Alex Massie

Et in Purgatorio ego?

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Thanks to Ross Douthat for alerting me to this trailer for the forthcoming movie of Brideshead Revisited:

As Ross says, this may not bear much resemblance to the novel you read. But come on, isn't this just delightfully over-the-top and wonderfully trashy? I doubt it matters that the adaptation - Emma Thomson as Lady Marchmain notwithstanding - seems certain to be utter tripe.

I remember that when Andrew Davies announced that his adaptation would take the view that the book's really about how catholicism ruins everyone's life, there was much umbrage and outrage at this desecration of Waugh's intent. But there's little necessity for an adaptation to be faithful to the original author's intent. And Davies' view is far from untenable even if it ain't how Waugh would have seen his novel.

And in any case, if we're honest, Brideshead is ripe for a Dynasty style makeover. Brideshead is a soap opera after all and, frequently, a contrived, over-written, nonsensical drama to boot. That's part of its charm of course - itself, natch, the novel's fatal flaw...

Matt Zeitlin, on the other hand, suggests one should weep over this trailer. Now there's something to the argument that given the great success - indeed brilliance - of John Mortimer's Granada adaptation there's no need for a new film. But then again, what damage can there really be? Anyone who loves Brideshead - and it's one of those novels that despite its brilliance attracts too many too passionate defenders - has no monopoly or veto on how the book must be interpreted. In fact some of them need winding up... 

In passing Ross makes mention of Waugh's "more serious novels". Does he mean to say that Scoop isn't a serious commentary on journalism? Surely not. Now there's an adaptation that might be fun - provided, of course, that it was played seriously and not milked for laughs...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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