Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Film Review- To the Ends of the Earth

I am a huge fan of the BBC series Sherlock, which is an updated version of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, of which I have also been a fan since early childhood. So when I saw that the 2005 miniseries, "To the Ends of the Earth", likewise starred Benedict Cumberbatch ("Amazing Grace", "Atonement", "The Other Boleyn Girl") I had a feeling I was going to like it.

Almost the entire movie is set in 1812 onboard an old navy ship that has been recomissioned as a passenger vessel voyaging between England and Austrailia. Not only has the vessel been recomissioned, but much of the crew is also taken from the British Navy, and they and the passengers have at times very tense relationships. The miniseries is based on a trilogy of books by William Golding, who also helped to write the screenplay, and was directed by David Attwood, who seems to have a fondness for English stories (Hound of the Baskervilles, Moll Flanders, Tales of Sherwood Forest).

Cumberbatch stars as our protagonist, Edmund Talbot, a very young aristocrat whose godfather has sent him to Australia to take up an administrative post there which should guarantee him a life of comfort and advancement. The journey serves as a conduit for the growth of Talbot into manhood, in more ways than one.

"Benedict was remarkable. He carried the Golding novels with him on set and constantly referred to them. We needed him every single day and he just didn't stop, nor complain. He simply became Edmund Talbot. And that commitment spread to every cast member. The process of making this film echoed the journey the characters went on in the story—we really got to know each other during our four months on location and we became very close." Commented the show's producer, Lynn Horsford.

The other characters are a motley crew of artists, philosophers, fallen women, families, and a clergyman. They suffer death, the prospect of having to fight the French, fire, illness, ice, and possible mutiny, and that's just some of the adventure. There's also love, sex, fighting, suicide and the kind of cabin fever that we are blissfully inexperienced in today.

On top of stellar preformances by the entire cast (and I mean everybody), the thing that I found truly wonderful about this series was how unpredictable it was. Everytime I thought I knew what was coming it turned out to be something else, which in retrospect was perfectly plausible. It also left nothing off-limits, and even the seediest, most disgusting details that the passengers experienced were documented by young Edmund in his journal.

The best part, for me, came at the end when a fellow passenger, realizing that to Edmund this has been the penultimate experience , says "It was just...a series of events." Just as after the wedding that closes many a Jane Austen novel there is still an entire marriage to be had, after the voyage there is a life.


  1. What a lovely post about such a lovely production! I also loved that line at the end by Mrs. Prettiman. For me I think that her comment was both true and false at the same time: the journey was a simple series of events, as any period in life might be. However, obviously, the journey was also a wonderful and creative allegory for society, community, and many other themes besides. But yes. This was a beautiful, very high quality production, and I am glad there are others who appreciated it as much as I did!

  2. I entirely agree; just as the journey is a story complete in and of itself, it is also an allegory for the whole of human experience. I think it's a really under-appreciated series, probably because it's not that well known. Or maybe it's just not known here in the US.