Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gormenghast on French Television

The French Television channel ARTE will be broadcasting Gormenghast, the BBC2 Millenium Drama, on 2nd January 2010 at 8.45pm. A great beginning to the New Year, it will be very interesting to see how a French audience reacts to the BBC's visual tour de force.


Blogger Cathie Joy Young said...

I wish it would air here in the US again - I have never seen it. Guess I will have to purchase the DVD.

12:05 am  
Blogger Julien said...

You will think I'm overenthusiastic, so let me tell you, there's a "but" towards the end of this comment...

...I live in Brussels, Belgium. A French-speaking city outside of France. As far as I know, the Gormenghast universe is almost completely unknown in the French-speaking world. Arte is a brave channel and we can congratulate them for the fortitude they display in broadcasting the BBC adaptation of Gormenghast.

As a bilingual reader & writer of ambiguous origins, I have been expecting an occasion to watch this adaptation since many years. Reading the Gormenghast trilogy was a definitive experience for me and I cherish this work as one of the most important in my life. However, it is difficult to find DVDs of a BBC production in Belgium - and even if I did, my wife doesn't understand enough English to appreciate it, if not to follow the storyline at all, despite her love for the French translations of the novels that I bought for her after months of babbling about how much she should read Gormenghast. And I was not eager to discover my beloved Sepulchrave and Fuschia and others as living things made of moving flesh without my beloved wife by my side to share my joy.

So, this broadcasting was a perfect occasion. And we struggled all day long to plug in our old TV, abandoned in the attic since the death of good old King Baudouin, just to see if our antenna could catch the waves of the German-French Arte channel. It did.

Hence, we were delighted by the costumes, corridors, Irma's portrait, white cats, and Neve McIntosh, and many other things that you British fellows already enjoyed a few years ago. BUT...

...But, sincerely, the dubbing was awful. Dubbing is, by itself, the sin that will doom France to an eternity of suffering to ease the wrath of the Muses. And even if I can agree that some dubbings in French language can be clever and well acted (I remember the French version of 'American Beauty' as a masterpiece of dubbing, and even Matt Groening once stated that the French dubbing of his 'Simpsons' is almost perfect), but the dubbing of the BBC adaptation of Gormenghast makes it sounds like a parody of itself. It is definitely horrible.

My beloved spouse and I did manage to forgive the dubbing and appreciated the rest. But I have sincere concerns about the rest of La Francophonie : a Belgian friend of mine confessed that she dropped in the middle of the first episode because of it. It took me hours to convince this friend to watch the adaptation of what is here nothing more than an obscure tale, and I think it will take me more effort to have this friend finally reading it.

To make it short : I give a cigar to the BBC, but I would short Arte on sight. Because in the end, no serious channel, especially one dedicated to culture, would have broadcasted such a good work with a dubbing that wastes it all.

8:41 pm  
Blogger The Double H Diaries said...

I watched Gormenghast on Arte and the best thing about seeing it in French is that it made me want to go back and re-read the trilogy in English. I am almost through Titus Groan and haven't enjoyed a read so much for a long time. So, thank you Arte.

3:27 pm  

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