North and South (1975) vs. North and South (2004).

0I’m comparing the two adaptations of the Elizabeth Gaskell novel.


I’d always heard that there was a 1975 adaptation (I have been long familiar with the 2004 adaptation, but won’t let this cloud my judgement) but came across them by accident.

Starring Elizabeth Shanks and Patrick Stewart…tumblr_n5zdzmGwF11qbmmu7o1_500…this adaptation was made during the decade in which there seemed to be an excess of costume drama. This doesn’t save it from the dung heap of dramas that would rather be forgotten.

I guess this adaptation was probably more faithful to the original source material, but in lieu of this it sacrifices many things. It must have been filmed on a soundstage or something, because all it seems to achieve is do scenes in smaller and smaller drawing rooms. There is absolutely zero chemistry between Stewart and Shanks. Not even an undercurrent of chemistry between them until John declares his feelings – while she is unconscious! Their characterizations are like cardboard cut outs. All the constricted sets only serve to give us the feeling of claustrophobia.

There is no music at all in this adaptation at all – (if there is, then it’s obviously so memorable that I’d forgotten it). The beginnings and endings of the episodes have the anticipation and nuance of a damp squib!

MY RATING: ** / *****north-south-35-copyIn comparing it to the 2004 adaptation, I’m not using my preference for the 2004 adaptation against either version of the Gaskell novel. It’s a fair comparison and its also a fair show of what the two decades can do with their television dramas.

The 2004 adaptation has a lot going for it – super cast, a sweeping understated score, characters with legible back stories, exterior scenes!! The budget was obviously larger here but it just envelopes you in the world of 19th century Milton. There are frissons of attraction between John and Margaret, so when he does propose to her it is believable. Even the secondary characters are nuanced enough to warrant interest. Even the relationship between John and his mother is expertly crafted.

north-and-south-ending-kissHowever, some may think this adaptation to be rather claggy. After all, the original book is very wordy! Over all, however, I adore this adaptation. The older adaptation showed what could be done with the resources at the time.

Which adaptation do you prefer?

MY RATING: **** / *****



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