When I read The Pillars of the Earth about 15 years ago I was hooked. I thought that it would be so great if someone could make a film from this amazing story by Ken Follett. The book had actually been published in 1989 and it was 21 years before anyone gave it a try. In 2010 the Starz Network released this mini-series starring big names like Ian McSchane, Donald Sutherland, and Rufus Sewell.
This is an amazing story with a deep plot and a colorful range of characters. I’m at a loss to try and summarize this film so I’ll let another author do it for me.
“The Pillars of the Earth is set against a backdrop of war, religious strife and power struggles which tears lives and families apart. In that time, there rises a magnificent Cathedral in Kingsbridge. Against the backdrop, love-stories entwine: Tom, the master builder, Aliena, the noblewoman, the sadistic Lord William, Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge, Jack, the artist in stone work and Ellen, the woman from the forest who casts a curse. At once, this is a sensuous and enduring love story and an epic that shines with the fierce spirit of a passionate age. Follett masterfully weaves these stories through political turmoil of 12th century England, creating a relevant and viable world for today’s audience and for generations to come.”
So how did Starz do with this amazing story? I’ll start with the good:
The film captures a lot of small details from the book which could have been easily left out.
The actors were well-cast and fit the descriptions in the book. The actors were also very talented and made themselves quite believable.
The film didn’t feel rushed or squeezed, I feel that they took every bit of time they needed to capture the entire story. In total there are eight episodes of one hour each.
What about the bad?
The film felt like it was produced on a Made-For-TV-Movie budget. The special effects felt cheap and the sets sometimes felt false. This surprised me since the film had a $40 million dollar budget.
The score was almost phoned in. I’m not sure if it’s even something made for this series or a soundtrack from some BBC series about the medieval era.
Put all of this together and I think you’ve got a film that’s worth watching if you’re a fan of the book or just willing to overlook flaws for an amazing story. If I was to choose I would be more likely to suggest the book or it’s sequel World Without End.
I would rate this at 2.7 stars out of 5 based solely on the excellent acting by the stars of the film. Mini-series veteran Ian McShane is amazing in his role as Waleran Bigod and shows the same skill that made Deadwood such an amazing series.
Running Time: 480 minutes (8 episodes)