without the support of its citizens. UK viewers cannot vote by text apparently and no reason is given why not. Then Graham rattles off a long list of how the voting has changed and I would be surprised anyone was definite what this meant from what he said. Richard Osmond (who gave our judge’s vote later) made a short film explaining it apparently. I wasn’t aware of it personally. Petra’s dress is awful. It is that oddly washed out vomit tone of salmon which never looks good. A little later the male presenter goes to the stadium next door where people are gathered for some reason and speaks to two previous winners – and cuts one off as she sings Hallelujah! Awkward.


Performers intro videos – nice if a bit unconnected to the performers featured or indicative of their personal nationality. It gives you a few tourism brochure like images of the country but tells you nothing of note.


Belgium: Laura Tesoro – What’s The Pressure : Disco/ R&B sensibility. Golden lights and sparkly silver clothing. It’s the first person to perform so you already know it’s the ‘no hoper’ for winning. If I heard this on the radio I would enjoy it as an upbeat little song. The dance routine feels very restrained. It’s a nice ‘warm up’ for later acts. Age 19 – Graham keeps mentioning everyone’s ages tonight. Is he feeling a little old or something? Wogan embraced it and mocked the young performers. Maybe the BBC have been very strict with Norton considering some of the things Wogan used to say – but that was the fun part noting the ridiculous aspects of the performances.

Czech Republic: Gabriela Gunčíková – I Stand: Nice dramatic intro. Big contrast to the previous song. In fairness to Stockholm they have really given the performers a massive amount of variety with the under stage lighting effect and everything. This song I can imagine being very effective in a film soundtrack associated with a very emotionally impactful scene but in isolation it feels a bit… numb. It reminds me of Spectre’s ‘The Writing is on the Wall’ theme song. I didn’t like that song initially but it really grew on me over time. I will be surprised if it gets a high level of votes tonight which is unfortunate. Good but in the way that it would take time to be appreciated which sadly a song contest like this doesn’t allow.

The Netherlands: Douwe Bob – Slow Down: Clock floor. Very country music in tone. Wearing a suit with an unbuttoned shirt to expose his throat tattoo just makes it look like he has a cravat. The keyboardist looks like a young Bob Dylan. This is the sort of slower acoustic song I would expect on a boy band album that doesn’t get released as a single. The 10 second stop is stupid. It adds nothing to the song. The lyrics were incredibly repetitive. Tells Europe to slow down… for what reason?

Azerbaijan: Samra – Miracle: Her intro is like a model’s film reel with her posing in a shop and roller skate park. Good timing with the flame effects to add emphasis. Clearly learned from last years winner. In fact I can imagine many of the entrants are really going to go to town with the stage effects… The song is like a B-side of a girl band album where they’ve let one of the less prominent members have a go as lead vocalist. So far everyone’s sung in English… I kind of want people to represent their nation in their own language and show a bit of pride rather than go with what is most ‘commercial’. Outfits wise its like a low-budget 1970s sci-fi film based on a pulp fiction story.

Hungary: Freddie – Pioneer: So again its a ‘stood posing around the city’ intro. Dull. Ooh a taiko drum on stage! The jeans and t-shirt look isn’t doing it for me. The backing singers bouncing on their heels back and forth is ‘dad dancing’so unintentionally hilarious. Let’s face it people will vote for the pretty boy’s face or the drummer who isn’t actually the competitor. The song is a nice anthemic one but… it’s missing that special something but definitely would grow on me very quickly. So far this one is the one I would say is in the lead. Good overall performance.

Italy: Francesca Michielin – No Degree Of Separation: ATTRACTIVE LADY! (If you read my coverage last year I kind of noted which ones I thought were attractive so ;P to any who take umbridge) And she sings in Italian!!! automatically I want her to win. The staging. There are actual physical decorations in the form of floral arrangements. (In the end I think she was the only one to have physical decorations onstagw while everyone else used the back projected scenes). She is wearing odd dungarees that remind me of a Klimt painting… The song is a very nice soft ballad. She kicks it up into English and I am really enjoying it. On the screen are whisps and water drops which an audience there wouldn’t see so that’s not great. The fruit offering at the end is a bit hokey. Overall I really liked it.

Israel: Hovi Star – Made Of Stars: The guy looks like one of the goth kids off South Park. Go look and tell me I’m wrong. A sparkly shirt under a dull black suit. Very emo looking though I thought that fashion faded out a few years ago. He has a good singing voice. The hoop gymnast dancers are impressive but very much distracting and I feel trying to make up for the limited tone of the song as it is much slower than the competition so far. At the end it kicks up instrumentally but he doesn’t really match that energy. It was a good effort but not enough.

Bulgaria: Poli Genova – If Love Was A Crime: Side of the head shaved hairstyles are fashionable now. I don’t know if I like the style or not as I grew up seeing it in the British comic 2000AD and Tank Girl as a futuristic punk style so it’s very old-fashioned to me. Her costume is very like a sci-fi cosplay as a sort of military half beige, half black, uniform. She is cute… kind of hitting a few geek fetishes… phwoar. (I’m joking). The song is energetic and she at least moves a bit unlike many of the previous entrants. I actually would like to see her do really well as the entire performance is coordinated in tone and aesthetic. Oh the costume lights up! and the backing singers appear. Yes I really hope she does well.

Sweden: Frans – If I Were Sorry: Franz wears a beanie. It reminds me of that character from ‘American Beauty’ who films a plastic carrier bag moving in the wind. He is being clapped along with so… yeah he has home team support and is a good, if sterile, young male, spray tanned one too many times, performer. Casual but stylishly fashionable clothing which is inoffensive. An upbeat slightly crooning style of song. Words appear behind him. He has what the Might Boosh would describe as ‘shrimp eyes’ usually associated with Julian Barrett. He is only 17 years old Graham notes again. Host nations on the year usually don’t go all out as they don’t want the cost year on year but this was a nice entry nonetheless.

Germany: Jamie-Lee = Ghost: Graham says she annoys him but doesn’t explain clearly. I know she is a Koreanphile. I really like the stage design. Lasers and old black gnarled tree forest. But she stays stood at the front and the backing singers are hidden away so it all feels a wasted opportunity for really elaborate dance choreography. Clearly the presenters little chat between this and the last song was to allow time for it to be set up. She starts in silhouette. Should have stayed that way as her head-dress or even maybe the whole outfit is ridiculous. I feared everyone would be very muted in visual tone this year. My fears are allayed. The song is slow and again maybe something that given a context in a young adult film might get an audience but it feels too weak to compete her. (Later I note they got very low votes. Is it because Eurovision is moving in a more ‘serious’ direction? Is it because of the fetishisation people perhaps felt was implied by her overt interest in Korean culture? Was it just because its Germany i.e. one of the ‘big 5’ nations and there is some bitterness towards them? Or maybe the song just wasn’t up to standard. What do you think?)

France: Amir – J’ai cherché: A trained dentist. Sings in French but adds a little bit of English. Good. Again dressed casual smart in a suit but with t-shirt and white trainers. Works the camera and moves around the stage. Good energy. No great energy! This is a competitor! Doesn’t need much in the sense of visuals as the song itself is more than enough… but then we know Eurovision doesn’t always award talent. (I was proven right in the end sadly).

Poland: Michał Szpak – Color Of Your Life: Long haired guy with a pseudo-rocker look. Graham says he doesn’t like performing. I kind of wish Graham would hold off these comments of his until after the person has performed. (Actually it turns out Graham is correct as this guy doesn’t come across very well). So he is a guy in a circus owner’s long red coat with epaulettes. Black shirt, trousers and shoes. No socks. Another modern look that feels wrong as people would be mocked for short trousers and this look when I was a teenager. The song is lacklustre. He gesticulated a lot. There isn’t much to add really. Ooooh Ooooh Ohhhh. I see violinists but couldn’t hear them.

Australia: Dami Im – Sound Of Silence: I appreciate they watch it ‘down under’ and as a special celebration they let them compete last year but I don’t think they should be a permanent addition to the EUROPEAN song contest. Emigrated to Australia at 9 years old. Won their X-Factor or similar talent show. Stong singing voice. Sat on a glittery box in a dress I would expect to see on a pre-teen beauty queen pageant contestant in America. The way she is sat on the box reminds me of Kermit the frog and any other muppets… The song is good. This is a strong competitor and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see this on another show. Serious competitor despite my views on who should or shouldn’t be allowed to compete.

Cyprus: Minus One – Alter Ego: Band performs in cages. Weird… oh wait they are a rock band so it’s okay. Vocalist has a bit of a whine in his voice so I’m not impressed. Lots of seizure inducing flashing. The song isn’t great as a rock song and as an Eurovision entry is generic. They wear black as shirts, leather jackets and such. Dry ice smoke. Graham should have warned about the light show on this entry even if he did the disclaimer at the start of the broadcast. I will be surprised if this rises above the bottom 5 ( and only then because of political voting). Fucking hell I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone didn’t get a headache from those lights let alone a seizure.

Serbia: Sanja Vučić ZAA – Goodbye (Shelter): Side shaved head again. Graham makes another critical but unfunny observation. Long black (leather?) dress with shoulder tassels and … whatever is happening on her hair fringe. Nice imagery. A dancer interacting with her for the songs narrative of her being a betrayed women standing up for herself. Nice visuals. The song would definitely do well under other circumstances. It reminds me of the late 90s – early 00s James Bond themes. I really like it although the song and visuals don’t really go together if I’m honest.

Lithuania: Donny Montell – I’ve Been Waiting for This Night: Competed before. Might remember him wearing a blindfold as his song was about ‘love being blind’. Has a mini trampoline this time. Side shaved head again. The ‘black t-shirt, black skinny jeans and trainers look that is popular coupled with a white leather jacket. The song is generic ‘I’ve been waiting for this night (to have another go at competing in Eurovision)’. Visuals are… ok. Someone heard the other competitors were going to use it so they made generic splashes and … oh! There was the mini trampoline and dry ice making his jacket disappear! Well that was the ‘hook’ of this performance otherwise… bland as hell.

Croatia: Nina Kraljić – Lighthouse: Partially shaved heads are on trend right now then obviously. Half shaved heads for the girls and the skinny jeans and t-shirt with designer trainers for the boys. Graham comments her dress is too big for her as if she lost weight – he should have saved it for after we saw the poncho dress to get the joke. Her hair is awful. Like someone bought a white widow’s peak wig and put it on wrong but didn’t adjust it. Interesting cape/poncho. Then underneath she has a very art deco dress with extravagant arm wings which are mirrored bits on one side and lavender feathers on the opposite side. Dame Edna has had her wardrobe raided I guess. The song… she sounds off-key. Backing singers/dancers are like cult members preparing for a sacrifice. This is a stereotypical Eurovision entry. I will be shocked it gets a big numbers of votes.

Russia: Sergey Lazarev – You Are The Only One: Bookies favourite apparently. Had to speak out against his homeland to please voters which really feels like he is going to cause himself trouble once back home. Dressed in black. Using the back screen to full effect for wings and storm effects. Backing singer/dancers appear. Very visually impressive. Definitely Graham’s description of him going on a charm offensive wasn’t inappropriate. Then sat on the screen… climbed as its made of rubber so he could dig his feet into it. They’ve really pulled out all the stops for this. The song is very anthemic and immediately pleasing. No wonder this is the favourite its a near masterclass on combining the best parts of the previous few years’ winners.

Spain: Barei – Say Yay! Apparently her fall is intentional in the middle. Graham is ruining the performances by alerting us to these aspects. (Actually the lights cut out and she is laying sideways, as if on a chez longe, on the floor). He has seen them during the preliminaries but we haven’t! It ruins the expereince for people who just watch the final. Very attractive features. Her hair… guess the style- except she brush it in the opposite direction to the other competitors. She has a sparkly mini dress on and pixie boots. Also gauntlet like jewellery on her left arm. Very good song! Extremely energetic performance and song. Gets the audience involved too! Works the stage wonderfully. It has definitely been affected by being placed directly after Russia’s song but this is certainly up there and deserves a lot of votes.

Latvia: Justs – Heartbeat: Similar to other male competitors he wears the fashionable uniform but with cut out knee slits and a black leather jacket. It’s… not great if I am honest. Subdued performance. He puts emphasis in certain parts but the electronica instrumental doesn’t justify it. This is the sort of song I imagine being played towards the end of the night when the nightclubs want people to leave. Maybe girls will vote for him as he is attractive in a Chris Hemsworth way.

Ukraine: Jamala – 1944: Grandmother was deported by Stalin. Denies the song is anything to do with Russia. ~cough~sure~cough~. Will get votes for its political commentary. Dress is a navy off the shoulder with long arm ‘wings’ piece. Very good song with traditional tones but electronic drum beat. Reminds me of a lot of 80s alternative songs or maybe 90s stuff like Moloko. The lights are red and therefore the focus is completely on her and its a very good performance. A Eurovision winner – we will have to see but I would listen to it again definitely which is more than I can say for most of these songs. I think the only one I listened to again from last year was Georgia’s entry ‘Warrior’. Didn’t sing in English which is a bonus to me. Good entry. (Was the winner in the end).

Malta: Ira Losco – Walk On Water: Was in it 2002 or 2012 before apparently. She is pregnant. Filmed smoke effects to open into it. Then an art deco corridor effect behind her. sequined dress. Lots of cleavage and slit to the thigh dress to expose a leg to get male voters onside. Then a dancer erupts from nowhere and disappears just as fast. The song… it’s okay. Nothing special in the context of the competition. Might get a bit of radio play as one of those songs people half remember and request on Sunday afternoon shows. An also ran entry. Might have done better in past years but the Eurovision has begun to shift to more modern tastes after years of stagnancy.

Georgia: Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz – Midnight Gold: Rock show lighting show with a mirroring effect. Wearing modern fashion in blacks and greys with wide-brimmed hats. Decent rock song. Eurovision tends to prefer spectacle though so while I would definitely listen to this again although it isn’t going to do neither good nor bad vote wise on the day. Then the epilepsy light show occurs. Again, thanks for the timely warning Graham. Also thanks for saying it felt overly long… I felt it passed very quickly. Personal tastes of course but he isn’t funny like Terry Wogan was and I think he is all too aware of it.

Austria: ZOË – Loin d’ici: Sings in French. Has a pastel pink ’16 year olds special day’ type dress on with a single strand wire tiara you can barely see. A gentle use of the wind machine. Pop dance song with violins. Enjoyable. Forgettable. Inoffensive. Will be used in a clip show edit to show this year’s competitors. I probably would enjoy other songs by her but this feels a bit too muted compared to other competitors this year.

United Kingdom: Joe and Jake – You’re Not Alone: Intro features football and rugby because we British handed in our ‘part of globally significant arts’ card a long time ago apparently. And smoke flares. We clearly pissed off someone at a sports match with drunken louts who the travelled to Stockholm… Two young guys so they’ll get girls’ votes. Dressed in the fashion uniform of this year. The song is quite ‘radio play on a Sunday’… It’s inoffensive. Oh fuck – we are going to be in the bottom three again aren’t we? I can already tell. Fuck. I can see the tabloids using this as a weak argument for ‘Brexit’ (Britain exiting the European Union). Decent performance but the other competitor’s came to compete and win – not just take part.

Armenia: Iveta Mukuchyan – LoveWave: Last entry. Last entries have won before so not saying bad but you can bet it will be one of the good ones as they want to end on a high when some turn over preferring not to watch the voting etc. OOOOH ATTRACTIVE! the lights and pyrotechnics have clearly been invested in. the dry ice smoke too. She is wearing a sparkly black opaque leotard with ‘butt cape’. Dirty old man vote winner of the night. The song is good and changes tone well unlike most of the one note songs tonight. Didn’t quite hit that high note at the end. Shame as a bit more polish and it would have been a serious contender.

Vote time: It was good. I think it is clear who the top ones are going to be. Of course now we have the presenters banter… Oh and she has a green dress on now. It looks terrible. I hope she was forced to wear in. Weird 70s crepe shoulder flower ruffles thing and the ‘skirt’, beneath a narrow silver ‘belt’ is a sparkly abomination like something dredged up from the deep. So they show Ian McKellen and Derrick Jacobi from a scene in that rubbish ITV show they did… which was random. Some come across better in the voting snippets than they did during the full performance and some come across worse as I notice the Czech entry awkwardly hit her top note apparently.

Hungary, Russia and maybe Spain are my ‘top three’ likely to win at the moment. I wish Bulgaria, Italy or Spain would win though. Australia will do well I have no doubt and Armenia deserve a good number of votes. Poland, Latvia, Croatia or Lithuania getting large numbers of votes will surprise me.

Justin Timberlake turns up in the green room because… just because. Oh promoting a film. Nice that we can’t have even one evening where America isn’t involved in any sense. Oh and he is going to sing 2 songs. Great. Bulgaria’s entrant is hovering around in the background. Okay she is winning me over since her outfit is far better than the presenters dress.
Then we get some VTs and such in a supercut of various moments in Swedish musical history and music videos by a guy who did a Madonna video. I will be fair it was entertaining as I recognised many of the songs. IT EVEN HAD PAPA EMERITUS FROM GHOST IN IT! I’m won over!

Then Justin Timberlake. Rock your body. Of course with more backing singers, a more tightly choreographed routine. Inevitably it blows everything else out of the water. Yes please remind us America does it bigger and better. There was talk of letting them compete in Eurovision. I hope it was just a rumour because we all know they are going to go whole hog into winning year on yea until Eurovision becomes amalgamated and just like every other homogenized American product we consume day on day. Nothing against Justin personally as he is very good but I just get a bad taste over the entire matter. Then again Britain has pulled out the stops dragging in international singers in a few years recently so I shouldn’t be overly critical. People joked they wanted to vote for the American entry. Be careful what you wish for…

Malta won the Junior Eurovision. The winner comes on stage promoting the Junior Eurovision. That’s nice as she seemed a little nervous but then many performers come across like that once the stage persona is
Petra chides her boy toy for interrupting her. Now she is wearing an elegant gothy lace and satin dress which is far better than the previous ones. Then they do a run down of ‘things to have to win’ sketch.

Humour can be very awkward but this was actually quite amusing in inoffensive. Oh they got the violin guy back! Then they did the costume change and she has a Shakira like style on ut the top is a one piece with skin tone which makes her look worse than ever! Like some one in their 50s trying to dress how they did as a 19 year old! I am wondering what her actual age is as I;m guessing the way she has been styled tonight has made her look far older than her actual age. Then they do a song which was good. She lets her hair down while he shows off his chest and lots of dancers with very different styles referencing previous entries get on stage. a Very impressive filler while all the voting is going on. Good for them.

Then they have a comedian, Lynda Woodruff, some on as a representative of the EBU while they go off for a costume change. Really falling flat answering some emailed questions. Then she crowd surfs off back into obscurity. Guy is back in open collared shirt and suit. Then a bit of bragging over how often they’ve won on a VT about Sweden’s achievements.

It’s self-deprecating however so they get away with it as they say Eurovision influences their foreign language lessons, gangs, religion, etc.

Petra returns in a flowing Dame Edna Everage dress… Sparkly with a mix of pink raw flesh tones. Like someone who got thrown through a window in the middle of the day into a bottle bank. She introduces the previous winner who does a very ‘Hugh Jackman at an award ceremony’ like performance.

The song ‘Heroes’ still holds up no question. In fact I could argue that putting this year’s winner up next to it will probably make this year look like a step down from last year in terms of quality unfortunately – certainly the fact so many acts adopted his use of back projected imagery proves how effective the entire performance was.

So national votes and televotes are presented separately. How you vote doesn’t change just how they present it. 50% from the voting boards and 50% from the public.

The vote announcers of each country always comes across strained and extremely false in their joy… and straight off the bat Australia got 12 points! Then a guy holding a dog. Oh right so they just say who got the 12 points from each country. I can live with them doing that I guess though it’s a bit less fun than the minute or so of build up for the big numbers. San Marino gave use 8 points. Czech Republic gave us 4. So far we are not doing bad this year which is encouraging. Ireland gave us 7 points. Georgia phwoar lady from last year! 🙂 Gave us nothing though… Bosnia and Herzevogina gave us nothing. I’m going to assume we just had a nice start. Malta gave us 12 points!!!! But that was a political vote if we are honest. Spain gave us nothing. (I should be noting who is giving who 12 points so will do that next year for those interested – oh except they put up a video on YouTube of the entire votes process so no need). Finland gives awkward banter and no points to us though 12 to their neighbour Sweden obviously. Switzerland gave us nothing. Denmark gave us three. France gave us nothing… obviously ;p Moldova lady is very Hello Nurse! Ash blonde, red lips and in a suit and they gave us nothing. Armenia had a connection issue and gave us nothing. Votes seem quite spread this year although Ukraine is getting quite a few. (So ironically even this new style of voting though much closer in its first year of use gave away the final winner early). Cyprus gave us nothing – the guy looks like a sweet shop owner. Bulgaria lady is hello brunette in off shoulder jacket dress and again we get no points. (admit you are enjoying this repetition in the abscence of there being no chance of anyone being ‘nul points’ -nil pwa- this year). The Netherlands give us nothing and their lady wears a jacket with random bits of kryptonite stuck on to ward off Superman. Latvia has a basement dwelling man-child stereotype give the vote and we get no points.

Israel are missing in action so Petra has to buy some time. ‘we are half way through’. Yeah whatever. Her boy toy is in the green room wearing a black shirt and trousers with a white blazer. Are the fascist fashion police on patrol tonight or something? This uniform for men I joked about is a bit too adhered to… Australia is in the lead. It reminds me of Britain’s Got Talent where it’s acts from other countries doing well not our own acts.

Ukrainian lady seems a little drunk or overwhelmed.

Israel sort their side out and we get nothing after the guy uses a little Swedish to flatter Petra. Belarus give us nothing but of course give Russia their 12 points because after all Belarus is beautiful Russia. Germany have their presenter in front of a crowd and give us nothing but emo Israel 12. Russia PHWOAR weird ‘parcel wrapped’ red dress and we get nothing. Norway has their 1985 winner give the vote who give us nothing nor anything to Sweden surprisingly. Australia give us 4 points from an anorexic Asian news presenter with a weird weaved neck ruffle thing. Belgium has a… humpty dumpty brought to life guy give us nothing but Australia 12. UK has Richard Osman give the vote. Nothing for us obviously. We gave Georgia 12 interestingly – its girls voting for a boy band obviously. Croatia has an attractive middle-aged voter giving us nothing but Australia 12 points. Greece has a well-groomed young guy making ladies’ hearts flutter and 12 points to Russia. Lithuania blonde in sparkly white dress and red lips gives us nothing but Australia 12 points. Serbia gave us 2 Points. Very attractive side swiped brunette haired lady in white dress voter. Australia has clearly won its obvious and the new points displaying thing has failed to keep tension. (I was wrong fortunately). FYR Macedonia gives nothing to us and 12 to Ukraine. Albania gave us 5 points and 12 to Australia. Estonia gave us 3 points and 12 to Sweden. Ukraine – WTF mix of traditional dress and the soviet star from the top of the Kremlin… I remember that person. We got no votes and 12 points went to Lithuania. Italy sexy lady, obviously, in a simple red dress giving nothing to us and 12 to Spain. Poland give us nothing and 12 to Ukraine. Slovenia – HELLO! Red hair and leather dress. We got nothing and 12 went to Ukraine. Hungary has a blonde in a yellow dress/coat. Nothing to us and 12 to Australia. Montenegro guy looks like he just walked in off the street and doesn’t speak English as all the others did. Nothing to us but 12 to Malta surprisingly. Sweden’s vote from a Kim Kardashian wannabe in a weird formal dress with cleavage window and sparkles in the shoulder, groin and arm areas like armour. Nothing to us and 12 to Australia.

If Australia win they will partner with an EU member and host it in their country… so that scuppers everyone’s idea of having a jaunt down under next year then. If they partner with anyone but the UK it’ll be a slap in the face of the commonwealth.

And so they move to the popular vote i.e. tele-votes.

Yeah Australia are around 100 points ahead.

*drum roll*

Six lowest voted for countries: 0 to the Czech Republic. 8 to the UK. 10 to Germany. 10 to Spain. 11 to Israel. 16 to Malta. 24 to Georgia. 33 to Croatia. 34 to italy. 39 to the Netherlands. 51 to Belgium. 53 to Cyprus. 56 to Hungary. 63 to Latvia. 73 Azerbaijan. 80 to Serbia.

63 points to the UK in total this year.We have done worse recently so this is a good result despite what the media will no doubt say.

Ten highest voted for countries: 96 points to Lithuania. 109 points to France. 120 points to Austria (which skyrocketed them up the chart). 134 points to Armenia (ditto skyrocket). 139 points to Sweden (ditto but cannot win). 180 points to Bulgaria (ditto skyrocket to second place so far).

Poland, Australia, Ukraine and Russia still need numbers.

Dramatic long pause.

191 points to Australia. So they win with 511 points possibly.

Russia, Ukraine and Poland left.

222 points to Poland. but only to fifth place at this point. went from the bottom to that.

Shocking.

Russia and Ukraine are left now. Kind of ironic considering recent events.

323 points to Ukraine. May very well have won.

So Russia got the most tele-votes. Who got 361 points. So he hasn’t done it.

Ukraine, Australia and Russia.

Russia 3rd place
Australia 2nd place
Ukraine 1st place

(We gave 10 points to Poland in the tele-vote apparently. It must have been patriotic immigrants who voted).

Well I’m glad Australia didn’t win just because of the power it gives them to decide who to partner with to host it next year.

Ukraine winning is a political statement I feel due to the, admittedly denied, implications of the song. It’s a very good song but clearly with this and Conchita Wurst it’s ‘pan-European sociopolitical statement’ entrants who win ultimately. The voting system revision did make it a bit more exciting and concise I will admit so that is a positive move forward for the contest as in previous years the voting seemed to drag on indefinitely.


It’s a shame I can’t embed a link of the condescending tone of the reporter, Nick Higham, on the BBC news immediately after the show coverage ended. He was hilarious and instantly punchable in the face due to his attitude and trite comments about things such as how cheesy it was and the Ukrainian entry adding ‘a well needed tone of seriousness’ as it referenced the ethnic cleansing during Stalin’s era. He obviously didn’t want to cover the event but was forced into it just like the current royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell. Actually add in the political lead Nick Robinson and it seems the BBC are partial to arrogant correspondents named Nicholas at the moment…

Well that was fun. I hope you’ve enjoyed. Comment, Like, follow – all are welcome. That’s all until next year when America is let in as a guest entry with a view to becoming a permanent fixture take care!