cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

THE FILM THE BOOK BBC – The Thirteenth Tale





SNIP FILM The Thirteen tale [1]

Still available on BBC iPlayer


TV over Christmas and the New Year. Quality. Where is it? Ah, I remember the time…….and there was a time when there was good drama on British TV in not exactly bucket loads, but aplenty compared to today’s handful a year.

Though not in a strong position to talk book adaptations since I haven’t read the book, that’s where I’m going in the briefest of ways.

The Thirteenth Tale is is an adaptation by Christopher Hampton of Diane Setterfield’s best-selling novel. Going to have to read that book to compare it with the script – always interesting even if a novel is not top-rank. The novel was, is, very popular, and made her a packet. Hasn’t written any more. Wonder if she likes the adaptation.

With Vanessa Redgrave as Vida Winter and Olivia Colman played Margaret Lea, at one point Vida, the aging writer, to Margaret the amateur biographer:

“I always think being nice is what’s left over after you’ve failed at everything else.”

This drama may sink slowly without trace, but the quote will surely live on forever in cyberspace.

General consensus is the Christopher Hampton adaptation was well acted but petered off into scratching heads towards the end. Lovely grey skies, finally wonky plot.

Here’s another grey sky for good luck..



SNIP FILM The Thirteen tale [8]


It is said the book has a lot of references to Jane Eyre and The Brontës. Well the film doesn’t. This is immediately telegraphed in the film as set in Yorkshire. Are those the Moors? Margaret asks the driver on the way to meet the famous writer, which some wag points out is a bit silly, since Margaret has – also flagged up in the dialogue – written a biography of the The Brontës. Though perhaps that was the point – she’s an amateur and wouldn’t be trudging around Moors for atmosphere, but to the local library.

So apart from that one brief mention of Moors and their immediate introduction (screen grab 1 top), the poor old adapter (Hampton) has to rely on doing this visually, repeatedly, by reminding us with those leaden references to those nonetheless photogenic backdrops. A facile trope.


Better see how the book does it – where’ that 3B pencil?



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January 2, 2014 Posted by | Christopher Hampton, Diane Setterfield, TV drama | , | Leave a comment