The Baltics, 1939. British professor Guy Pringle (Kenneth Branagh) arrives in Romania with his new bride, Harriet (Emma Thompson) and becomes enmeshed in the politics of anti-fascism. Despite Harriet's serious misgivings, ... more »Guy's social circle soon includes members of the British Secret Service who want to involve him in dangerous missions, and a downtrodden prince who zeroes in on Guy's generous nature and winds up living with the Pringles. Thus the stage is set for this mesmerizing story of marriage tested by accidental betrayal, callous insensitivity, and a world in upheaval. Based upon the autobiographical novels of best-selling author Olivia Manning, and set in places as far-flung as Bucharest, Athens and Cairo, Fortunes of War is majestic in both its scope and its vision.« less
Sylvia O. from COTTONWOOD, CA Reviewed on 11/26/2012...
This is a series I will watch from time to time because it is a microcosmic look at the people's attitudes leading up to Hilter's takeover of Europe. When people's lives are so revolved around themselves, their friends and their pleasures it blinds them to what is really happening in the world. This blindness can lead to the loss of the freedoms they so enjoy that brings them pleasure in the first place. I will probably watch this at least once a year.
Kathleen O. (Kathleen) from WALDPORT, OR Reviewed on 3/3/2010...
This series starts out slow but quickly gains speed. It is beautifully acted by Branagh, Thompson and Graves - plus has an amazing supporting cast.
The story takes place during WW2 in the Baltics. Thompson and Branagh are newlyweds who encounter different struggles during the war.
I am thrilled I finally sat down to watch it. It is long so I spaced the series out over seven days.
The Start of a Beautiful Friendship!
F. S. L'hoir | Irvine, CA | 12/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was so pleased when "Fortunes of War" was released on DVD! When I first saw this splendid BBC television series, I rushed to the nearest bookstore (in Rome at the time) and bought Olivia Manning's mammoth Balkan and Levant trilogies, which I have since devoured at least three times (so much so that the paperback editions are falling apart). Reading, however, in no way lessens, but, instead, enhances one's enjoyment of "Fortunes of War," which preserves the essence of Manning's novels. Visually stunning, the film recreates Bucharest and Athens on the brink of World War II, and then Cairo and Alexandria, as well as Damascus and Jerusalem, the outposts of the British Empire in the Levant. One step ahead of the advancing Nazi armies, Guy and Harriet Pringle, the film's central characters, are constantly uprooted and forced to be on the move.
Guy, acted with affable understatement by Kenneth Brannagh, epitomizes the type of academic who constantly puts the wants of his students first. Friend to all the world, Guy Pringle remains totally oblivious to the needs of his newly-married bride. Harriet, played with a dry and subtle irony by Emma Thompson, must cope with setting up house, first, in a city that is about to fall to the juggernaut of the Third Reich; next, in a series of hotel rooms, each more seedy than the last; and finally, sharing digs in Cairo with an odd assortment of British expatriates (and their even odder friends and acquaintances who continually drift in and out of the premises). Guy simply cannot understand that Harriet might be miffed at his heedlessness. For example, after Guy offers her the female title role in Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida," she suddenly discovers that he has taken the part away without telling her and has given it to Sophie, a Rumanian professional student and troublemaker who resents Harriet's presence, both in Bucharest and in Guy's life. It is not that Guy Pringle does not love his "little monkey's paws," Harriet; he simply takes her for granted.
Among the outstanding ensemble cast, two performances are memorable: those of Ronald Pickup and Alan Bennett.
Pickup plays the incorrigible Prince Yakimov, a displaced Anglo-Russian aristocrat, long-since fallen on hard times. Pickup's performance is so poignantly nuanced that the viewer is moved from loathing, to laughing--first at him and then with him--and finally to loving him. "Poor Yaki" resembles a spoiled but irrepressibly sweet and helpless child. Not even the much-imposed-upon Harriet can remain angry at a man who appears before her wearing one brown and one black shoe and then explains that he has another pair just like them at home.
Alan Bennett plays the insufferably fussy Cambridge don, Professor Lord Pinkrose, who is always on the verge of giving his renowned lecture on Byron but who, for one reason or another, is always prevented from doing so. Bennett's performance does not make one love Pinkrose (nor should it); it does, however, make one recognize him (He often sits on dissertation committees!). With his smarmy herd of acolytes (including the odious Toby Lush and the insidious Dubidat), Pinkrose, who always darts a baneful glance in Harriet's direction, causes Guy so much trouble that the viewer is tempted to cheer when the Lord Professor finally gets his just desserts. Every film ought to have a character that one loves to hate, and Alan Bennett plays this one to perfection.
The viewer seeking the wartime thrills of dogfighting Messerschmidts, exploding bombs, and action packed battle sequences should go watch "Saving Private Ryan" or a John Wayne movie. Even though the conflict in "Fortunes of War" is omnipresent, it is always just over the horizon. It nevertheless exerts a profound impact on the characters, both major and minor. It exerts an equally profound impact on the audience. For the discerning viewer, who appreciates exceptional acting and remarkable characterization, "Fortunes of War" represents the epitome of cinematic storytelling.
For Kenneth Brannagh and Emma Thompson, who acted together for the first time, this film represented "the start of a beautiful friendship," both on film and in real life. Unfortunately, it was not to last, but "Fortunes of War" at least allows us to glimpse the brilliant start, and to be glad that their joint venture in film lasted as long as it did!
Engaging and enlightening perspective on life during wartime
J. Rausch | Warwick, NY | 05/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the most underappreciated films which delves successfully into the personal side of life during wartime. Life, business, and education goes on even though the world is trying to kill itself. Love is found and lost, jobs come and go, and life goes on-even as the bombs fall. Branagh and Thomson are as always endearing as much for their flaws as for their charms. The scenery and cinematography is simply spectacular. This is in many way reminiscent of The English Patient, while not as powerful or brilliant, still very enjoyable, and highly recomended."
Outstanding Must See -- Add to your collection
Tanya C. Anderson | Washington, DC | 10/23/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have watched Fortunes of War a score of times. I just can't seem to get enough of the characters and they live on in my imagination long after viewing has ended. I have recommended this film successfully to a broad variety of friends, who have all loved it as well. It has appeal on many levels, the music, the scenery (Romania, Greece, Egypt) and outstanding dramatic work by the principals. I find this work haunts me and I have seen different aspects of it upon repeated viewing--once focusing completely on Guy Pringle, the next time taking a closer look at Harriet's character, and so on. It really is wonderful."
Fortunes of War
Roger L. Hollenbeck | Honolulu, HI USA | 10/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD "Fortunes of War" has some of Englands greatist actors staring in this epic picture. Also my very favorite actors, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, and Rupert Graves. Yes, there are other actors and they all did an excellent job. The story is a sweeping story, starting in Bulgaria and ending up in Cairo, Egypt. This story begins at the on set of World War Two. The story is about a young Englishman and his wife as they run from country to country as the German Army advances. The scenery is very well done. You get to see a way of life that existed before the Germans detroyed the world. This is an excellent film, and deserves all that stars that I can give it. This is a must see movie, well worth buying and adding to your library."
Brilliant British World War II Epic Mini-Series
Carol J. Polakoff | san diego, ca United States | 10/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The very young Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, struggling on many levels across wartorn Europe and Cairo.Incredible cast of unforgettable characters, taut story line throughout about a young married couple escaping the enemy but not themselves. The acting couple were married at the time of the filming. This series represents the best of Masterpiece Theater."