Pras on World Films: DOWNTON ABBEY

DOWNTON ABBEY” is a lighthearted look at the class system that is deeply romantic about affairs of the heart. It’s not hard to see why it was such a hit: the series has a connoisseur’s eye for the most exquisite emblems of privilege and breeding and a fan’s gusto for intrigue and melodrama. The series is set on the fictional estate of Downton Abbey in the North Riding of Yorkshire, and features an ensemble cast. It was created byMaggie Smith on Downton Abbey Julian Fellowes and Gareth Neame, and principally written by the former. “Downton Abbey” arrives wrapped in the shiny foil of cachet TV (PBS, WWI, tea and corsets!). But the British series, about the aristocratic Crawley family and their titular home, goes down so easily that it’s a bit like scarfing handfuls of caramel corn while swigging champagne. the first series picked up a number of awards and nominations after its initial run. It has subsequently become the most successful British costume drama since the 1981 television serial version of Brideshead Revisited, and in 2011 it entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most critically acclaimed English-language television show” for the year, becoming the first co-produced US/British show to be recognised as such by the Guinness Book of Records.

The story of the Crawley family of minor nobles, trying to cope with the archaic law that restricts who may inherit the family manse and title, continues with the outbreak of the First World War in the opening episode. The first season began with the Titanic disaster; Going to War the second plunges us into the trenches of the First World War, emphasizing the ways in which battle causes class distinctions to at once dissolve and become more starkly apparent. The story reopens in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme, where Matthew is an officer trying to keep his troops alive in an unending cascade of explosions and carnage. One moment he is face down in a bomb crater under raining shells, an injured man twitching next to him. The next he is packing up to go on leave, which includes a trip to Downton Abbey. As veterans return from the front, Downton becomes an auxiliary hospital, an event that confronts its wealthier inhabitants with the uselessness of their lives.
Downton Abbey ServantsBoth above and below stairs, the Crawleys and their staff try to keep things just as they were before the war broke out. Although “Downton” has an “Upstairs Downstairs” household structure, what links all the characters is a shared determination to survive whatever comes their way.
Dan Stevens is Matthew Crawley and Michelle Dockery is La... Nick briggs / ITV for MASTERPIECE

Despite the family’s initial reservations about the designated heir, cousin Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), they’ve accepted him into the family embrace. In fact, Mary (Michelle Dockery), the eldest of the three daughters of Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), and his American-born wife, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), embraced and embraced Matthew, but that relationship has fractured. As the second season begins, they are working on just being friends.

The noble valet Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) and housemaid Anna (Joanne Froggatt) rely on their growing love to get them through. Before they can marry, however, Bates has to persuade his estranged but manipulative wife to grant him a divorce. Among the Crawleys themselves, Mary has to cope with her unresolved feelings for Matthew, especially when she learns he’s engaged to someone else.

Downton Abbey Season Two Finale PicBut by far the biggest challenge for both parts of the household is the war itself. Below stairs, Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) try to keep the household operating despite food shortages and having to lose some staff members to the Army. Upstairs, the Crawleys and Matthew’s do-gooder mother, Isobel (Penelope Wilton), have to adjust to their home being turned into a hospital for wounded officers. Isobel relishes the notion of being in charge of the officers’ care, but the military itself, not to mention Lady Cora, have other ideas about that.

Angry Lord Grantham

By adding even more depth and nuance to the characters, Fellowes has not only made the early episodes of the second season absolutely gripping, but has also managed to keep our interest despite a noticeable shift midway through the new season. Plot twists and character shifts are tossed in rather randomly, almost as if Fellowes doesn’t entirely trust his characters. No sooner has one character mentioned in passing that things might be better if another were dead than the second character buys the farm.

The entire “Downton” enterprise has been conceived and executed with a collective eye toward quality. Mr. Fellowes wrote the screenplay for Robert Altman’s “Gosford Park,” but in his own version of a period drama, Mr. Fellowes dispensed with the dark satire — and Bates on Trialcensure — that distinguished that film. “Gosford Park,” like “The Remains of the Day” and “Atonement,” limned the grandeur of a fading aristocracy with glints of delusion and corruption. “Downton Abbey” doesn’t have the same subversive core. If anything, it echoes a nostalgia for lost time that suffuses films like “Midnight in Paris” and “The Artist.”The creator, Julian Fellowes, conceived “Downton Abbey” as a mini-series, but the viewer response was so enthusiastic that he and the producers decided to add more seasons. Accordingly, it’s a sequel that feels like a prolongation: plot twists are repeated, and the same devices are used in too many scenes.

Highclere Castle, is the film location for ‘Downton Abbey’, whose second series uncannily mirrors the real life events at Highclere over one hundred years ago.Life changed in August 1914 when the First World War broke out and Highclere Castle was turned into a hospital and began to admit patients coming back from the trenches. The war years are etched in history and eventually the fighting ceased. Many of the staff at Highclere had volunteered and not all came back. The Castle returned to a private home and in 1922 the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, the first global world media event.

The end of the First World War signalled the return to Egypt for her husband the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. The book then takes up the story of this remarkable man, who with Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.

Downton Abbey

“Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey” is beautifully illustrated by many previously unpublished early photographs, sketches and drawings, many of which were unearthed from the Archives of Highclere Castle, where they had lain undisturbed for almost a century. It is a unique book which could only have been created from inside the Castle.


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