Pillars of the Earth – The Miniseries

August 24th, 2010

Has anyone been watching The Pillars of the Earth mini-series on Starz or Netflix or some other network?  I’ve been keeping up with the latest installments via my best friend Netflix and with each episode I grow more and more dissatisfied.

I loved the book and the subsequent World Without End and wrote a post about both books.  I was really looking forward to watching the movie adaptation.  I remember the book was filled with plenty of debauchery and debasement with an extraordinarily evil villian (William),  but I also remember absolutely loving Jack and feeling like he was the very heart of the story.  In the film version – William is a quavering boy who operates at his mother’s beck and call and Jack is a distant, mute figure whose artistic endeavors seem leaden and uninspired.  I think the film was made off of an outline of the book rather than a true understanding of the characters.

And quite honestly – after Tom Builder was killed (played so gorgeously by Rufus Sewell) I have had a hard time staying interested.

And how exactly can one mention Rufus Sewell without referring to the greatest movie ever made?

Cold Comfort Farm.

Now, whoever made that film, based on the superb book by Stella Gibbons – got it absolutely right.

Pillars of the Earth however, is much better as a book – at least in my opinion.  What do you think?


  • Sue from UK:

    Hi Rechelle,

    That film was produced byt he BBC and Thames television and shown first on BBC TV in Britain.

    As well as Rufus Sewell it had some very big British names in it – Ian McKellen, Eileen Atkins (from Cranford), Kate Beckinsale, Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous) and Stephen Fry (brilliant polymath who appeared as a psychiatrist in Bones).

    I loved Pillars of the Earth so I won’t be looking out for the film.

  • I didn’t think the book was all that incredible, though I did enjoy it well enough and was looking forward to the movie adaptation. Unfortunately, I just thought the movie was cheesy and shallow and often missed the point. I fell asleep midway though and probably won’t bother to re-watch later. May not even bother with trying to watch the other installments.

  • I agree!

  • Carol:

    I too, am disappointed in the miniseries. I’ve only seen 2 episodes, and I am finding it hard to muster the enthusiasm to watch more. The book remains one of the best I’ve ever read. This happened when they tried to make a mini series of The Mists of Avalon, too. Props for trying, but really, don’t do it if you’re not going to do it right mini series writers.

  • Lois:

    Oh no! Thanks for the warning, Rachelle. I will no longer grieve that I don’t have Starz. I hate it when movie makers don’t get the book right. Garn, garn, garn.

  • Loved the book. Have not seen the movie.

  • Mo:

    I have not read the book, but I like to be entertained with a new story (as opposed to comparing book version to movie version) so I was looking forward to just sitting back and letting it wash all over me. I think I’ve only watched 3 or 4 episodes and am underwhelmed. And now that you said Tom Builder bites it, the only way I’ll ever finish watching is if I’m sick in bed and too weak to care about reaching the clicker.

    Ok it’s not THAT bad, but it’s also nowhere near as good as it could and should have been.

  • Liz:

    I read the book earlier this year. It has all the ingredients to make a great miniseries so what a wasted opportunity if it has not been well done. (I have not seen any of it). While it was a fantastically crafted story, I remember wincing at the vivid rape scenes (3 I believe) and wondered at the time whether the author got some sick sense of pleasure in the very graphic details. I guess that was just business as usual in those days and no medieval historical novel is without its fair share of scenes of such debauchery.

  • off topic, but we SO tried to find the book version (is there one?) of Cold Comfort Farm and ended up seeing the movie. Ada Doom’s “I saw something NAH-sty in the woodshed” and the reply “but did it see you?”…and so many of the other quotes made that one of the quirkiest and fun movies we’ve seen in a while :)

  • kimj:

    Seth!! “Highly sexed young men living on farms are always called Seth or Reuben.”

  • keza:

    Damn, was about to watch it – just for the Rufus and Ian McShane factors. McShane always plays the best villains (Swearengen in Deadwood in particular).

    What the heck, might give it a go until Rufus gets knocked off, just to watch him all brooding and medieval. That man wears historical costume like no other = from cold comfort farm to Charles the II.

  • Kim:

    I am a full time teacher and graduate student. Having never read the book in the past and presently not having the time, I decided to go for it and just watch the miniseries. (My husband read the book years ago and highly recommends it to me).

    At first, I poked fun at the cheese factor present throughout the movie. I found the Jack character annoying as others above have described. Until…I got a few episodes in, and the series had me hooked.

    Last night, we finished the series, and I had to really stop myself from crying when the music in the end swells up as we view modern-day Kingsbridge Cathedral.

    Now I am going to make the time to read the book. This little taste has hooked me.

    I highly recommend the miniseries to anyone who has not read the book. Recognize that it’s romance with some cheesiness, and have a great time.

  • velvet animus:

    TWENTY MINUTES into the starz miniseries and I doubt I will go any further…Why couldn’t the director have actually READ the book before embarking into a butchered version of the story? I believe the mini series had great potential given follett’s groundwork (I mean, come on, the hard part of writing it had been done already). In the words of Ellen,”Piss on that”.

  • Cacklin Rose:

    We have to be best friends now. Cold Comfort Farm is my favorite movie. “WE KNOW. IT HAPPENED IN THE WOODSHED!!!” Love your reviews.