A HISTORY OF BRITAIN
Review by Mark Wiechman
Simon Schama July 29, 2008
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 900 Minutes
July 29, 2008
its earliest days, Britain was an object of desire..."
Virginia, before the Beatles and the Spice Girls, there was Britannia, in which
invasions were launched with chain mail and arrows instead of Pete Townsend’s
guitar and when the British Empire began to die, the zeppelins were lighter than
air and brought death and despair. This
series shows Britain in its finest and most desperate hours.
description on the back of the individual disc packages accurately brags that
this series dispenses with timelines and tiresome lineages for “a lively look
at the personalities and events” that shaped Britain. Where was this set when I had to take European history?
Breathtaking cinematography, Simon Schama’s gripping and authoritative
narration, and of course, several thousand years of history which seems
mysterious, exciting, and of course---it is all real.
History comes alive here briskly, like the weather in the Scottish
highlands. While it is on the
same level as Ken Burns’ documentaries, Schama’s pacing is much faster,
which is appropriate, since he only has 15 hours to tell thousands of years of
fifteen episodes on five discs will probably remind viewers of Cosmos
or Connections more than Ken Burns’ works, partly because of the
archeological aspects of the the first disc.
I also could not help having the same feeling that I had while watching The
Lord of the Rings---going down into the depths of the earth into a catacomb
only lit up once per year on the winter solstice, as one example in the first
episode. I feel like I am there
looking for treasure, waiting for Gollum to get me.
I could see Thomas Beckett being murdered by order of his best friend,
King Henry II.
The fifteen episodes are: Beginnings, Conquest, Dynasty, Nations, King Death, Burning Convictions, The Body of the Queen, The British Wars, Revolutions, Britannia Incorporated, The Wrong Empire, Forces of Nature, Victoria and her Sisters, Empire of Good Intentions, The Two Winstons.
QUESTION: The final episode
is “The Two Winstons.” The
first is Winston Churchill, of course. Who
is the second? Hint: he never existed.
footage seems to be all new for this series and many dramatic re-enactments put
you right in the middle of events which would have consequences for all the
world. Footage of the beautiful and
serene countrysides of Hastings and other historical locations, Schama makes it
all come alive.
a good stereo mix with some good background music, which is all that is really
needed. The narration is dramatic
and clear throughout.
other than biographies of major historical figures, but nothing else is really
needed when you have fifteen hours of documentary!
the same high level as The Civil War
and Connections, the history of
Britain is all here in objective but lively commentary, from the ancient times
through the twentieth century.