Tuesday 13 September 2016

Le Carre On Screen (2) - Simon Taaffe selects Guinness, Arthur Hopcraft and John Irvin

Title credit for the BBC adaptation
My favourite John Le Carré adaptation is the BBC’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979), 7 episodes, all directed by John Irvin. I saw it for the first time in 2010 in the current binge method of let’s watch one more episode, it’s only 2am, rather than every Tuesday at 8-30pm for seven weeks. I wonder is one better than the other?
The mini-series length allowed the spycraft – where the smallest details are potentially significant, they accumulate and fit together, and those that don’t fit lead George Smiley to the traitor – to be set out in a slowly escalating, tense manner. It’s helped by Alec Guinness as George Smiley who plays it somewhere upstream from inscrutable as he works out the identity of the traitor. I had a look online and David Denby, who saw it in 2012, has written well about it in The New Yorker here

Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation has a couple of other telling, different details: a mother and child, or only a child (?) are caught in the crossfire of the first failed mission and George Smiley tells Peter Guillam, his assistant in tracking down the traitor, to get rid of anyone who might make him vulnerable. The next scene is Peter Guillam telling his male lover to leave without offering an explanation. These strike me as good, indicative details of the Le Carré world.

Simon Taaffe is a professional bookseller, book dealer and valuer. He edits online catalogues of quality used volumes for Badger Books

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