The purpose of this thread is to gather viewer opinion about Tomas Alfredson’s new adaptation of John Le Carre’s novel, and to start discussion by way of comparison with the BBC 1979 television adaptation of the same name.
I should mention that I enjoyed Alfredson’s previous feature, Let the Right One In, finding it not only a beautifully shot, impressively acted, innovative re-imagining of a moribund sub-genre; but also a tender examination of childhood development and its attendant dangers.
Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor is shot in a similar style and is also impressively acted but, to my mind, there was nothing else of value from the original BBC series. In fact, restricting Le Carre’s complex novel to two hours only served to complicate the narrative – which worked a lot better when spread over seven 45 minute episodes.
Furthermore, the original series was such a landmark achievement in the history of film-making that one can’t help but ask the overarching question of this thread: Was a new adaptation necessary?
Other than giving the story a more cinematic look (although I think the Beeb did a commendable job on a limited budget at the time), I can’t see any reason why anyone would want to attempt a new adaptation of a novel that was so faithfully adapted in the late 70’s. The fact that the story was kept in the Cold War era and not given a modern updating in line with the contemporary political climate makes this new adaptation all the more baffling. Of course there are certain parallels between political circumstances of that era and our own, but one only needs to fish out the 2003 DVD release of the BBC series to notice that.
The film has had a mixed response from cinema-goers, but a generally favourable response from critics. I actually enjoyed it at the cinema, but on reflection I think my enjoyment came from a fondness for the story and an admiration for the camera-work.
So do people think this is a vital cinematic retelling of a classic story that has found new relevance in our time, or an unnecessary venture that only serves to limit the scope of the story, and a pale comparison to the original BBC series. I must admit I’m erring towards the latter interpretation at the moment, but am open to persuasion on this one.
It makes me so mad that the Brits get to see this before me. I’m soooo looking forward to this movie.
Is the BBC series really a “landmark in the history of film-making”? I never found the BBC adaptation to be a landmark, but a rather dry dramatization that really required knowledge of the novel for it to make any sense at all. I found the novel to be gripping from the word go, and had to keep pinching myself to stay awake during the BBC series.
I’m looking forward to the film, I guess, mainly to see Gary Oldman carry a movie.
^ I should probably have qualified that by saying it was a landmark in the history of television film-making.
i have not seen the bbc version though i saw the new one the other day and i couldn’t stop dozing off it seemed so slow! some takes could have easily been trimmed down or even deleted, making the film having a nice 30 minutes less runtime and i know everyone has been talking about gary oldman’s performance though it seems 2 me like desperate hype generated by the marketers
For the same reason all remakes are made. Money. What you should be asking is why they do not make any of the other books in the series. BTW I loathe Le Carre as a writer. Middlebrow all the way. The 70s Leon Uris.
“Of course there are certain parallels between political circumstances of that era and our own, but one only needs to fish out the 2003 DVD release of the BBC series to notice that.”:
What parallels? That the MI6 guys are good and the other guys are bad? Only thing I remember about the book and the series is that Smiley was a cuckold. Guess there will always be cuckolds.
The parallels I was referring to has to do with how some political commentator’s see the current state of East-West diplomatic affairs (with specific reference to the global impact of Putin’s Russia) as bearing certain hallmarks of the Cold War. When we look at Russia’s pursuit of global energy markets, controlling of information, trade links with nations hostile to the West, and political re-structuring along autocratic lines, identification of such parallels don’t seem so far-fetched. The recent Litvinenko controversy (not to mention the Anna Chapman case) also serves to highlight how far the espionage aspect bares relevance within the current climate.
This is the short and obvious answer, of course, and it barely needs to be addressed (the movies have always been about making money, after all). The question that I’m really posing to readers of this thread (and forgive me for paraphrasing myself here) is whether or not Alfredson’s adaptation (not “remake”) has any modern relevance and/or artistic merit (beyond the cinematography) to distinguish it from the original BBC series.
Why ‘remake’ Jane Eyre?
The point of the remake is that there are million upon million of people out there TOO THICK & STUPID to enjoy the BBC film with Alec Guinness (which is their loss, as it is brilliant). It’s funny that the new film which condenses the book even further is seen as “slow” by dopes who only appreciate “fast-moving” Hollywood action man garbage for mongols.
arcanus u never said if u watched the new version and if that is an indirect comment about the slow point i made i am referring 2 many added takes which don’t help the story progress do u understand?
“Why ‘remake’ Jane Eyre?”
Heaven knows, because every twenty years or so some poor soul will unleash another Jane Eyre upon the world.
Altough Bunuel did make something interesting
out of Whutering Heights… So there may be a valid point to do remakes, after all.
It may be worth noting the distinction between remake and adaptation. Afredson’s Tinker, Tailor isn’t a remake of the BBC series but rather a new adaptation of Le Carre’s novel. The BBC adaptation may have had an influence on certain aspects of Alfredson’s film, but this is scant justification for to referring to it as a “remake”.
The same applies for Jane Eyre, although it differs from Tinker, Tailor in the sense that it tells a classic story of eternal relevance and increasing importance in a post-feminist age. I have no problem seeing it re-adapted, especially since previous versions have seemed so old and staid.
Imdben is of course correct to say that Alfredson’s film is not a remake of the BBC film. It is a new condensed version of the book. However, the point remains: the BBC version is brilliant and perfect. Guinness is perfect. Why attempt to remake perfection?
I suppose someone somewhere will be stupid enough to issue a new dumbed down version of “Casablanca” or of “Kind Hearts and Coronets”. We already had some total fool redo the classic “The Ladykillers” for the mongol generation.
You’re preaching to the choir Arcanus, although I can’t accept your assertion that people who couldn’t appreciate the BBC series are somehow intellectually inferior. There’s no accounting for taste, after all.
I suppose one of the virtues of the new film is that it brings Le Carre’s story to a new generation – who may have either been unaware of the BBC adaptation or put off by its datedness. Indeed, Alfredson’s previous film has gained something of a cult following amongst younger film enthusiasts, which might provide some impetus for this demographic wanting to see the new adaptation. Even if all that comes of this is a few more people seeking out the BBC DVD by way of comparison, then surely that can only be a good thing.
The same argument could be applied to the new version of Brighton Rock – again inferior to the previous adaptation, but still a modern classic with which Tinker, Tailor stands comparison.
^ By which I mean Graham Greene’s novel is a modern classic, not Rowan Joffe’s adaptation – which was quite awful.
Dear Imdben: I agree to a certain extent. The new TTSS may well encourage people to read the book and to seek out the DVD of the BBC films. I totally disagree that the BBC series is in any way dated. It has period atmosphere, having been made in the appropriate period with no need to fake an atmosphere from 30 years earlier. The only sad thing about the original is that the film quality is not very good and it’s in 4:3 TV format not widescreen. But, after all, do we whinge on that Les Enfants du Paradis isn’t shot in HD? No we don’t.
agree that guinness is perfect. le carre himself said he could never write smiley again without thinking of guinness. will give this a chance anyway if it ever opens here.
I only refer to the BBC Tinker, Tailor as being dated in the loosest sense. I think it still stands up very well and certainly looks less dated than something like Edge of Darkness – which came out six years later. But one cannot deny that there has been a sea change in TV production values since 1979. Anyone more familiar with glossy looking HBO style programming may well be put off by the relatively humble production values of the BBC series (although this would be their loss, as you rightly say).
The impressive production values in evidence in the new adaptation should help remove that barrier and allow this type of audience to engage with Le Carre’s story. Whether or not such an audience should be permitted such concessions is another question.
But the argument that a new adaptation is valuable for bringing the story to a new audience is a pretty flimsy one, I’ll admit. I was really just playing devil’s advocate there.
Dated technically of course. But that adds to its charm.
“Smiley’s People” will get remade I assume, on the basis that if TTSS makes a mint, why not?
“The question that I’m really posing to readers of this thread (and forgive me for paraphrasing myself here) is whether or not Alfredson’s adaptation (not “remake”) has any modern relevance and/or artistic merit (beyond the cinematography) to distinguish it from the original BBC series.”
Not being capable of speaking for the original BBC series, I would say what Alfredson did well in compacting this obviously detailed and intertwined story into a two hour narrative is let the associations between information, relationships, and characters so seemingly disparate come together cinematically instead of expositionally, by which I mean the editing is superb and it is the conscious non-mongol observer who is able to tell that Smiley’s slump near the window has to do with the unseen face of “Ann” whereas the mongol observer Arcanus complains about would probably see that single two-shot narrative as either non-sequitor or wouldn’t have noticed it behind the "this is booooooorrrrinnnnggg " at all.
As just one example.
So as ridiculous as this is to state, as it would seem to be obvious, the reason “why” for this remake is both the cinematography you mention, and the editing. Though those things serve their purpose towards their narrative, in isolation of any other adaptation or the novel itself, they are distinctive qualities of a well-made film I would rather exist than go without.
Right, because as soon as anybody makes a film adaptation of anything, that adaptation has exclusive film ownership of the source material for the rest of time.
I got a distinct sense of nihilism from the film, like it was painting a picture of triviality over the ideological conflict of the war, which explains the apparent interchangeability of the perpetrators’ identity.
I was completely riveted from start to finish. I agree with DIB that editing and cinematography were outstanding. My favorite film of the year by far. I’m interested to see the BBC adaptation now and also Smiley’s People. Can’t stress what an exceptional film it is.
“I got a distinct sense of nihilism from the film, like it was painting a picture of triviality over the ideological conflict of the war, which explains the apparent interchangeability of the perpetrators’ identity.”
This film, No Country for Old Men, The Dark Knight. Love ‘em or hate ’em people’ll be writing “Post 9/11” and “Political Cynicism in the Early 21st Century” essays about them for at least half a century. They look the same, they feel the same, and better than any Alien vs. Predator could ever achieve, no matter who wins, we lose.
It’s good to see Oldman in an interesting role again.
looking forward to it.
Keen post, DiB. If only Oldman were in No Country as well…
In a manner unrelated to the film and its quality or lack thereof, I was fighting sleep for the first half-hour or so, missing just enough to have to ask my sister—with whom I saw the film—to clear up a few(or a lot) of plot-points afterward, and just enough to not want to judge the film totally(and thus, rate it on here).
That aside, I must say I was deeply intrigued with the film’s quite fascinatingly dispassionate, shadowy, muffled tone. There’s a sort of eventually charming kind of tonal distance to the filmmaking here, one that seems ambiguously motivated, but certainly interested in the material—yet chooses to do so through this peculiar, glum, methodical fogginess. And with regard to what has been written above, these things to which I refer greatly relate back to the editing and the cinematography—though also to Oldman’s take on the (gradually) hilariously-named Smiley.
Or perhaps I was just sleepy, and thus the only one steeped in bleariness and ambiguity. Either way, despite its seeming shortcomings script-wise, I look forward to revisiting it in much more sound mind.
i saw this film when i was ill so that might have affected my concentration, but while i thought it was a great piece of cinema, i found it really hard to engage with anything or anyone on the screen. seems like a perfect example of ‘Slow Cinema’, so i can see why the critics adored it – it takes its time, the tone is ambivalent, it demands you pay full attention, it makes you work for it – but im not sure it really rewarded you with very much after all that effort. or maybe i just need to see it again lol. to be honest, it seemed like post-The Wire filmmaking, but maybe that kind of thing works best on tv.
saw the film last night, loved it. breath of fresh air from all the non-stop action spy films. I’ve read the novel which is excellent. I found that Alfredson’s adaptation was faithful, yet compact, but the 2hrs of the film, that cut out parts of the novel, still held themselves together quite gracefully on their own. I found the film amazing.
Just like Brentos, I saw the film last night, and I liked, but the night before I watched Page Eight, another British spy thriller, and liked it better than Tinker Tailor
And I did not feel Tinker Tailor was slow at all (though the friend I was with did), but liked DiB, it was detailed, even in its tourniqueted form.
Yes, it feels like this years The King’s Speech – a high profile, critically acclaimed British film directed by a talented non-British director, which also happens to star Colin Firth. I expect the current hype surrounding the film to die down, in much the same way as The King’s Speech, once the dust has settled on awards season.
It’s not as good as the original BBC series, after all.
Another thing it has in common with The King’s Speech is that it’s all very well done in terms of acting, directing and script; but neither film quite represents the cream of contemporary British film-making. Both films just happen to have struck the right note on either side of the Atlantic.
P.S. I agree with Uli re Page Eight – a much more worthwhile film.
The TV series was superb, but i also really enjoyed this film- for the gripping tension and building of atmosphere, paranoia and mystery, the sense of the time. The last 1/4 hour, after the steady accumulation, was a touch disappointing, but overall to be relished, and preferable to Let the Right One In. I think we can still learn afresh from the cold war mentality; here the British are not all sweetness and light, it’s a grim, grey world and the tensions between the characters (never mind anxieties over a mole) are palpable. I’m not sure what the strange school section and relationship between teacher in his caravan and the loner boy were intended to add in terms of overall meaning, but anyway it felt like there was something rotten in the British class system, as well as the repugnant brutality and murders by the Commies.