Back in my senior year, one of my accounting professors mentioned the author Ken Follet and since then I made a mental note for his book. But I was not able to find the time to read or look for one of his books. Instead I bumped into a TV mini-series “The Pillars of the Earth” just shown in Star Movies. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t watch the show because I am not a fan of tales from the medieval period and secondly it is being compared as Star’s pantapat or equalizer to HBO’s Game of Thrones. I only decided to watch the first episode when I learned that brothers Ridley and Tony Scott (two of my favorite Hollywood directors) are producing the series. The opening credits roll and there at the title is the name Ken Follet. I knew I have to finish this one.
The series is an adaptation of Ken Follet’s best-selling book of the same name. Our professor personally told us that Mr. Follet is a master in tales of espionage thrillers but the ‘Pillars’ is nowhere near that category. It’s a love story mixed up with wars, violence and sex – an epic period drama set in the 12th century England where kings rules the land, where Frenchmen and Englishmen were not the best of friends and the Church are governed by treacherous power obsessed murderers. For a moment I am thankful there are no high-tech gadgets, impossible escapes and rescue missions, and know-it-all spy characters. ‘Pillars’ could be Follet’s complete departure from his comfort zone but ironically I learned it is his most famous work, just like the prison drama “The Shawshank Redemption” from the master of horror books (and films) Stephen King.
The whole story was brilliant and fast paced that left me at the edge of my seat. I really enjoyed following the character’s entire journey from the burning of the White Ship to the completion of the new Kingsbridge Cathedral. With eight episodes spanning eight hours, it is a long epic journey filled with surprises, politics, treachery, murder and most of all hope. It is impossible to resist not watching the next episode.
I find the character of Jack Jackson so unique for being peculiar and less heroic, but very contemporary. He is someone that is so gifted who found his identity on carving stones but he is someone weak, powerless yet determined with only courage to venture the unknown as his weapon. I think I can all relate to that character. But that villainous bishop Waleran Bigod character portrayed by Ian McShane is something to behold and at the same gives us chills to the bones. I can’t believe such a servant of God can be so manipulative and that ill tempered sense of morality that resort to treachery and murder to achieve power that makes him a formidable adversary.
The whole story revolves around the building of the new Kingsbridge cathedral. All throughout the story the project is plagued by dead ends and adversities but through the determination of the good guys they rise up every time. I think that element of the story symbolizes the triumph of good over evil that no matter what lies blocking in our path people are deemed to fight back and reach our dreams. The architecture and grandness of the like of Kingsbridge Cathedral serves as a great testament of man’s great power of creativity – a marvelous tribute to the Creator.
Even the Catholic Church was portrayed as a powerful institution – filled with ambitious leaders that resorts to evil actions for what they think is for the common good – that can influence even the judgment of the King. Though history tells there were old pricks like Bishop Walerans in its organization that rendered the Church notorious reputations throughout the centuries. But after two millennia of internal struggle, break ups and wars the Church still survive. For me, that’s one true miracle – a word from a protestant like me.
It was indeed a good watch and the production is grand. I’m on a novel fasting this whole year so I still have a few months before I could read the book and I am really looking forward to it. Right now I want to see the HBO adaptation Game of Thrones and see what the hype is all about. I hope it’s a great one like they did in the Band of Brothers, The Pacific and The Boardwalk Empire.
- “Pillars of Earth” a diverting mix of sex, violence (reuters.com)
- Television Review | ‘The Pillars of the Earth’: Ian McShane in Starz Mini-Series of Ken Follett Book (nytimes.com)