The Village is a BBC TV series written by Peter Moffat. The drama is set in a Derbyshire village in the 20th century. The first series of what Moffat hopes will become a 42-hour TV drama was broadcast in spring 2013 and covered the years 1914 to
1920. A second season began
broadcasting on August 10, 2014, and will continue the story into the 1920s.
Future series will be set during the Second World War, post-war Austerity
Britain, and later.
The Village tells the story of life in a Derbyshire village through the eyes of a central character, Bert Middleton. Bert has been portrayed as a boy by Bill Jones, as a teen by Alfie Stewart, as a young man by Tom Varey, and as an old man by David Ryall. John Simm plays Bert's father John Middleton, an alcoholic Peak District farmer, and Maxine Peake plays Bert's mother, Grace. Peake is a preferred actress of the writer, who has called her "the best actress of her generation", and she has featured in two previous Moffat series, Criminal Justice and Silk.
Writer Peter Moffat has spoken of wanting to create 'a British Heimat', alluding to Edgar Reitz's epic German saga Heimat, which followed one extended family in a region of
Rhineland from 1919 to 1982. Unlike
Downton Abbey, this version of history is a working-class
history—"domestics are expected to face the walls when the master walks by"
The first series was filmed in and around Hayfield, Edale, Glossop, Chapel-en-le-Frith and Charlesworth in the Peak District, and in the grounds of
during October to December 2012. The four first episodes were directed by
Antonia Bird, her last work before her death the same year. Cheshire
John Simm used local historian Margaret Wombwell's book Milk, Muck and Memories in his research for how the farmers from the period lived, and Moffat researched locally and at the
We long for a sense of belonging that village life offers
The Observer, Sunday 31 March 2013 / http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/mar/31/why-brits-love-villages
For all that it longs to act as a bracing corrective to ITV's ludicrous Downton Abbey, the BBC's hyped new drama The Village isn't without its share of historical falsehoods. Its characters – we're in 1914 as it begins – talk of women's suffrage and the coming war in a way that you feel real people probably never did (a kind of polarised ping pong over the dinner table), and it seems unlikely that an upper-class young woman would ever have had spur-of-the-moment sex in the bracken with the servant whose job it was to draw her bath.
Nevertheless, as you will find should you watch the first part tonight, it's impossible not to admire the ambition of this show. Peter Moffat, its writer, wants nothing less than to tell the story of the 20th century through the lives of the inhabitants of one tiny Peak District village; the plan is that, future commissioning editors allowing, The Village will eventually comprise some 42 hours of television.
He has, he says, written an "ordinary epic", a narrative that is determined to be interested in life as it is lived. Given the way that television works these days, this is brave-bordering-on-foolhardy.
intercourse apart, such quotidian rhythms are going to require more than a
little patience on the part of the audience.
Moffat's bosses at the BBC, of course, will be betting on viewers swooning contentedly at the sight of clouds scudding over Edale and Hayfield, the Derbyshire villages where it is filmed, even if they aren't absolutely gripped by its plot. And not without reason. Our love of the idea of the village, if not the reality, shows no sign of letting up. We cleave to it through thick and thin, for all that most of us live in cities and suburbs; for all that so many villages now have only half-lives, thanks to second-home owners and post office closures.
Last week, much of the news was frantically metropolitan: Boris Johnson in Islington, David Miliband in Primrose Hill, Pippa Middleton and her sushi notionally at the offices of Waitrose Kitchen magazine in Ladbroke Grove. All the same, we also learned both the best place (supposedly) for rural living in England (the villages of the borough of Waverley in Surrey, according to the Halifax), and that the long-standing editor of The Archers, Vanessa Whitburn, has decided to move on – and I bet you a million pounds that it was these stories that were the more resonant for most people. Boris Johnson is endlessly entertaining but he is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a balm for the soul.
Novelists and dramatists tend to talk of villages as microcosms; the universal emotions are all there, but helpfully boundaried and with some pretty scenery to boot. Property writers, on the other hand, purr seductively over quality of life: villages are safe, and near good schools, and the air is clean.
Of course I understand both of these arguments. I like Barbara Pym and the thought of being able to leave my back door open as much as the next woman. But neither one of them truly explains the enduring fascination of villages for the kind of people who would feel buried alive if they actually had to live in one. I'm the sort of a person, literally and metaphorically, who needs to know that I can buy a paper and a pint of milk at any time of day or night. So why is it that when I'm anxious about work and life, I lie on my bed and picture myself walking across the green of a small village in
? What is it that my heart is
seeking as I turn myself into a human version of Google Earth? County Durham
My own hunch is that this longing is to do with sense of place, a connectedness that is increasingly elusive in our cities, which all look alike, and whose inhabitants come from everywhere and nowhere.
Peter Moffat has strained his every sinew not to gild his fictional village with what he has called a "Ready Brek glow": crops fail, families go hungry, and a scrap of tripe in milk is thought a feast fit for a king. It's no bucolic idyll. But even so, the romantic in him won't, or can't, dispense with the idea of the bond between his characters and their land.
In the first episode, John Middleton (John Simm), a struggling farmer, forces his small son Joe – a boy unwilling to work in the fields – to stare at the flag floor of the family kitchen and consider its ancient dips. By the door and the hearth, it curves steeply, worn down by the feet of many generations. Beneath the dining table, however, there is no slope, for this piece of furniture is never moved, and meals are eaten quickly, being only fuel. I didn't believe John's speech as a piece of realism but I felt its power as poetry.
We city dwellers, for all that we might cherish the sound of police sirens and hard-braking buses, are just so much flotsam and jetsam.
the city where I have lived for 20 years, has swallowed me up. But being
invisible isn't the same as belonging. London
Do politicians watch any television apart from the odd box set of The West Wing and Borgen? My strong guess, having interviewed dozens of the breed, is that they don't. But we must hope that a few do at least try The Village, a series that is political in the very broadest sense of the word. Our politicians need to get back in touch with the emotional ties between town and country as a matter of some urgency.
For far too long, they have divided people into "urban" and "rural" and, having counted the relevant heads, made policy decisions based on the conviction that city types, who comprise the bigger, louder group, simply don't care what happens in the countryside (we see this most recently in this government's disastrously haphazard and wilfully ignorant new planning regime, which favours greenfield development over brownfield).
This is madness, and it will bite them on the bum in the end. And just to flip the argument over: understanding why people in Birmingham and Newcastle and Sheffield never miss The Archers, and spend a few minutes of every working day staring dreamily at village houses on the Rightmove website, should be the bottom line for those of our politicians who hope to make Britain's cities less dysfunctional (assuming such creatures do exist). For it's only by discovering what it is that so many of us are missing that we will have any hope at all of making our home towns better places – happier places – to live.
The Village: the most accomplished new drama of the year so far
Ben Lawrence is very impressed by the first episode of The Village, BBC One's epic new period drama.
By Ben Lawrence10:05PM BST 31 Mar 2013 / http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/tv-and-radio-reviews/9961922/The-Village-the-most-accomplished-new-drama-of-the-year-so-far.html
In television drama, rural poverty doesn’t exist. Grim urban reality is one thing, but when it comes to the countryside, there is a need for reassurance, cosiness and, that dreaded word, heritage.
At first, it seemed that The Village (BBC One) would be a paean to our rural past. As present day centenarian Bert (played by David Ryall) reflected on his childhood and the day in 1914 when the first bus came to his small Derbyshire community, it felt certain that the next hour would play out like an extended Hovis advertisement. However, things soon became strange, poetic, ugly and dark in the most accomplished new drama of the year so far.
The lens in Peter Moffat’s six-part series is young Bert (an astonishingly assured performance from 12-year-old Bill Jones) and in the first episode, we saw him navigate a pretty wretched existence: frequently beaten at school for writing with his left hand, tormented at home by his angry, embittered father (John Simm) whose crop failure on their small farm was a metaphor for his failure as a human being. Small comforts for the boy came from his kind, quiet mother (Maxine Peake), determined that her children escape to a better life and from his adored older brother Joe (Nico Mirallegro) who went to work at the “big house” and, by the end of the episode, was marching to war, and possibly to a premature, heroic death.
When The Village slipped occasionally into period cliché (the solitary drinking of John, a dinner-party conversation about suffragism in which each person was strategically placed to offer a different point of view), it was saved by imaginative dialogue, and odd, unexpected resolutions.
Real effort has been made to create an authentic community. We witnessed conversations about mortality in a women’s bathhouse. We saw muscular Christianity visited on the village children by a buttoned-up, sadistic teacher who had failed to get enlisted on account of his low height. Most importantly, The Village refused to foist contemporary relevance on its audience. This was drama as history where the past is definitely another country.
On the strength of the first episode, The Village marks a much-needed return to intelligent populism for BBC One drama. And Moffat, who has already shown considerable talent with Criminal Justice, has just proven that he is one of the most imaginative and important writers working in television today.