misssylviadrake (misssylviadrake) wrote,

Andrew Davies's 1984 Diana: a complex heroine who ends up another war victim

Dear friends and readers,

The third and last blog on this remarkable, unfortunately unreprinted mini-series, the 1984 Diana adapted by Andrew Davies, directors Richard Tucker and David Stroud, produced by Ken Riddington. Parts 1 through 5 and some of 6 dramatized R. E. Delderfield's There Was a Fair Maid Dwelling (the first two thirds of the present single volume Diana), in a strongly elegiac romance mode, mixed with much social drama, much of the story of Jan wholly invented or filled with much more plausibilty and coherence than found in the novel.  Some of Parts 6 through 9 dramatize The Unjust Skies (the present last third of the single volume Diana), this one again combines romance (mixed modes), social drama with a spy-anti-war thriller melodrama. This last blog is Part 10 which has a central sequence set up to remind us of The Bridge on the River Kwai ending on a brief reprise of the Paul et Virginie.

What has emerged from this careful journey through a 10 part mini-series is that we have been given at one step's remove a complex portrait of a heroine type usually dismissed as frivolous, a destructive femme fatale and here found to be a courageous spirit living a richly rewarded inward and outward life. John Leigh, or Jan (the character is aligned allusively with Jan Ridd of Lorna Doone) has grown up, but not changed in essentials; it's not a movie about the education of Jan Leigh, but rather how his continuing enthralment with Diana Gaylorde-Sutton shaped and will continue to shape (even after she has died) his experience. The two paratexts which dominate the film pictorially, the Folly where the couple have met and had central trysts and talk and the two buzzards endlessly twirling about one another are an emblem of Davies' film's struggle against conforming to their world's unjust irrational restrictions.  This is a central theme in all Davies's romances.

This last segment from Delderfield's book is dominated by darkness,

Opens on fierce quarrel scene before Jan is forced into duty as a saboteur, him accusing and mistrusting her

and war scenes, with the only relief the French countryside during the day and dream of Sennacharib that ends the story.

From tracking shot of Jan walking down the hill from her grave

As with the two first blogs, this takes the form of summary, notes and dialogues from scenes.

First segment: the pair in the cottage before he leaves.  Fall into primal quarreling; he does not mind her abortion and inability to have a child but her sexual promiscuity and her deserting him; how will he know she will be there when he returns (vastly improved version of pp. 562-77). The defense is the love; she goes upstairs, he follows, they make up, and she promises not to have operation because of her weak heart until he returns.

The head shot of her on pillow has become a repeating motif of Davies's films: it's as if it's a shorthand in say the 2008 S&S

Second long central piece: war in France.  This is based on myths of French resistance, improbable idea that one man would be sent this way, and just this woman to find the right contacts to save him, that Jan could fool anyone as a "killer" type.  The first use of trains to be anonymous, frightening, the modern world (becomes ubiquitous in TWWLN, HKHWR), a French sky; the central segment of him as saboteur with dangerous men who (we see) use the war to murder those they just don't like.  another of these tight dialogues with Raoul, Jan left with French communist, Simon (Philip McGough).  Davies enjoyed writing their debates (not in book):

Grim Simon:  He was seaman, before the war, Cardiff Liverpool.  Both in Spain ( all added by Davies) Jan calls himself a journalist and Simon calls that a tourist. "Fair enough" says Jan.  Simon quotes English poets -- Auden, Spender, love one another or die ... they talk about necessary murder  then they go home"  Jan: "I've done the necessary murder" Simon: "yah... yeah... me too plenty ..."  They are becoming friends. simon;  "Funny first I work for French aristocrats, then I work for English gentlemen... " Jan: "I'm not a gentleman"  Simon: "All English officers are gentlemen"

Simon clearly hostile. Jan has his gun under his pillow loaded. Next morning, tthe first shot we see a hand with a gun, we see Jan awaken and look under his pillow, no gun, across the way Simon says:   "English officer sleep very well" and throws the gun across.

Point made how people kill one another under cover of war.  Man (or Simon) heard whistling tune from movie Bridge on River Kwai

Outside they climb and survey in lovely pastoral green countryside, they are setting up bombs to hit track and station house with Nazis in it. Simon now respects Jan as leader, they return and more nighttime table talk: Simon wants to go to America, wear big hat, drink in a whiskey bar just like Auden. "I thought that you were a communist ..." "I am communist" and "America's a capitalist country" "when this bloody war is over every country will be socialist country ..." "the land [then] belong to everyone my friend."  Jan: "Right"  Simon: "Right. You think I'm a fool, I'm not a fool I know these things will never happen ..."

Child on bike riding to town; in town Simon and Jan, Jan to furniture shop, goes around back, and lo and behold he finds Diana with dark hair wig, looking like French bourgeois escapee from WW2 French film; she justifies herself that she knows people, she is useful (right), she will get him out (romancing).

Cut to high climactic blowing up of bridge; Simon too eager and stands with machine gun to kill and is killed: 

Climbing down by rope

Bomb all ready, waiting for train to appear

Simon eager, but nervous

Unfortunate human being fleeing tunnel, Jan shoots to kill

Jan escapes, seen on bike, then into town where Diana's hugging a wall with a machine gun under her skirt

Diana in purple with machine gun at the ready

They grab a jeep and careen through bullied town, past checkpoint where she takes off her dark wig, then they are running through countryside. Now night falls and we are back in Paul and Virginie territory. We are returned to Nun's Island kind of scene.  She says "This reminds me of nun's island ...all we need now is the gramophone and records ... " A flute starts up again. She invites him to enjoy themselevs. We are to imagine them makng love. ...  Later Diana:  "God I'm starving again ... never mind Lance is supposed to be a wonderful cook... even he smiles ..."  She is enjoying this.  A car of Nazis seen; they flee, she stands shooting and he jumps in the water; she is taken, he goes unconscious, rescued by doctor.

Then he decides to stay; revenge motif of him killing Germans.  A montage of death and killing; real footage intermixed; over-voice of time passing, Raoul comes to find him, make him sane, a scheme to save Diana as a prisoner of war in a convoy. 

We see Jan in hard light silent heading men through a wood ... waiting along a road for cars and trucks to come through. Again bombing and shooting scene. These must cost ... turning and crashing cars .. different kinds of footage intermixed:

someone's face destroyed -- war seen as hideous Nazi officer shooting everyone in tented truck. Jan attacks him hand to hand. He fears he sees her dead

He finally reaches her at back of truck, set up is parallel to his reaching Alison.  He is crying, lights on film now bleached. Raoul: "hold her gently you fool. She's alive"

Her face made up to look like Alison's in death.

Dissolve black, back to green world, soft returning music, we are before stables cottage with Jan shaking someone's hand and car outside. Has black bag so doctor.  Cut to her laid against pillow in lovely soft acqua blue gown, hair lovely of course. She's dying, spinal chord has been destroyed, her heart can't last.

A last loving conversation; they've had what they've had, she's glad she's not the one left; one last request to take one more ride to Sennacharib (see above).  Last words: She:  "Look Jan the buzzards.'  He:  "Come, I'll take you home."

Then the scene of him before the grave and walking away.

Just one last comment:  Alison Light's Forever England:  Femininity, literature and conservatism between the wars treats of a group of women writers ignored by high culture literature (Compton Burnett, Murdoch, Christy, DuMaurier) as creating a myth of a green idyllic England whose values were to be cherished and could sustain good life between individuals (pictured often in retreat, as refuge). I've become persuaded that Alison Light's book on women authors ought equally to have included so-called middle brow men, some of whom wrote great books (Angus Wilson, Anglo-Saxon Attitudes).  These Davies turns to like a homing pigeon, not that he thinks the UK perfect. In 1984 it's not been ruined by Thatcherism which (after 1990s) he attacks but he does have this vision of somewhere wholesome, a visionary England (we see it in the 2008 S&S), or maybe it's just the natural world that Diana in this mini-series turned mythic (we find in the 2007 Room with A View).  Critics don't want to contextualize these men with women, but certainly Angus Wilson knew his predecessor was Ivy Compton-Burnett.  Trollope belongs here for Davies too, and George Eliot's English countryside.  Dickens shows the 19th century world cruel and anonymous already

Tags: 20th century, adaptations, andrew davies, costume drama, female archetypes, film adaptation, historical novels, politics

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