This is a film I’d been meaning to see for a while. I’m not really sure why, but I assumed it would be the sort of thing that I would enjoy. I think the only reason I thought this was that I’m sure I saw a scene from it somewhere, maybe at my parents’ house, or on the television, and it was the scene in which all the British spies sing along to the Soviet national anthem, along with a ghastly-Lenin-masked man.
I have always particularly enjoyed the Soviet national anthem, and it is so rare to hear it these days–what with the collapse of international communism. Of course, even if soviet communism hadn’t ended, the improvements in Olympic drug testing probably would have more or less ended mainstream television renditions of the anthem in any case. So there’s no point holding it against Gorbachev. Us lovers of anthems were always going to lose.
But, you know, there are some other pretty good anthems. The Star Spangled Banner is a right cracker. It’s a real shame that they always have some sub-Whiteney-Houston X-factor warbler sing it a capella to a tune of their own devising before noteworthy sporting events. What that song needs is horns and a symbol crash. The lyric is strictly optional.
The French and the Italian anthems have some real enjoyable pomp going on. I can get quite happy to that sort of thing–swing my elbows about, grin like an idiot. And the British anthem is hilarious. I would be embarrassed by it, should be in fact, but it’s just so stupid that I can’t help but get up out of my chair and hold my hand on my heart. Who understands these things?
But none of these have anything like the marching, sombre optimism of the Soviet national anthem. I can’t think of any other piece of music more suitable for marching millions of conscripts to death in the cause of the defeat of Nazism. V tragic, like, properly tragic. But if I’m going to die for anything, I’d like to be to aid the destruction of Hitlerism. Click here and think about that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U06jlgpMtQs
Anyway, I haven’t read the book, and I never saw the TV series. I mean, of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which is the subject of this blog. And on the basis of a rousing tune, I decided I had to see it. So the other night, despite there being many excellent titles available on Netflix, more or less for free, I paid £4.49 (in store credit) to stream the movie of TTSS (I’m not typing it out again).
So, basically, it was a treat aesthetically. Everyone enjoys the look of a well done period drama. So that, and all the store credit I’d used, kept me watching. But, and maybe its different if you’ve read the book, I found it pretty difficult to work out what was happening. I got the basics. I knew there was a mole, and whathisname was trying to work out which of the whoshisnames it was. But it packed so much in–there was barely a conversation in the whole thing.
The average scene length was about ten seconds, and featured one sort-of acting face, and maybe a single whispered line of dialogue. I found myself constantly thinking: who is that? What did he say? I think I have below average abilities when it comes to recognising faces, and hearing things people say. I struggle with this IRL as well. And I barely know any actors, which is presumably related to my inability to recognise them. So in a movie like TTSS, with its myriad of similar looking characters, whispering to each other in dark rooms, I really did struggle.
Until I read the wikipedia article afterwards, I never realised the Control was a person (I assumed it was the group of people that met in the windowless orange room), nor that he was dead. So overall, if you haven’t read the book, and struggle to recognise faces, I’d say–probably not worth bothering with this one.
I did like the scene with the ghastly-Lenin impersonator and the Soviet national anthem though. And Kathy Burke was a pleasant surprise. (I do recognise her and Colin Firth by the shapes of their facial features alone.)