22nd April 2015
Having just watched part one of the highly hyped mini-series “World Without End” I am amazed by the amount of money, some $ 46,000,000, spent on the production and the obvious lack of understanding of the necessary details required to produce an art work supposedly reflecting life in early medieval England. Let us leave aside the language, and even the modern idioms, phrases and catchwords, employed one supposes in order to appeal to an ever younger audience, such jargon is perhaps excusable even if not acceptable. However some of the smaller details which the director overlooked or had no knowledge of, include the following trivia, mistakes, errors or gaffs; The film opened with a shot of the back of a knight’s head and shoulders. The mail protection was never so clean, there was no method of plating or painting, it was always discoloured, tarnished, oxidized and rusty, which was occasionally cleaned off by rubbing with sand or gravel. Nuns with eyeliner and lipstick, even now are rare, except perhaps in one’s dreams, and in 1375 were non existent. The “witch” cuts up her herbs with a stainless steel knife, showing reflections, some 500 years before the invention of such cutlery. The two brothers fight with shiny swords, impossible, except in science fiction. “May the force be with you”. The heraldic devices, the shield shapes, emblazoned on tabard fronts and horses rumps are totally incorrect. The pattern of the original designs, rectangular for banners, had to be compressed into the area of the shield, as this was often the first method of identification of friend, or foe. The shield shape was not then reused on other items, surcoats or caparisons, only the GLC in their lack of wisdom, apart from film directors, ever used a shield shape on a flag, rather than a flag design on a shield. The six meter drop when one of the villains was hanged would have pulled his head off, and the hangman’s knot used in the mass execution on a bridge was not introduced until the late 1800’s, and was intended as a more humane way of execution, breaking the neck and severing the spinal cord, rather than causing death by slow strangulation. The witch’s dress which was undone to the waist is carefully re-stitched prior to her demise. The cleanliness of the beautifully cobbled streets is totally unrealistic, mud was the order of the day liberally mixed with odure and other unpleasant refuse. Street or “crossing” sweepers didn’t arrive on the scene until late Victorian times. Highly polished brass cauldrons over a wood fire, impossible, more likely an iron pot, blackened with soot. Did ordinary folk, even merchants, have clean linen sheets and pillowcases I wonder? All the interiors are shown in highly coloured yellow, accurately cut and smooth, “sandstone”, not the grey “granite” style rocks that were actually used. No evidence, despite hundreds of candles, open fires and trays of burning oils, “Egyptian” style, of smoke discoloration or blackening. And as for those same walls having huge carved heraldic panels, foolishness and lack of knowledge becomes laughable. Sealing wax with a central wick? Again an absolute lack of understanding of this early period. Mr Follet, the author, if dead, would, and should, turn in his grave. Maybe “Errors Without End” would be a more fitting title for the first tranche of this eight hour saga. However the success of the production is assured by virtue of the vast publicity budget. How much was spent on the actual production, and how much was spent on promotional hype and spin one wonders? Obviously very little was spent on historical advisors. I’m told that, if packaged, promoted and marketed efficiently, even manure can be sold at a profit. I rest my case. John Tunstill www.reelstreets.com PS. I’m sure there will be more errors as, or if, the series unfolds.