“The beast is here. I’ve seen him. Berti’s seen him. Dietmar’s seen him.”
IT would seem to have taken a long time for writers to get to grips with all the emotions and smells of World War 11, as if they were still on rations and on duty.
Rhidian Brook uncorks a heady mix of despairs in the postwar rubble of Hamburg – the feral children, the wife who is “grieving mother, distant wife and curt occupier“, a precocious son let loose to fraternise, the teenage girl who refuses to recognise the end of war, an English army officer father with a mission, a displaced aristocratic German architect with family and servants…each character might have been diametrically designed to oppose the others…unfashionably here we have a German point of view of the rebuilding and an etching of English gauche sensibilities in 1946.”Germans can’t make tea’.
The scene and character building is TV slick. Rhidian – who does not get any bio on my edition – was a screen writer on TV’s Silent Witness and this is is his third novel, 15 years after the last.
The TV scene shifting is expertly done. In a perverse way the plotting reminds me of an edgier Downton Abbey. There are a great many things we do not like to talk about. The adolescent German girl defies her new English house guest with her pee filled, still warm, chamber pot, not throwing it at him, just presenting it and leaving…
Screenplay takes its illusion of depths from its actors. The camera swallows up in seconds what it might take prose to perform over many minutes. Novels, as a form, can drill deeper to inform the history and complexity of character, of thought, of situation etc. They can deal with the human condition, subjectively, where the camera must be objective.
Brook scratches deep, but there is more underneath…