The Devil’s Whore entertains…for half an hour

November 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews








THE DEVIL’S WHORE, C4, Wednesday 26th November 9.00pm Alert Me

I am not, I should admit, a big fan of period drama. I find the attempts of modern screenwriters to emulate the language of the old masters are usually asinine and badly pitched, full of stunted dialogue and stifled action with everything veiled in frustrating restraint. Devil’s Whore is, to some extent at least, an exception. It’s dirty, gritty and full of barely supressed anger which seeps out at the seams. Whilst the language remains archaic, it also seems more human and more properly pitched for each character rather than being a blanket of sirs and madams. Occasionally the grand speeches which creep from these old English lips can seem a little out of place, and it’s hard to believe that “Honest John” would be so eloquent, but they are never overlong and keep the plot tied together rather than being loose and unfocussed.

Andrea Riseborough vibrates with frustration at her status as a high-born woman, and there’s a touching (but not, thank god, saccharine) scene in which she and Thomas Rainsborough – played with some distinction by Michael Fassbender, fresh off the back of playing Bobby Sands in Steve McQueen’s remarkable Hunger – bring the delicately, inextricably intertwined nature of liberty and privelege to light, and it seems as relevant now as ever. What’s more remarkable still is that the Devil’s Whore is not a classic bodice ripper, despite the numerous bosoms piled into tightened corsets, and the equally numerous sex scenes. What distinguishes the Devil’s Whore is that the sex seems real – it’s not the passionate, rip-the-clothes-off-my-back type but nor is it overly sensuous. Instead it seems affectionate and fun, which instantly strips the scenes of the heavy quality that period nudity tends to carry with it.

There are elements which are less impressive in the Devil’s Whore, however. Due, I suppose, to budget limitations, all exterior urban shots are too close and claustrophobic so as to limit the amount of set we need to see, but it also makes it harder to suspend our modern perspective and immerse ourselves in the world the Devil’s Whore is trying to build. Worse still, one of the key catalysts for much of Riseborough’s character’s actions is a ridiculous, computer generated, shimmering devil. For 30 minutes I could almost believe that this is how people spoke and behaved during the Civil War, but any remaining speck of belief was dashed with this ridiculous special effect. Why ruin what was shaping up to be a decent hour of entertainment with such a hackneyed gimmick?

By Chris Harding