When I first read Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South I was terribly moved by the book, and loved the passionate character of Margaret Hale, the fiery John Thornton, and even majestic Mrs Thornton commanded awe and respect. I always thought that a movie would not be able to do justice to this well-written work; and I usually find myself unsatisfied with film adaptations as some elements of the plot are left out or the emotions of the characters are not accurately portrayed.
So, when my best friend started raving about the BBC (2004) adaptation, I was at first reluctant to watch it. However, as I read the book a good 8 years ago the plot was hazy in my mind and I decided that if they had butchered I would not feel it as much as if it had been a recent read.
Women all over the internet were swooning over Richard Armitage’s portrayal just like my best friend, which piqued my curiosity. How did a period drama excite so much passion when it had Vampire Diaries and other shows’ shirtless and steamy scenes to compete with?
Dear readers, I watched it. It was one of the most well made books to TV adaptations I have ever seen. I like thousands of other women fell in love with the smouldering John Thornton. The character is a perfect mix of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester! Daniella Denby-Ashe’s portrayal of the protagonist Margaret Hale was equally enthralling to watch. The chemistry between the characters was so real and engrossing that the time literally flew by when I was watching the 4 episode mini-series. In case you haven’t read the book, it is about Margaret Hale and her family’s sudden move from the prosperous agricultural society of the South of England to the ‘dirty and smoky’ industrial town of Milton in Northern England. Issues of class, cultural differences, and love are major themes. Initially Margaret takes offense to the town of Milton, its people, and its ways, and especially to Mr John Thornton, who does not seem to be a gentleman in her eyes. As time goes on and she gets to know the people and ways better, and begins to realise after rejecting him he is not as bad as she thought. The scenes between these two characters are charged with tension, as they clash on their views on how the mills’ workers are treated.
For the first time I loved the changes made in the TV adaption, especially the last scene, the casting was perfect, the cinematography of cotton mills was beautiful, and was supported by a sweetly melodious musical score.
The last scene is in no doubt the best; both characters convey so much emotion through their eyes, that one feels immersed in their love. The audience is rooting them on with bated breath, fluttering heart, and an all over tingle. Contemporary shows could take a page from this show and realise explicit scenes are not necessary to convey depth of passion. A well written and well acted script does the job very well indeed.