banner image

:: A Dance To The Music Of Time (4-DVD set)

This set of 4 DVDs is based on Anthony Powell's series of twelve novels, often referred to collectively as A Dance to the Music of Time. They have been adapted by the award-winning Hugh Whitemore (Breaking the Code). The lavish and expensive British drama screened in 1997 to critical and popular acclaim. It stars Miranda Richardson, Edward Fox, John Gielgud, Alan Bennett, John Standing, Zoë Wanamaker, Eileen Atkins, and Simon Russell Beale, who won a BAFTA for his portrayal of the ambitious Widmerpool.

It's a curious series as for some reason, the filmmakers decided to cast multiple actors for the same roles, causing confusion for the viewer, and ultimately distancing them from the film's overall view. It takes getting used to and dares to lose the viewer's complete attention.

The broadest possible plot summation sees Nick Jenkins (played in succession by James D'Arcy, James Purefoy, and John Standing), experiencing life in England from the 1930s through the 1960s, as he notes the deaths, successes, and infidelities of his acquaintances. As Nick makes his way through public school in the early 1920's, he finds friendship with three characters, some of whom will accompany him through WWII and the turbulent 1960s: the playful, rich, Charles Stringham (played by Luke de Lacey and Paul Rhys); handsome, unsuccessful-in-love Peter Templer (played by Bobby Webster and Jonathan Cake); and portly, officious Kenneth Widmerpool (Simon Russell Beale).

Other characters repeatedly float in and out of Nick's boring life, including: Jean Duport (played by Amy Simcock, Claire Skinner, and Lucy Fleming), the married younger sister of Peter Templer and Nick's first serious love affair; Lady Isobel Tolland (played by Emma Fielding and Joanna David), Nick's wife; Hugh Moreland (James Fleet), a renowned composer with a wandering eye; Giles (Edward Fox), Nick's mysterious, exotic uncle; and Pamela Flitton (Miranda Richardson), a devastating looker who enjoys ruining men, and the future wife of Widmerpool.

Indeed, along with Simon Russell Beale, Miranda Richardson is in brilliant form as Pamela Flitton, a seducing temptress. They are the stand-out performances.

The first episode demands a certain level of attention because it sets up the pattern for the following ones. The running time of seven hours for the adaptation, therefore, is not surprising given the enormous scope of the project, which charts Nick's life. The production is excellent, and the acting is extremely good. Once you become familiar with the casting arrangements, it comes across as a worthy adaptation, and is well recommended.

DVD Extras

Anthony Powell biography
Cast filmographies
Photo gallery