BBC Birdsong Review
After hearing about the new drama from the BBC, I was very excited; I love the book, and I thought it was a better idea to make Birdsong into a television series rather than film. As there are so many elements of the narrative to portray, a film wouldn’t have been able to do it much justice.
Watching the second and final part on Sunday night, I had to admit to myself that after all the hype surrounding the adaptation, it didn’t totally live up to my expectations.
The main problem with the dramatisation was the decision to turn it into a 2 part drama; it could so easily have been 3. Large sections of the novel are cut completely, with the scenes most needed in the drama being the romance scenes between Stephen and the 2 sisters.
Undoubtedly, the decision was made to focus on the war itself; the scenes in the trenches and the underground tunnels are done magnificently. The tone is just right, and I could visibly see the grief and loss in the mens eyes after going over the top on the first day of the Somme. The most poignant scene shows a commanding officer reading role call, and receiving silence for most of the names on his list.
The acting is also spectacular- Redmayne as Stephen and Mawle as Firebrace do an excellent job throughout the 2 part series; neither have a bad moment on screen. Poesy adds charm to her role, but her scenes seemed to be a let down to her character, as the second part of the drama ignored her almost completely.
The scenes of the first world war definitely upstaged the other scenes- the romances felt rushed, with no development what so ever. Only 20 minutes into the second part, and after only 2 scenes in their new life away from Azaire and the factory, Poesy has left her new life with Redmayne off screen, leaving him to act through a cliche of finding empty wardrobes and drawers.
Readers of the novel will remember some of the narrative is given to a young woman living in England in the 1970s. This story is ignored in this series, and I think in this case, leaving things out worked well. It may have added to the novel itself, but it would have just hindered the story here; it would also have made the jumps from different times too scattered.
If the balance between war and love had been struck just right, this drama would have got full marks from me. It is extremely good, and I urge anybody reading this to give it a chance; just don’t be surprised if you’re left a little disappointed too.