Movies for the Ages(?)
52 Guitars: Week 49

Broadchurch

Broadchurch is a really fine British murder mystery, which I strongly recommend. This post is mainly just a place-holder for a discussion which includes TOTAL SPOILERS, because it's really hard to discuss the show without that. I'm moving several comments here from the Movies for the Ages post so that people won't stumble across them  by accident.

Seriously, don't read this discussion unless you've seen the show. It is very, very good, and it does a really good job of making the murder mystery a real mystery, so you'll be, as the term says, SPOILing it to some degree for a first viewing.

One thing I can say, without giving away anything, is that although there are very dark things involved in the story, it has a fundamentally healthy quality that's somewhat rare in movies and television these days (well, to the extent that I'm aware of those, which actually isn't very). In the past year or so my wife and I have watched several lengthy TV series in which at some point I realized that there was not a single character for whom I had much liking or admiration or respect. Breaking Bad is the prime example of that. Others are The Americans and Peaky Blinders

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Okay, so be warned. Here is a spoiler.

Rob, we talked earlier about being surprised by Broadchurch. Surprised at the positive portrayal of the church? Did you expect the priest to be bad?

AMDG

Btw, I can't quite say I guessed who did it, but I did have the person under strong suspicion from the beginning and wasn't surprised when the truth was revealed. It wasn't based on any deductions from evidence but on general vibe and personality. I think credit for that goes to the acting and directing.

Ultimate spoiler follows.

It wasn't based on any deductions from evidence but on general vibe and personality.

Does it mean I'm a really terrible person because I figured house husband = suspicious, and so just meant he had to be bad?

Well, if you are, then I am, too at least somewhat. I didn't think that explicitly, but I think it did contribute to the sense of off-ness about him. It wasn't that alone by a long shot. More a sense of there being something a little too much about him--something a bit smarmy and potentially dishonest, a little too consciously or deliberately Caring and Sensitive. That's where I really credit the actor. He wasn't implausible by any means and he certainly didn't seem villainous, but there was just something a little...off.

Not reading any of the posts in light of your aforementioned warnings.
I could not help getting caught on this:

"...at some point I realized that there was not a single character for whom I had much liking or admiration or respect."
_______________________________________

Which defines my disdain for television. The last time I liked and/or admired a television character was, Andy Griffith on the original series. It's been a downhill ride ever since. I occasionally watch this old program for many reasons, the least of which is not the "lessons" woven within. He was akin to having a, father-in-a-box.
1080P?
The only thing it has done is made resolute just how far television has fallen. For me.

I feel sorry for the man in The Americans. I know he is wicked but he is also trapped. Now he knows his daughter is being taken away by the KGB. No, he is not a good guy or a hero, but I feel a sympathy for him.

I feel sorry for him, and sympathy. Also for his wife. But I dislike both of them. The wife maybe more. That was also true of Walter White. Up to a point.

In case that wasn't clear, I mean I was sympathetic to Walter up to a point, but there came a time when sympathy was pretty much exhausted.

I didn't guess at all Who Dunnit, in Broadchurch, although I think just toward the very end, I felt a horrible suspicion. And it was really horrible. That whole thing of "how could you not know?" was so...gut wrenching.

I was pleased that it wasn't a pre-meditated act though (it wasn't, was it? My memory is not very good). And also that the child had not been badly abused prior to his death as far as I can recall.

Yes, your memory is correct. The killer was not an evil man, but weak and messed up.

I found Joe's "I was in love with him" very unsettling. As if they were trying to make us sympathetic with his character, and in the process put a semi-pleasant face on pederasty.

I am sympathetic with anyone who falls in love with someone whom they shouldn't fall in love with. And in this case, it was not someone on the prowl for illicit sex, it was a man who felt outside of things and found solace in the relationship. It was entered into innocently enough. What developed afterward was wrong and stupid, and the kind of thing that can happen to a lonely person before they even realize what's going on. The weakness and sin come in continuing something that they know is leading in the wrong direction.

What I like about this story line is the recognition of the fact that men who are unable to find work for a long time are wounded by that in a way that women are not. A woman who can't find work can attribute the fact to the job market or the economy or whatever. A man, as much as he tells himself that it's the job market, etc., feels it as an insufficiency in himself. That the writers of Broadchurch would take such a thing into account goes completely against the current popular wisdom which would say that there is no difference between a man and woman in this situation except that imposed by antiquated ideas about the roles of men and women.

AMDG

Yeah, exactly. I'm typing this (like last several) on my phone so will add only that I didn't think any attempt to create sympathy for pedophiles in general was at work.

"I didn't think any attempt to create sympathy for pedophiles in general was at work."

Me neither.

"What I like about this story line is the recognition of the fact that men who are unable to find work for a long time are wounded by that in a way that women are not."

I agree.

I must have missed something because I thought it was a choice for Joe to give up outside work (he’d been a paramedic I think) and stay home when their son was born.

I don’t think the writer was trying to make us sympathetic with pedophiles in general, but I do think some blurriness happened because of that scene, at least it did for me.

Yeah, it does to some degree, I guess unavoidably if you're going to paint somebody with his proclivity as even the least bit sympathetic. But I thought that was ok, because there was none of the "look what an intolerant society has done to him" stuff that you get in portrayals of homosexuality. Well, I guess you don't even get that any more, it's more just "look how superior he is." Moreover, it is true that even the most disordered people are still human and at least in principle not beyond the reach of grace, and although he is far from the most disordered, I thought it was effective for us to see something of what it was like to be him, and what there was of good in him.

Actually I missed any explanation of why he was staying at home, and I don't think it sank in on me that he had no job till the 2nd or 3rd episode. I think what Janet says applies to some degree even if it was his choice.

As you might guess, I am not on my phone now, though not exactly at leisure with two grandchildren here.

I also wanted to note what Janet said about the priest. The way he was portrayed is very rare: not some sort of repulsive bigot or psychopath, or--a secondary option sometimes favored by the entertainment industry--a liberal culture warrior who sees himself as a scourge of conservatives, but a decent man, as flawed as everyone else, and discouraged by the town's general lack of interest in what he's offering, but gamely continuing to try.

I will say that the last few scenes--the march, the fires on the hills etc.--struck me as a bit mawkish, but that's a fairly minor criticism.

And, again, about the killer: there was never any suggestion that what he did wasn't gravely wrong or that he didn't deserve the punishment he was presumably going to receive.

It has been months since I saw it but I seem to remember it being a case of not being able to find work and may as well stay home and watch the baby; however I could be wrong. I was going to say what Maclin said about it not making a difference if it was his choice.

When we finished watching the series, I was thinking that I guessed Broadchurch was a deliberate choice of name.

And I thought the same about the end.

Second season starts Feb. 4. I hope they don't mess it up.

On KF. so please excuse mistakes.
Also not wearing glasses.

AMDG

Yes, Janet, I expected the priest to be bad, or at least messed up and unhelpful, and the church itself to be seen as of little or no solace. I was very pleasantly surprised to see both portrayed in a positive light for a change.

In truth, I never really thought that the culprit was going to be the priest, because to me that would have been way too predictable. But I was very afraid, for awhile at least, that it was going to be the dad. I think that the creators did a really excellent job of spreading the suspicion around evenly.

In one of your early posts you mentioned that there was one thing that they did that you wished they hadn't've done. What was that, Janet?

"I found Joe's 'I was in love with him' very unsettling. As if they were trying to make us sympathetic with his character, and in the process put a semi-pleasant face on pederasty."

I really didn't get that feeling. I thought it had more to do with showing how conflicted Joe was. The sympathy I felt wasn't for the pedophile, but for the sinful, confused man -- the whole "hate the sin but love the sinner" thing.

"I will say that the last few scenes--the march, the fires on the hills etc.--struck me as a bit mawkish"

I thought so too at first, but then I kind of said to myself, "There's so much grayness, negativity, and cynicism on TV and in movies today, dammit if it's not a good thing to see some virtue, even if it's a little sentimental!"

Also re: the music, which I loved. Interesting stuff on wiki about how the mood of the series was based a lot on the composer Olafur Arnalds' music, which the writer was listening to while he wrote the story. Only afterwards was he approached to do the music for the show.

To my mind this explains why the music and the show mesh so perfectly, in a manner that recalls Morricone with Sergio Leone, or Badalamenti with Lynch, rather than that of your typical TV or Hollywood type of scoring.

Darn it, Rob, I can't remember at all. I'll have to think about it. Oh wait, It was the scene with Joe and Danny. I remember thinking that I would have done that differently, but I can't think how, so maybe it's okay.

That's interesting about the music. I'll have to check into it.

Apparently the American version has a different ending. I'm not sure I want to know. I haven't gotten past the first or maybe the second episode.

AMDG

I'll probably watch the American one eventually, after it comes out on video, mainly for comparison purposes. So far the consensus seems to be that it's not bad, but unnecessary. After all, the original one's in English and is readily available here in the States.

If anyone gets the opportunity, you really should watch the Danish series 'The Killing,' which antedates Broadchurch by a few years. I'm not sure it was ever run in the U.S. but it was apparently a big hit in the U.K. It's got a lot in common with BC, in that it deals with both the police side and the family side of the crime, but a third element is present, in that one of the suspects is an up-and-coming politician. But in both series the human element is at the forefront.

There was an American remake of it a couple years back, but it seems that the plot was changed substantially, and also expanded, in that the American version is 6 episodes longer than the original.

~~That whole thing of "how could you not know?" was so...gut wrenching.~~

Yes, and Olivia Colman's scene where she finds out it's Joe was just staggering.


"Yes, and Olivia Colman's scene where she finds out it's Joe was just staggering."

Yep.

AMDG

And I'm still worried about what the results of that may be.

AMDG

"...staggering."

Yep.

Yes, I felt so sorry for the policewoman! Really great series!

"I think that the creators did a really excellent job of spreading the suspicion around evenly."

I agree.

I really should watch the series again.

It's worth a second viewing. There's also a second series, which will be airing in the UK this winter.

A couple of other things I wanted to say about it: (1) the outdoor cinematography is really beautiful. The indoor is fine, too, but the outdoor is special. The colors are somehow bright and soft at the same time. (2) The acting is really good throughout. I can't think of a single role that struck me as weak in that respect. And even if it makes me sound like I'm currying favor with feminists, I have to say that it's refreshing to have women in the major roles who don't look and act as if the way they look, and your appreciation of same, is the major point of what they're doing.

And I agree with Rob about the music. When I saw the name I thought it was Ólöf Arnalds. As opposed to Ólafur Arnalds--don't know why I got them mixed up. It surprised me, because I know the former as a sort of singer-songwriter type. Anyway, it is really well-done, and well-fitted to the drama.

Interesting: they're cousins.

Second series here Feb. 4.

AMDG

That's good, I assumed there would be a longer delay.

The soundtrack is available as a downloadable "EP" on Amazon -- 5 or 6 tracks, I think. Well worth it. And the music on Arnald's CD For Now I Am Winter is quite similar to the BC music. Don't know about his older albums, although I get the impression that they might be more ambient, less melodic.

And I agree with you, Mac, about both the acting and the cinematography. Absolutely top notch.

Btw, Olivia Colman is one of the voice actresses in Locke, the other being Ruth Wilson, who plays the psychotic "guardian angel" in Luther.

I'll have to put Locke on my list. And I'll go back to Luther at some point. Those first couple of episodes were a bit dark for my taste and even more for my wife's, the psycho being a big part of that, but I did like it well enough to want to continue.

I thought the photography was beautiful

You really do need to watch Locke Maclin. It's one of those movies that keeps happening after it's over.

AMDG

The series was filmed on the Dorset coast, part of Thomas Hardy country. Which made me wonder if anyone had Hardy in mind on this project, and sure enough, the series creator, Chris Chibnall, said he was a big influence:
“You can’t really write about Dorset without following in some big footsteps and I’m a huge Thomas Hardy fan. Like Hardy’s novels, Broadchurch was a tragedy waiting to unravel. His line that 'people are unknowable’ was key to the whole series.”

Found that here in an interesting interview with Chibnall. Another influence he mentions is David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Wasn't there talk about that a while ago here?

Isn't the shire or county or whatever the term is in Broadchurch called Wessex? which was a Thomas Hardy invention. And Jack Marshall is reading Jude the Obscure. I thought it was a bit odd that that was made explicit--not sure what it signified, except "Hardy." Which also is the detective's name.

Yes, there was definitely TP talk here. Been meaning to do a post about it. I was at first slightly surprised at that connection, because TP is so very weird, and this is not, but there is a very strong similarity in the plot.

Well, duh, of course the David Tennant character being named Hardy should have been at least a hint for me! But I completely missed it.

It had to be pointed out to me, too, if that helps.

Ah. Maybe that's why they changed his name in the American one. I would never have caught the Hardy references.

AMDG

I'm a big Hardy fan, and I caught the references, but I didn't really make the connection because of the seaside setting. When I think of Hardy's Wessex I think "rural," but of course that doesn't preclude a coastal setting. Silly on my part!

I remember reading something about BC being influenced by The Killing,the Danish series I just finished watching. I haven't read much about it yet, but it too is outstanding, and its similarities to Twin Peaks are even more notable, with the victim being a highschool girl, the use of her picture as a main feature of the credits, etc.

I don't see The Killing on Netflix, at least not the one you seem to be talking about. There's a Netflix original by that name, but it's set in Seattle and there's no indication that it's Danish. I guess that's the American remake you mentioned earlier? I've put Locke in my queue.

I'm actually not sure I've ever read a Thomas Hardy novel. I read a certain amount of his poetry in college, and have seen a couple of dramatizations. In fact, I think the '70s dramatization of Jude the Obscure on Masterpiece Theater may have killed my appetite for reading him, because it was so nearly unendurably tragic.

I guess the only thing I've ever read by Hardy is Far from the Madding Crowd. I read it after watching the movie with Julie Christie, which I did not like, but there was a Masterpiece Theatre version in 2001 that I really liked.

AMDG

I don't think the orig. version of The Killing is available on U.S. DVD. I watched the U.K. release on a region-free DVD player (it'll also work in a computer, which I only found out recently). The American remake is not supposed to be nearly as good from what I've heard, but the original is definitely up there in The Wire and Broadchurch territory.

I've read a lot of Hardy -- he's my second favorite Victorian novelist after Dickens. I really did hate Jude... though. That's one of his I would not reread.

Oh, and I think you can find the original 'Killing' on WebTv or Hulu, one of those online movie/tv things. I remember reading a review by someone who watched it online.

Thanks for recommending The Killing. I was getting so much at a loose end for mini-series that I was on the verge of watching Madmen!

I have a multiregional DVD player of course

Have you seen Peaky Blinders? British mafia-type gangs in 1920s Birmingham. I really didn't like it all that much, but it was an interesting enough story that we (wife and I) finished it.

I don't usually like *very* grim gangster things.

It's pretty grim. Not as grim as Breaking Bad, though it resembles BB in that everybody's bad, although the chief gangster is made much more sympathetic than anyone else. Winston Churchill appears in a more or less a villainous capacity.

Does not sound like my cup of tea. I put The Killling in my cart

A couple friends who've watched P.B. said that the 2nd season was notably better than the first. What do you think, Mac? Anything to do with the addition of Tom Hardy's character? I can't help thinking that adding Hardy to a cast would automatically mark a step up.

I'm almost to the end of the second season of 'The Killing.' It's only 10 episodes as opposed to the first's 20. It's very good, but not quite up to the level of the first one, imo mainly because the human element is less to the fore -- it's more of a straight police procedural than the first one was, albeit a very good one.

Btw, the show's narrative structure is to allot one episode to each day of the investigation -- each episode represents the events of one day.

How are you watching it, Rob?

AMDG

Laptop connected to the TV.

I've ordered an all-region DVD player from Amazon but it hasn't come yet.

No, I definitely wouldn't say the second series of Peaky is better. And most definitely not improved by Tom Hardy's character. I had to look that up, and no, unless you find that psycho gangsters who may explode and brutally kill someone at any moment are intriguing. A good job of acting, I suppose, but the character was not an upgrade. I don't think I'd say the second is worse, either, overall. By the time we got to the end I was definitely ready to leave the company of those people, but I think that was just length of exposure, not a change in quality either way.

"A good job of acting, I suppose, but the character was not an upgrade."

Makes sense.

My response to this is making me ask myself "Well, why did you even watch it?" It's well done, and the answer to that question is just the simple "Because I wanted to see what would happen.' But all in all I don't consider it time well spent (16 episodes, I think).

The connection to Hardy is interesting. Dorset is not exactly landlocked

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Dorset,+UK/@50.7970351,-2.3216289,10z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x486d80aaedabf177:0x33a1f481bada6d5f

Somehow I had it in my head that it was on the east coast.

We watched the first episode of Luther this evening. I though it was really good, but very creepy. I don't think I'll watch them all together.

Whenever I see Ruth Wilson, and I seem to have seen a lot of her lately, I'm struck by how much she reminds me of a young Genevieve Bujold.

AMDG

Agreed about the creepiness. Either the first or second episode is *really* creepy, I can't remember which for sure. The next two are not as bad in that respect. That's all we've seen--wife found it too creepy.

If any of you liked the music from Broadchurch, I've now listened to two of the composer's (Olafur Arnalds) CD's, For Now I Am Winter and Island Songs, and both are excellent. Very lovely stuff, mostly piano and strings, with occasional electronica and percussion, and the odd vocal. The Island Songs package comes with a DVD of the various performances.

I bought his Variations of Static and it's mixed. It's just an EP, 20 minutes or so, and most of it just what you describe, but it's marred by a couple of recitations in a synthesized computer voice. Can't imagine why he did that.

Yeah, I get the impression that some of his stuff does tend somewhat to the experimental, but the two I mentioned are both fairly straightforward.

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