Monday, November 8, 2010

Review: The Barchester Chronicles

Next in the Anthony Trollope Collection, my mother and I watched The Barchester Chronicles. At first I didn't think that it was going to amount to much, but was I wrong! I really enjoyed it. Here are some of my thoughts.

The Barchester Chronicles is taken from two books in The Chronicles of Barsetshire by Anthony Trollope. Episodes 1 and 2 are taken from The Warden. John Bold, a doctor, takes legal action against Mr. Septimus Harding (Donald Pleasence), a clergyman and warden of Hirams Hospital. While John Bold is good friends with Mr. Harding and in love with his daughter, Eleanor, he still believes that Mr. Harding is making too much money and is in violation of a will.

Episodes 3 through 7 are taken from Barchester Towers. When the bishop of Barchester dies, a new bishop is appointed. Bishop Proudie (Clive Swift) is a weak man controlled by his wife and chaplain, Mr. Slope (Alan Rickman). The plot's of episodes 3 through 7 revolve around the clergymen of Barchester and their relation to Bishop Proudie and Mr. Slope.

There are some very recognizable actors and actresses in The Barchester Chronicles: Donald Pleasance as Mr. Harding, Alan Rickman (Sense and Sensibility) as Mr. Slope, Clive Swift (Keeping Up Appearances) as Bishop Proudie.

Mr. Harding was such a lovable character! He was such a sweet old man that I couldn't believe that John Bold was making trouble about him. It wasn't like he was a greedy, mean man: he was a nice, old man who liked music and he would spend his time training the choir for church. He was one of my favorite characters throught this whole miniseries.

Mr. Slope seemed to just ooze his way onto the screen, and it worked for him. You really got the impression that this man is a scheming, controlling man who is out to better his position. He would call on the women of Barchester, even Eleanor and Mary Bold, her friend, however they did not like him calling on them and would laugh at how he was so full of himself. He was almost comical on how "odious" he was.

Poor Bishop Proudie... I recognized Clive Swift from Keeping Up Appearances, and it seems that he's stuck in a similar role. In Keeping Up Appearances, he played the quiet, pushover (it's sounds so cruel, but it's true) husband of Hyacinth Bucket. Here he had practically the same role, except here he was more of a puppet.

Mr. Slope (Alan Rickman) talking to Mrs. Bold (Janet Maw).
The scenery was not the best compared to more recent BBC productions. Though The Barchester Chronicles is a BBC production, it was made in the early 80's; the cameras were not as good then as they are today and most of the scenes were usually filmed on a set.. Some of the scenes did, as I have read in other reviews, look more like a play than a miniseries. The outside scenes did not appear to take place on a set, though.

The costumes were nice, but there was a concern that I had. In episodes 3 through 7, it looked like Eleanor was wearing the same *Spoiler* mourning dress. *End of Spoiler* For episodes 1 and 2, she had some varying dresses, which were nice, but in episodes 3 through 7, her clothes barely changed at all. She might have had another mourning dress on once or twice, but for the most part, she had the same dress on for most of the miniseries. It could have been that there wasn't that big of a costume budget.

Signora Neroni (Susan Hampshire) did have some nice dresses. They were very elaborate and pretty, although there was one that was a little low cut. I also loved some of the hair decorations that she had. Though I did not really like her character, she did look pretty.

There really isn't too much music to speak of for The Barchester Chronicles. The music that is there is made up of very nice choir music. There was not much music during the episodes excepting the choir scenes and maybe the party scenes, maybe. In short, if you were expecting a full soundtrack, you won't find one here.

Overall: 4/5
Signora Neroni (Susan Hampshire) sitting with guests,some
of which are Mr. Slope and Dr. Arabin (Derek New).
This was very interesting to watch. The first two episodes were a little boring, though: they spent too much time on the legal affairs, so there was a lot of dialogue about law. Once you get past the first two episodes, the rest was humorous and entertaining! There weren't any questionable scenes throughout the whole miniseries, and wouldn't be inappropriate to show in a class. It does come across as more of a play than a movie possibly due to the cameras (this was made in the 80s). Other than that, it is a good quality film that could be watched together as a family.

The Barchester Chronicles is available on DVD and is one of three miniseries in The Anthony Trollope Collection, though you can buy it separately from the collection. It is 385 minutes long, made up of seven 55 minute episodes on two disks.


  1. What a lovely review, I'm so glad you enjoyed it too! I just adore Mr. Harding and the other characters! :)

  2. Low necklines for evening gowns of that period were pretty common . . . especially in Europe.


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