Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wolf Hall

This spring I watched Wolf Hall on PBS. An adaptation of a novel by Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall tells the story of Thomas Cromwell from his time as Cardinal Woolsey's assistant until the beheading of Anne Boleyn.

This is a spectacular show. I was completely immersed in the historical details and the beautiful scenery. Mark Rylance plays the role of Cromwell and is in almost every scene. I understand that Rylance is a well-known British stage actor, but I'd never seen him before. His acting is mesmerizing: I wanted desperately to know what Cromwell was thinking about his various maniupulations, and Rylance dropped clues here and there, but for the most part he remains an enigma.

My favorite character, though, was Anne Boleyn (played by Claire Foy). She comes across as mean, power-hungry, self-centered -- and yet, at the heart of it, fragile. She seems real. She repeatedly pronounces Cromwell's name with a French accent; I think this is supposed to be a put-down, but somehow it reveals her own insecurity. Is this what's meant by "pathos"?

591. Queen Elizabeth's ultimate triumph (personal, political, historical) seems like one of the great ironies of history, in light of her mother's beheading and the back-story of Henry's disappointment in having another daughter. At what point in her life did Elizabeth first exert herself? Did Henry realize the greatness in his daughter, prior to his death?

592. How did Elizabeth feel about her mother?  How did she feel about Henry? Did she have more loyalty to her father, as monarch, despite his ruthlessness and cruelty?

593. Do William and Kate like to watch historical movies about the British royal family? Is William as pensive and "outside-the-box" as his father?

594. What's the most popular movie about the British royal family?

595. Damian Lewis does a terrific job as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall. At first, he reminded me too much of his role as Brody (from Homeland), but then his pompous craziness became believable and frightening, and I couldn't turn away. What was Henry really like? Was he a mad genius truly interested in the good of his country, or was he just a cruel tyrant blinded by his power?

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