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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

 

Birdsong - Love Conquers War

 

"Birdsong" airs Sunday, April 22nd from 8-9:30pm and Thursday, May 3rd from 9-10:30pm on WTVP-HD.

Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Wraysford

Based on Sebastian Faulks’ international bestseller

 

Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn) and Clémence Poésy (Harry Potter) star as two lovers whose fiery affair precedes the firestorm of World War I, on Birdsong, adapted by screenwriter Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady, Shame) from Sebastian Faulks’ impassioned novel. Birdsong airs in two parts on MASTERPIECE CLASSIC, on Sunday, April 22nd from 8-9:30pm and Thursday, May 3rd from 9-10:30pm on WTVP-HD.

Like Downton Abbey, also seen on MASTERPIECE, Birdsong focuses on romance amid the trauma of Britain’s national tragedy of the 20th century: the Great War. Published in 1993, Birdsong has become modern England’s touchstone to this epochal event.

This stunning adaptation was universally acclaimed during its recent UK broadcast with The Daily Telegraph (London) calling it “a triumph … an elegiac, lyrical film… better than Spielberg's War Horse.” The Observer (England) judged it “that rare thing, a screen adaptation of a book that is not a pale approximation.” The Daily Mail (London) praised the film’s evocation of “the aching horror of war contrasted with the passion and stolen embraces of forbidden love fulfilled.” And The Guardian (London) wrote, “The war scenes are extraordinary … Redmayne and Poésy are perfect together … It gradually builds up to an intensity and power that takes hold of you. Both the war, and the love.”.

The international cast of stars also includes Matthew Goode (Brideshead Revisited), Anthony Andrews (The King’s Speech, Brideshead Revisited), Marie-Josée Croze (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), Joseph Mawle (Murder on the Orient Express), Laurent Lafitte (Little White Lies), and Richard Madden (Great Expectations).

Birdsong opens on the Western Front in 1916, with British Lieutenant Stephen Wraysford (Redmayne) escaping in his memory to a sunny French estate that he visited in 1910 as the guest of textile factory owner René Azaire (Lafitte). The estate is not far from where Stephen is now stationed in a warren of grim trenches. Invited that summer by Azaire to learn about French manufacturing, Stephen was soon hopelessly smitten with the businessman’s much younger wife, Isabelle (Poésy)—and she with him, though barely a word passed between them.

As this flashback unfolds, the two are drawn into a torrid secret affair. Its emotional power and inevitable difficulties later haunt Stephen in the trenches, where his duties take him into one of the most horrific arenas of the war: the tunnels dug under no man’s land toward German lines so that explosives can be placed beneath the enemy.

Dreamlike, Birdsong weaves together the stories of the past and present—each tempestuous in its own way and fated to intersect. At the front, Stephen hears that something big is up from the coldly efficient Captain Gray (Goode), and on the eve of battle the troops are harangued by the deluded Colonel Barclay (Andrews). Stephen’s closest thing to a friend is Captain Weir (Madden), the engineer in charge of tunneling. A working-class digger, Jack Firebrace (Mawle), becomes Stephen’s unlikely soul mate.

The big operation is portended in one of Stephen’s reveries—of a bucolic boating party with Isabelle and her family down a languid French river. The sign next to the river identifies it as the Somme, where in 1916 the British were to suffer their worst one-day combat losses in history.

Birdsong is a Working Title TV and MASTERPIECE Co-production in association with NBC Universal for the BBC. It is adapted by Abi Morgan from the novel by Sebastian Faulks. The director is Philip Martin. The co-producer is Veronica Castillo. The executive producers are Lucy Richer for the BBC, Rebecca Eaton for MASTERPIECE, Sebastian Faulks, Ann Skinner, Simon Relph, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Juliette Howell.

 

 

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About Masterpiece
MASTERPIECE on PBS is presented by WGBH Boston. Rebecca Eaton is executive producer. Funding for MASTERPIECE is provided by Viking River Cruises, with additional support from public television viewers and contributors to The MASTERPIECE Trust, created to help ensure the series’ future. Visit pbs.org/masterpiece for more information about MASTERPIECE and Birdsong.

 

 

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For further information contact Linda Miller, WTVP Vice President of Programming, at (309) 495-0591 or linda.miller@wtvp.org

 


 

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