Pullman’s Dark Materials: prejudice, narrative and the BBC

compassIt’s interesting to read that the BBC plan the filming of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. It’s not going to be the easiest thing to film, not least after the relative flop of The Golden Compass at the cinema, despite some excellent performances.

But in the face of his elegant writing, and often fascinating narrative, I’m one of those who doesn’t quite join the adulatory crowd. I love his development of Lyra and Will in the first two books. I’m fascinated by the way in which he delineates and constructs a world in which GRT peoples are the heroes’ mainstay and assistance. But I think that his anti-religious agenda trumps his plotting by the time the third book in the series arrives. Complex characters give way to simplistic polarities, and under-age sex in the face of adult religious control is presented as the panacea to all the world’s ills.

Dust simply doesn’t make sense, whether within or without the world of the narrative. Rather like the Matrix film trilogy, only far better, HIs Dark Materials disappears up its own arse. Pullman writes con brio, and delineates character with panache. It’s just that somewhere along the line, his ideology takes over from narrative logic. And I can’t help but feel that far too many of his plaudits derive from those who share his prejudice, rather than those who appreciate his literary contribution.

One Reply to “Pullman’s Dark Materials: prejudice, narrative and the BBC”

  1. I get stuck on the analogy of faith and imaginary numbers in book one: the way they don’t seem to follow the rules, and yet they allow us to live in new ways because of them. Esoteric, but it feels both attractive and not quite right at the same time. And you’re absolutely right in the way the series falls apart as the polemicism is further indulged as it goes along!

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