Birdsong – Part 2 Reviewed

On reflection, although I enjoyed the first instalment of Birdsong, I did find that it was very heavy on moody silences, and wistful glances into the distance. Historically, it seemed accurate, and compared to other adaptations, it seemed pretty faithful to the book.

I felt that the battle scenes were very well handled. In all fairness, I think we are setting our stalls out too much to expect battle scenes to be 100% accurate – how can they be? no one actually dies in a war film. I personally feel that the best we can hope for is that battle scenes are thoughtful and respectful to history, and that was what was achieved here. I was very moved especially by the ‘big push’ on the Somme, in particular the scene where the Sergeant-Major is taking a roll call of endless absent names. The final tunnel scene really did justice to the story, and must have taken quite some work in terms of the set and props.

One aspect where I felt that the TV dramtisation really let itself down, was the manner in which the screenwriters, for whatever reason, ommitted any reference to the fact that the events of the book are actually seen through the eyes of a descendant, researching in the 1970’s. This gave the story added longitudinal meaning, that was perhaps absent on screen. Also, maybe I missed it, but there was no reference in either part as to where the title of the book originates from.

There were also a few aspects of the plot that I felt were light – little explanation of why Isabelle left Stephen, and why Stephen was in France in the first place. But then again, I guess translating such a monumental book into three hours of TV was always going to be a challenge. It’s always the same with TV adaptations – they’re never going to hit every note that the book does, but as long as they’re faithful and in keeping, then you have to give credit where credit is due.

What with the phenomenal success of War Horse, and the impending Great War Centenary in 2014, we are probably well into a period of renaissance of interest in the events of 1914-1918. It’s quite an exciting time to be a modern military historian.


Filed under fiction, On TV, Uncategorized, western front, World War One

20 responses to “Birdsong – Part 2 Reviewed

  1. Behind

    I am no fan of this particular dramatisation, but right at the end you could hear the birds singing and that’s the reference to the title of the book.

  2. Scott Daly

    I havent watched the second part yet, but I remember from the first part that there was a lot of birdsong in the background during the scenes set in 1910.

    Sebastian Faulks himself stated that the title was not an allusion to hope or rebirth, but rather to the way in which the natural world is largely indifferent to the human one. Personally I like to think of it in terms of the contrast between ‘birdsong’ and the sounds of war. ‘Birdsong represents the best of everything that is to be enjoyed in the world, and war the very worst.

    As for the many wistful glances into the distance, these are often used as a dramatic device to show that a character has been recollecting the previous scenes.

    • James Daly

      nice review Scott, as usual showing much more perceptiveness over fiction than me!

      So when are you going to start your blog, or other such like venture?

  3. John Erickson

    I’d post something witty or funny here, but I haven’t the faintest clue what all this is about…….

    • James Daly

      Very unusual for you John, speechless! 😉

      All joking aside, its a TV Drama based on a a very popular and accolade winning WW1 novel by Sebastian Faulks. Right up your street I reckon.

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