Thursday, 4 August 2011

"Angels in America" ~ the television mini-series

I found "Angels in America" engrossing viewing over a couple of days.  It has six parts and is over five hours in length.  It is based on a play written by Tony Kushner, who adapted it for the series.  The main characters play a number of parts each.  

The music and footage which accompany the introduction are outstanding and very memorable.  I do encourage you to watch this clip, if nothing else!


This is adult viewing.  The story focuses on a number of difficult and controversial themes and is set in the mid 1980s.  Themes include gay men in relationships, the AIDS epidemic as it occurred in the 80s, and related political issues of time.  These are explored through day-to-day events as well as through hallucinatory experiences, dream and fever states.  The trans-dimensional nature of the drama is emphasised by a number of the actors playing more than one part.  Meryl Streep plays three, one of which is a rabbi!  I'll let you read the summary of the story for yourselves as it appears in Wikipedia.

I have omitted the official trailer as I found it a poor representation of quality and content. 

I enjoyed the intensity of the characters very much, and the devices through which issues and differing realities were explored.  I found it helpful to bear in mind that it is based on a play, as some parts seemed somewhat 'stagey' in so far as they didn't seem all that natural: for example, much of the dialogue is compressed to include much more content than is usual in conversation; I felt similarly about some of the hallucinatory detail such as the interactions with the angel.  I liked having to exercise my imagination to participate in the drama.  

The characterisation of Roy Cohn by Al Pacino, in contrast, gives the viewer no room to manoeuvre at all.  His is a truly shattering performance - masterful but very disturbing, which is what is intended.

Each character could be said to be holding to their own view of what is most true for them.  As the story-line moves through a series of personal crises, some truths prove to be more enduring and road-worthy than others!

Belize, played by Jeffrey Wright, is my favourite character: he seems to have most things worked out and is an odd mixture of perceptiveness, tough streetwise practicality and kindliness.  After Cohn dies he browbeats Louis into saying Kaddish for this destructive and ruthless man.  Of forgiveness he says:
'It isn't easy.  It doesn't count if it's easy.  It's the hardest thing - forgiveness.  Maybe that's where love and justice finally meet; peace at least [...]'  
What a fascinating scene that is! 

For me the story rather lost traction after that, but despite this I found the whole thing thought-provoking and memorable and would like to see much of it again.  

I mention only a few of the actors here, but they all deserve bouquets!  Not surprisingly both the series and a number of the actors won numerous awards.

For all you Meryl Streep fans here is her acceptance speech of the Emmy won for her performance:  The video image is poor, but her speech is a delightful performance in itself, which comes across well in spite of this!