One of the better Cadfael episodes
Robert Shepard Jr. | USA | 07/02/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I first stumbled across Cadfael one day when I turned on the TV, which was tuned to the local PBS channel, and beheld a medieval scene of a monk staggering through a snowstorm, with this hauntingly beautiful choral music playing in the background. That was "The Virgin in the Ice", and I was instantly hooked.Next to "Virgin" and "The Raven in the Foregate", I would rank "The Pilgrim of Hate" as the best of the Cadfael DVDs I've seen to date. I've been pouncing on them as fast as they come out, and they can't come fast enough! Some of the ones yet to be released may be better, but my memory is a bit fuzzy; I've seen most of them on TV just the once, and that was a good three years ago.Fresher in my mind are the books, which I read just last year. Ellis Peters penned twenty of them, plus a prequel of short stories. The books span the years 1137 to 1145, a turbulent time in English history. The throne is in dispute, with King Stephen at war with the Empress Maude, each with an equally valid claim, pitting shire against shire, town against town, and even, in some cases, sibling against sibling. Brother Cadfael, a Welsh ex-Crusader who has tired of the world and joined a monastery, finds that he cannot escape the turbulence swirling around him, as the tides of war turn this way and that. Repeatedly he is called on to solve mysteries, usually involving a murder or two.Such is the case with "The Pilgrim of Hate", the tenth book, set in the year 1141. It involves the annual flood of pilgrims coming to the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul at Shrewsbury, in the forlorn hope that the relics of Saint Winifred may somehow cure all their ailments. In among them are two penitents, the one mysteriously willing, indeed determined, to follow the other without surcease, practically to the ends of the earth. Why? That is the beginning of the mystery.But an odd thing happened as I watched the events on the DVD unfold. Characters whom I remembered being innocents in the book turned out to be villains in the movie, while major villains turned out to be mere rogues. Whereas Ellis Peters always wrote her stories with a somewhat romantic view of the Middle Ages, tinged with a basic faith in the ability of people to forgive and to find redemption, the movie is much darker and more cynical. And probably more realistic, given what we see of human nature even today. Was something wrong with my memory?Not at all, as it turns out. While the book and the DVD share the same basic premise, they have radically different plotlines and outcomes. They're almost two completely different stories. The gulf between the two versions is much wider than, say, "The Virgin in the Ice". Certain key character developments, such as the gradually unfolding relationship between Cadfael and Olivier de Bretagne, his son, do not even appear in the movie.Is one better than the other? That is hard to say, though I do find myself preferring the sweetness of the book over the cynicism of the movie. We see enough crookedness in the news every day without having to see it in our entertainment as well. On the other hand, I don't think the sweetness would translate well to film. It just wouldn't ring true in this day and age.If you have the time to invest in 2,000+ pages of reading material, it's certainly worthwhile to go through the books, then watch the DVDs. There are plenty of worse ways you could spend your time.Sir Derek Jacobi is the perfect choice for Brother Cadfael. He doesn't resemble at all in appearance the Cadfael of the books, but it doesn't matter. When I read the books, I superimpose in my mind Sir Derek over the actual Cadfael. The same is true of the other major characters: I see them as in the movies. The DVDs make a useful visualization tool. I recall reading that Ellis Peters approved of the choice of Sir Derek. Other excellent performances include Prior Roberts and his typically obnoxious toady, Brother Jerome, as well as Abbot Radulfus, a man who knows as much as Cadfael does about the ways of the world. And, of course, there is Hugh Beringar, sheriff of Shropshire.So, this DVD is definitely a keeper. Once all thirteen have come out, I'll probably watch them back-to-back in the order of the books."
Ellis Peters would turn in her grave!
Lily14 | Leicestershire, UK | 03/24/2003
(1 out of 5 stars)
"For those of us who love the Ellis Peters books, this was an insult and an affront. Quite simply, the story was mutilated beyond all recognition. In fact, only the character names were consistent. Changing a few details for dramatisation is one thing, changing good characters into bad ones, and changing the whole crime is quite another. If the directors had wished to write a NEW sinister story, then they could have done exactly that. There was no need to ruin one of Peters' wonderful stories in the process. Frankly, the delightful and gentle quality of the Peters' stories provides their unique charm. This engineered dark, brutal atmosphere is totally alien to the original works, and as such has no place in this series.If you love the original books, do not buy this DVD. It will leave you irritated and annoyed."
What did I just watch?
Robert Shepard Jr. | 02/10/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Hm... I have been reading the (absolutely excellent) books, and then watching these episodes as I finish each respective book, and I sit here rather puzzled. There was only a tiny fraction of resemblance between this episode and the book on which it is supposedly based - the tiniest of fractions. And in fact, that's what I both enjoyed and lamented about it. Enjoyed, because I had no idea what was going on, and that's always fun with a mystery, but lamented because my expectations were not met in one very important regard.This is, as the previous reviewer noted, much darker than the book, which is fine, it works well. The atmosphere was well sustained, and the characters (although NONE of them were what I expected) were all played well. The book took on powerful political significance, thrusting you right into the warring factions of Stephen and Maud and the delicate balance of the country, but it also had a lightness and joy and humor. In fact the plot of the book was so wide and multifaceted that I am not surprised that they did not attempt it within a 75-minute time frame. So, it appears, they wrote their own plot, with a twinge of inspiration from Ellis Peters. And a very intriguing plot it was.But the disappointment was profound when I had expected to see Olivier de Bretagne - easily the highlight of the book - make an appearance, and realized somewhere in the middle that he was not going to. The plot did not allow for him, and for that I heave a great sigh of regret. Yes, it was good as it was, but if they had done the book instead of their own creation, it would have been much better. How can you write Olivier out of the plot? It is an affront to Cadfael, who very much deserves him.Sir Derek Jacobi, as always, was nothing short of perfect. He alone makes any of this series worth watching, and I find myself now seeking his other works just to watch such a masterful actor. He has quite possibly surpassed Anthony Hopkins as my favorite actor of all time, and that is saying much. Very much."