Why I didn’t enjoy Birdsong.

Hello! Me again!

So, as some of you may be aware over the last two weekends the BBC have been showing their new adaptation of Sebastian Faulkes’ novel Birdsong. I’d heard some good things and some negative things about the book so thought that three hours (or whatever) out of my time would be sufficient to decide whether I liked the story or not.

As you can tell from the title of this blog, the answer is no.

Firstly, I thought it was too full of coincidences and clichés. It was as if they’d thought of every First World War cliché and just shoved them into the episodes. There were so many I don’t think I can even name one.

Another thing I found really distracting was the complete lack of character back story. I understand completely that in three hours of television that you can’t  flesh out every character but when the only thing I knew about one character was that he’d never had sex until the main character, Stephen (more on him later) took him to a brothel was really distracting. I also felt some characters who had most obviously had more pagetime in the book were severely underused – Firebrace for example. Anthony Andrews and Matthew Goode were criminally underused (they are both fantastic actors as well!) and when a character called Tipper was revealed to be dead, I just thought “Who’s Tipper?”

My main gripe was with the main character Stephen. Now, I don’t think that Eddie Redmayne acted it particularly badly, though I was expecting something a little more from him considering he is supposed to be one of the best up and coming actors at the moment. My problem with Stephen was that he was the most unsympathetic, unaffected, uncaring character I can think of. I understand that after three or four years being constantly shot at would possibly do that to a man but I felt this at the beginning of the programme when he was a twenty year old living an incredibly comfortable life in France. Another problem I had was that it felt like half the time was taken up with long, lingering shots of Stephen or Isabelle (Or any of the characters, really) staring into the distance (or at each other). Now, obviously in the book these long, lingering stares would be accompanied with inner monologue or description or something whereas in the episodes – nothing!

I did like some elements – I thought the twenty – thirty minute section that was set entirely in the trenches was very well executed and interesting. (except for when the fact that the actors never seemed to bring their voices above a murmur to talk to each other, no matter where they were. Enunciate!).I particularly liked the scene where the soldiers were writing letters home.

Needless to say, I probably won’t read the book. One thing I remember being told about the book was by our brilliant tour guide when we went on our battlefield tour was: “Skip the first 100 pages or so and then it gets good.”

If you have to skip the first 100 pages before it gets good, it’s not going to get good!


Currently reading: One Day – David Nicholls, The Invention of Murder – Judith Flanders, We Danced All Night – Martin Pugh.



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One response to “Why I didn’t enjoy Birdsong.

  1. Pingback: F is for Fens | Four Words, Four Worlds

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