In which I rant at length (and at times angrily) about the 1994 BBC adaptation of Middlemarch. With literally all of the spoilers. Friends, I am not kidding, this post literally has quotes from the last pages of the book, do not read this if you don’t want to know how Middlemarch ends. Seriously.
Okay. This miniseries pissed. me. off.
I mean. Okay, part of it was hype. I hyped this thing up so much because Middlemarch is legit one of my favorite books (and probably the best book I’ve ever read), and I was so hungry for an adaptation to do it justice. And I knew it’d be hard, I knew it forever ago, because Middlemarch is one of those Big novels with all sorts of threads that interlock according to a very particular mechanism. I had a gut feeling that it would just be hard to adapt.
I was right.
As I was watching “Middlemarch”, a thought kept coming back to me. Middlemarch works as a single novel, because novels enable you to see into the character’s heart and mind in a unique way. Any straight adaptation would instantly lose a lot by attempting to recreate the multiple threads, because they would thin out the story. They’d interfere with the natural progression of each plot point, by instantly forcing the filmed version to cut to an unrelated story. I started thinking that there’s simply no way to properly adapt Middlemarch to the screen with all three stories told alongside each other, and instead began to imagine a series of three films that have overlaps in very specific points (but always from different angles).
Part of this, of course, is a personal preference within the narrative. Middlemarch focuses more-or-less on three main stories: Dorothea Brooke, Tertius Lydgate, and Fred Vincy/the Garths (with Fred’s story moderately less centered). The overall plot is one of a changing culture, a changing Middlemarch, a changing England, but this is reflected also in the internal affairs of each character. And so I’m going to set aside the wonderful politics for a moment, and focus on the personal relationships. Mostly the shipping, to be honest.
Because seriously does the BBC’s “Middlemarch” get it wrong.
And now I rant extensively with lots of long and amazing quotes from Middlemarch under the cut. You have been warned.