The Pillars of Earth
normally like to use the word
I think it has been used so
much in recent years that its true meaning has been
distorted or lost. But when you’re
talking about a book, and now, a television series as grand in scope as
The Pillars of the Earth, no other word seems to fit.
of you who haven’t
read the novel by Ken Follett, here is an idea of what to expect from
early 12th century, a ship bearing the King of England’s
son across from France is mysteriously set alight and sunk. All onboard
are believed to have died, leaving the King without a legitimate heir.
Despite his wishes for peace, a war of succession breaks out between the
supporters of the King’s
nephew, Stephen (Tony Curran), and Princess Maud (Alison Pill.)
same time as these dramatic events are unfolding, a builder named Tom
(Rufus Sewell) and his family are looking for food and work. Through a
set of tragic occurrences, he finds his fate linked to a strange
red-haired boy named Jack (Eddie Redmayne) and the boy’s
mother Ellen (Natalie Worner). The need for work causes Tom to stay at
Kingsbridge priory, which has just been burned down by a mysterious
plan is to build a new cathedral, one that will bring devoted masses
from across England and stand for generations to come.
priory soon gains the attention of some dangerous enemies, including the
conniving Bishop Waleran (Ian McShane), and the despicable Hamleigh
family. Always with their own lofty ambitions in mind, these corrupt
figures will use every means at their disposal- fair or foul- to ensure
that the cathedral is never completed.
of this story is huge, far too big to even summarize here. It’s
a series of battles, conflicts, betrayals, tragedies and triumphs that
take place over the course of several generations, all against the
backdrop of one monolithic building project.
the already strong story is buttressed by some incredibly high
production values. The opening credits are nothing short of a work of
art in their own right. The soundtrack is uplifting and dramatic, a
perfect companion to the rich and detailed visuals. This is a very sleek
television series; there are CGI elements, stunts, intricate sets and
frantic battle sequences. The costumes and make-up effects are top
notch. Watching this show really is like looking through a window into a
long forgotten past.
the cast of characters is so large, newcomers to the series might find
themselves swamped in the first episode. The show’s
direction can also appear skittish at times, flying us from one location
to another and then back again. But the pace does eventually settle, and
things are helped by a map of the countryside, displayed before each
important scene, which shows us where we are.
most basic, this is a traditional story about good versus evil. Prior
Philip, Jack and Aliena are instantly identifiable as heroes, and you’ll
cheer them on in each and every struggle. The character of Bishop
Waleran is just as entertaining as a proper, old-school villain. The war
of wits between the two sides is grossly captivating, right until the
very (untimely) end.
the three discs contains a lengthy featurette. The most impressive of
these is the
which introduces us to the crew and covers all aspects of the
production, from lighting to set construction to the different types of
fake blood used in the battles.
Featurette is a montage of shots, first shown in their original form and
again after they’ve
been treated with CGI effects. The last is a brief look at how the
opening title sequence was created. While this one is informative, the
sound quality is a little rough.
I could go
on and say so much more about Pillars, but you should do yourself
a favour and experience this great period drama for yourself. This is a
brilliant adaptation of a great book, and the influence of master
storyteller Ken Follett is evident in each and every detail. The word
has found a whole new lease on life.