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Date: 2020-03-14 22:20:02
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Reviewing a series like I Tudors - Scandali a corte, today, can have the effect of a time machine; and not only for the narrative material of the historical drama co-produced by the American Showtime, the Canadian CBC and the Working Title, which transports the viewer to the England of the sixteenth century (or rather, an England reworked based on our imagery linked to history of that period). Almost ten years after its original airing, in fact, I Tudors (the terrible S, traced from the English plural, was a touch of tackiness of the Italian adapters) constitutes a testimony of a certain model of fiction: a model that, while on the one hand it still appears to be tied to the conventions of the classic television feuilleton, on the other it has had the merit of helping to revive interest in the history of the Renaissance and its most famous - and notorious - dynasties among the general public.
The success of The Tudors, which in April 2007 made its debut excellent ratings at Showtime in the USA, to land a few months later with great pomp also on the British BBC, would in fact have paved the way, in the following years, for a another co-production between Great Britain and the United States, I Borgia, made by Neil Jordan along the same lines as I Tudors, but with an overall higher level of writing and staging, while in the coming months it is coming to Italian TV and European Doctors: Masters Of Florence, this time of Italian setting, with Richard Madden and Dustin Hoffman within the cast.
Henry VIII returns to TV
Meanwhile, the summer return of The Tudors on the small screen - from this Wednesday in the late evening on TV8 with the episodes of the first season - offers us the opportunity to recall the series played by a young Jonathan Rhys Meyers and focused on the figure of the sovereign who it would have been remembered essentially for two reasons: the schism of the Anglican Church by the Catholic Church, following the wave of the Protestant Reformation which had already put the authority of the throne of Peter on a half continent into crisis; and his disquieting tendency to resort to the practice of ultra-murder, coming to collect a total of six wives over time. We then follow the main ingredients of a series that, over four seasons, has collected six Emmy Awards by virtue of its sumptuous technical reconstruction and has brought back the loves and betrayals, crimes and misdeeds of one of the most important characters iconic of English history.
At the Tudor court: History as a show
At the helm of I Tudors, in the role of creator, screenwriter, executive producer and showrunner, there is the Englishman Michael Hirst, one of the leading names of British TV in the field of historical fiction. Moreover, in 1998 Hirst had already signed the screenplay for Elizabeth, the highly appreciated film by Shekhar Kapur on the rise to power of Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry VIII; The film, starring the emerging star Cate Blanchett, had proved to be one of the biggest hits of the year (Kapur and Hirst would later resume the story of the life of the Virgin Queen in 2007 with the less successful Elizabeth: The Golden Age). And Michael Hirst, after rereading the parable of Elizabeth I according to the canons of the Spanish tragedy, has applied a very similar approach also for his portrait of Henry VIII in I Tudors: that is, History (with a capital S) as a grandiose show based on passions and blood.
So far from a certain "old school" academism, Hirst presses as much as possible on the pedal of sensationalism, sparing no twists, plots, duels, attractions, infidelities and all the typical elements of the feuilleton. The Tudors therefore gains in rhythm and tension what they lose in historical accuracy (the 'purists' have not always been tender towards the reconstruction carried out by the series) and psychological depth: its essence consists in an amalgam between melodrama and soap opera , the family drama and the tragedy of power, in which the primary objective is to keep the public's attention and curiosity awake by any means.
Passions and betrayals
And among the means used by the series in order to offer a narrative that is as tense and intriguing as possible, the loving - and erotic - component obviously holds a prominent place. If in these years the Game of Thrones has never failed to be talked about thanks to its daring amalgamation between gloom, violence and eroticism, in 2007 the Tudors already offered viewers a quantity of scenes 'pushed' far superior to the media of television serial products. After all, with a view to describing the noble courts of the sixteenth century as places of debauchery and unbridled libertine, it is difficult to miss the opportunity to represent the exhausting passions of Henry VIII and his courtiers, starting from the repeated betrayals of the sovereign, subjugated by the charm of Anna Boleyn, to the detriment of his wife Catherine of Aragon. Even then, The Tudors caused a stir for the numerous sex scenes between the various characters and for the frequent nudes of its actors; although, after a few years, the glossy eroticism of the Hirst series already appears dated when compared to the uninhibited full frontal with which Game of Thrones abounds.
Henry VIII by Jonathan Rhys Meyers
For a series entirely based on the life of Henry VIII, that for the role of the King of England was the fundamental casting choice, on which the success of the series would depend; and in this sense the producers showed a remarkable acumen, hiring one of the emerging stars of the cinema of the beginning of the millennium, the Irish Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Twenty-nine at the time of the filming of the first season, Jonathan Rhys Meyers had seen his popularity explode a couple of years earlier thanks to the success of one of the most acclaimed films of Woody Allen's recent production, Match Point, a moral drama with thriller implications in to which Rhys Meyers played the role of an ambiguous and seductive social climber. Before that, the Irish actor had already given an amazing performance in 1998, at the age of twenty, in the role of a glam rock star in Todd Haynes' Velvet Goldmine, before acting in films such as Dreaming Beckham and Alexander.
Reduce from Match Point and from the participation in the blockbuster Mission: Impossible III, thanks to I Tudors Rhys Meyers would have gathered great visibility also among the television audience. His portrayal of Henry VIII as an impulsive, arrogant and determined young ruler, as well as an unstoppable womanizer, was the trump card of the series: not so much because it is an excellent proof of the actor, but because Rhys Meyers shows off the charisma and magnetism suitable for 'his' indomitable Enrico. Since then the actor's career, undermined by constant alcoholism problems, has known lower than high, including in 2013 the eponymous role in the mediocre TV series Dracula (truncated after just one season); and who knows if it will be the part of the legendary Joe Strummer in the forthcoming film London Town to bring the ex-sex symbol with green eyes to the crest of the wave.
A cast of veterans and future known faces
Next to Jonathan Rhys Meyers, absolute star of the series, The Tudors has fielded a very varied cast, in which some actors with a solid reputation stood out alongside a handful of young actors, some of whom, a few years later, would have become famous for other roles. First, Jeremy Northam, who for the first two seasons lent his face to another major figure in British history, Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of the Kingdom, who would have clashed with Henry VIII on the break with the Church catholic. Among the actors who, for a season, have appeared in the series we find Sam Neill in the role of Cardinal Thomas Wosley, gray eminence of the sovereign, the legendary Peter O'Toole in those of Pope Paul III Farnese, Max von Sydow in the role of the Cardinal German Otto of Waldburg and Joely Richardson in that of Catherine Parr, Henry's sixth and last wife.
The interpreter of Anna Boleyn, lover and second consort of the King, was entrusted to the young Natalie Dormer, who would later be noticed in the Hunger Games saga and, more recently, in the part of Margaery Tyrell in The throne of swords. The British pop star Joss Stone played Queen Anne of Clèves, but among the "new levers" the one who, since then, has seen her career take off - literally, since we are talking about the new Superman - is Henry Cavill, who starred in The Tudors from the beginning of the series (when he was only twenty-three) to the end in the role of Charles Brandon, Henry VIII's handsome and proud brother-in-law, as well as the other aspiring "alpha male" at the English court .
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