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Miss Marple: The Body in the Library (1984)
Director: Giorgi Ovashvili

Amateur detective Miss Jane Marple investigates the murder of a young woman whose body is found in the library at Gossington Hall, home of Colonel and Mrs. Arthur Bantry.

Miss Marple: The Body in the Library (1984)

The Switch

Detective mysteries are one of the most lavishly adventuresome experiences in literature, if one is interested in how narratives are constructed. The contract between reader and writer is rather complex, often involving virtual contracts with some of the characters as well. Christie is a master of these tricks.

Christie and Sayers usually put a character in the story to denote this ambiguity of realities: either a writer or a moviemaker. Here it is a movie fellow. (In “Death in the Clouds” it was a detective writer with a multiple personality disorder, and one of the persons was the fictional detective!)

The BBC takes all these intellectual adventures, all these notions of multiple parallel realities and flattens them to productions of lush setting and colorful characters. A real shame and we shouldn’t put up with it.

But in this case at least, we have two redeeming qualities: the first is the way the director has chosen to handle the staging. It is remarkably intelligent: many of the perspectives use very creative camera perspectives. Lots of the talky recounting sessions are very cleverly presented, most notably that of the dance partners, which we see over and over. Each time is slightly but significantly different.

Which brings us to the other asset. Trudie Styler, whose assertive, confident presence is a perfect counterpoint to Hickson’s practiced withdrawal.

The technical aspects of the story are interesting as well. Old detective stories were of the form: a body is discovered in a manor and the inhabitants are the suspects. The impossibility of who did it and how is the game. Here, the rules of the game are all adjusted. Many people do not know the others. The place and body are usually the anchor of such stories. Everything must tie to that navel. Here that anchor is cleverly fooled with.

Posted in 2003

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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