Wolf Hall will broadcast in the US on PBS Sundays, April 5-May 10, 2015. Click here for the PBS Wolf Hall site (still sparse).
The compelling Damian Lewis is simply superb as King Henry, a man you just know could explode in anger at any moment, while Mark Rylance is fantastic as Cromwell, our cunning leading man.
Although he has no official title, Cromwell is increasingly relied on to run the King’s affairs.
Cromwell manoeuvres a Bill through Parliament acknowledging Henry, rather than the Pope, as head of the Church of England. This is the first step in Henry granting his own divorce from Katherine of Aragon.
Out of the blue, a major obstacle to Henry’s marriage plan arises when Harry Percy’s wife claims her own marriage is unlawful on the grounds that her husband had previously made a binding contract of marriage with Anne Boleyn. With the Cardinal now dead the Boleyn family look to Cromwell to fix Harry Percy, a task Cromwell approaches with relish, remembering how Percy helped bring the Cardinal down.
As Anne and Cromwell become allies, Anne secures him a formal position in the King’s household.
The King and his Court head to Calais to meet with the French King. At a dance, Anne flirts with the French nobility, to Henry’s evident fury. She and Henry argue violently, but when they are reconciled Henry finally pledges himself to Anne before witnesses. Henry marries Anne upon their return to England and she is crowned Queen. Even in her moment of triumph, Anne feels trapped; she knows the old noble families hate her and will never accept her.
Anne is pregnant and leaves Court to begin her confinement. She has achieved what she wanted, but it has come at a cost. She must now produce a male heir or risk suffering Katherine’s fate.
Wednesday 4 February 9 pm on BBC2
With rumors that it would arrive last year, the wait continues for Werner Herzog’s first narrative feature in half-a-decade, the story of legendary cartographer Gertrude Bell may be hitting theaters this year. Led by Nicole Kidman, Robert Pattinson, James Franco, and Damian Lewis, Queen of the Desert follows Bell, a diplomatic explorer, who negotiated with Arab nations and helped establish the countries of Iraq and Jordan. Considering that Herzog is the man who gave us such epics as Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, we’re looking forward to a return with what looks to be his most visually ambitious work in some time.Queen of the Desert has its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival next Friday 06.February 18:45
Wolf Hall trailer for next weeks episode…shows a lot of the King.-)
more brilliant moments from this stellar cast next week Wednesday 9pm on BB2
again and all over!!
critics call it a triumph and a spectacle…with a glorious cast and outstanding performances
audience is enthralled by the series
“Last night was brilliant, again!” ” how good is Mark Rylance in Wolf Hall as Cromwell & Damian Lewis is best Henry VIII ever, Bernard Hill gloweringly good Norfolk too BBC2
“superb! Best Tudor drama I’ve ever seen.” First class. Wonderful”
“Menacing & magnificent” “Beautifully done and gripping to watch. Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis give an extraordinary performance.”
We’re now two hours in and, with a mass of plot to get through, Wolf Hall (BBC Two) is still in no hurry. Though adapted from a wordy source, it has a world of time for silence, for the pregnant spaces between speeches, in which everything and nothing is said.
It goes without saying that Mark Rylance is a master at withholding. In this second episode, both Boleyn girls – poor, pleading Mary (Charity Wakefield) and fearsome, frustrated Anne (Claire Foy) – looked into Thomas Cromwell’s green eyes and waited for the flicker of a response. Only the king got answers, and even he was told what Cromwell wanted him to hear. When the king’s dead brother Arthur visited him in a dream, Cromwell was summoned in the night to put a positive spin on the vision.
The relationship between Cromwell and Henry VIII has grown intimate. As Rylance hovered in the tall shadow of Damian Lewis, not presuming to look him in the eye, was anyone else reminded of The Fast Show’s vertical bromance between Charlie Higson’s diffident country gent and Paul Whitehouse’s wary yokel? Except that here Rylance is performing the seduction, and we’re caught in his web.
The only one with any sway over Cromwell is his sister-in-law Johane (Saskia Reeves). In their understated scenes he sits exposed. “There’s a conversation I shouldn’t have had,” he berated himself after inquiring about her marriage. Soon they were kissing, putting Cromwell in a good enough mood to share anecdotes from his years in Italy. No wonder his boisterous young entourage crowded around.
So far director Peter Kosminsky and scriptwriter Peter Straughan have arranged the narrative as, more or less, a series of conversational jousts. It’s like watching a chess grandmaster go around a room playing 20 challengers at once. The spectacle is dizzying, and the acting magnificent. By the end, as Cromwell was sworn into the Privy Council, the prospect loomed of taking God’s vengeance for Wolsey’s humiliation
“There’s no need to trouble God,” he muttered. “I’ll take it in hand.” Be warned. In one beautiful tableau Johane snuffed out a roomful of candles. Next week, it won’t be her doing the snuffing.
We’re into the second week, and deeper into the corridors of power of Wolf Hall, as more and more people are beginning to notice that young buck Cromwell, who is attempting to change the opinion of the royal court.
Now less Jim Dale in Carry On Columbus, more a young Robert Lindsay, stomping the streets of London, hoping to agitate and influence the authority figures. A sort of Citizen Wolfie Hall, if you will. Even the king (Damien Lewis, giving good Henry-stance) can’t always meet his gaze.
As Wolsey begins to die, here are swathes of silence you could sail a royal barge through. This is one of the main draws of Wolf Hall: the watchful glances, acres of dialogue flickering through somebody’s eyes before they decide that they’re going to say something else entirely.
Cromwell (Mark Rylance) continues to move up in the world (and sideways, and forward – always one move at a time, sidestepping bishops but never taking the king – the chess parallels are unavoidable) and proves himself to be a man to watch. Everyone seems to have their eye on him, including the women.
There’s no gas central heating in Cromwell’s time, but it hardly matters: the heat burning off everyone’s tightly bound flirting is enough to burn down a thousand thatched roofs. They want him because he can protect them or piss off the royal family, or occasionally because they genuinely desire him. In the end, Cromwell – a level headed lawyer – makes the entirely rational choice to be ruled by his heart.
It isn’t always clear who’s actually in control in this episode (that Boleyn girl has a commanding head on her shoulders) but for now, Henry continues to reign. Elsewhere, its reigning cats and dogs – and a whole menagerie of other animals, a veritable garden of Eden as Thomas is asked to consider where his loyalties lie (he’s even proffered an apple at one point, just to hammer the idea home).
Cromwell – almost by accident – begins to make himself invaluable to his king. ‘May I speak?’ he asks hesitantly, only to be met with a snort from Henry. ‘God, I wish someone would’, is the reply.
Laced through it all is a black wit. Cromwell dryly comments that an achingly flirtatious chat with Johanne ‘was a conversation that should never have happened’. Things get particularly Shakespearean when the King declares that his has been visited by his deceased father. Cromwell gives it a beat before deadpanning ‘How did he look?’
It’s also fairly classical in the way that major events off-screen are referenced: we’re told of throngs of well-wishers crowding the cardinal, who is as popular as ever with England before being arrested on a trumped up treason charge. Cromwell hides a single tear from view, but is otherwise impassive: ‘I’ve got it in hand’, he murmurs, and it seems a safe bet that those who delivered the Cardinal to hell (or, as it’s called in this episode, The North) will live to regret their actions.
This episode is called ‘Entirely Beloved’, but it might as well be named ‘On The Whim Of A King’.
Compelling, fascinating, and the sort of drama to make you avoid the history books for fear of spoilers.
“powerful chemistry between Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis”
10 things we learned from episode two.
4. Mary Boleyn realises she should have been smarter
The poor old sister of Anne realises that she missed a trick with Henry VIII. Instead of becoming his mistress, she could have been the Queen of England. Oh dear. She’s a bit of a sorry sight when she makes a pass at Cromwell, who duly turns her down for her own good. She’s a fascinating figure, playing second fiddle to her sister, and it’s going to be interesting seeing how she develops.
5. Thomas is actually quite an enlightened man
During the archery scene, Cromwell defends the idea of a women sitting on the throne. Who would have thought he would have supported women’s rights? As we start to get into Wolf Hall, there is more underlying feminism there than we realised.
6. Apparently, you can’t be a widow in the 16th Century for five minutes
He only lost his wife and daughters last week but Cromwell was already getting interrogated by the ruddy-nosed woman about his intentions to marry again. He opted for a mistress instead.
7. Gregory Cromwell is far too proud for his own good
Perhaps it’s just his youth but Cromwell’s son does not come across well. He wanted white hounds instead of black ones because of peer pressure – talk about being a spoilt brat. You get the sense that Cromwell is growing less fond of him.
8. Don’t break off secret engagements – there’ll be hell to pay
Spare a thought for Cardinal Wolsey. He broke off Henry Percy’s engagement to Anne Boleyn years earlier – ever since then Percy has been nursing a grudge. Sadly, before Wolsey met his maker, Percy was arresting him for treason.
9. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you’ll probably like Wolf Hall
Writer George RR Martin was inspired by the court of Henry VIII when he was writing his fantasy novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire. When you start looking, you notice the parallels between Game of Thrones and Wolf Hall – Cromwell and Lord Littlefinger seem to have quite a few things in common.
10. If you’re a fan of The Tudors, you probably won’t like Wolf Hall
Remember The Tudors – that trashy period drama that was full of sex, threw the history book out of the window, and had a laddish Henry VIII played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers? Well, Wolf Hall is nothing like that. The sex has been kept to a minimum while the story follows history a lot more closely.
“Best TV of the year” “Damian Lewis is a quality Henry VIII.”