• Title: Wolf Hall
  • Director: Peter Kosminsky
  • Released: 2015

Wolf Hall is the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, the historical novels by Hilary Mantel.

Wolf Hall has 6 episodes. The plot follows the social, political and religious turmoil caused by King Henry VIII’s desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn instead, breaking from the Catholic Church and founding the Church of England. The protagonist is Thomas Cromwell, lawyer and chief minister to the King.

 I was really excited to watch Wolf Hall, having been given the book for Christmas, later reading its sequel, Bring Up The Bodies, and then receiving the DVD as a birthay present last month. I struggled through the books, if I’m honest, and I hoped that the TV adaptation would help me understand the characters, context and plot further.

Mark Rylance played Thomas Cromwell well, although I thought at times the dialogue sounded almost slurred, which was odd. Through body language and dialogue, he effectively recreated the sassiness of Cromwell which Mantel portays in her books.

However, I wasn’t convinced by Damian Lewis’s portayal of King Henry; he didn’t have a loud or powerful voice like I expected and I don’t feel like he was as present as he was in the books. I really liked the portayal of Anne, by Claire Foy – which I hadn’t when I was reading the books, and by the end of the series I truly felt sorry for her.

Overall, I think Wolf Hall did compact the narrative well and make Mantel’s plot easier to understand, as well as the historical context.

Yet, some episodes seemed more interesting than others – the first episode or two seemed quite drawn out and lacked any “action”, whereas the later episodes where more gripping as we reached the climax between Henry and Anne’s marriage, and the increasing interest in Jane Seymour (played by Kate Phillips).

I also found the jumps in narrative confusing; various flashbacks, flash-forwards and dream scenes were included within the main narrative and sometimes it wasn’t clear whether it was a dream, a flashback, or part of the current narrative.

Each episode relied heavily on dialogue, so it felt like you always had to be paying attention, and this made it difficult to watch an entire episode in one go.

However, the most exciting part of Wolf Hall for me was that it was filmed at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, a beautiful location I was fortunate enough to visit on my summer holiday this year. To watch the TV series and see the beautiful, archaic rooms and gardens on the screen – knowing you’ve stood there too –felt almost magical!

On the whole, I think Wolf Hall is a well-made TV series. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, or you just want to experience something more of Tudor history, then you’ll really enjoy it.

If you want to know more about the locations used in Wolf Hall, you can go here:

That’s all for now!

– Judith

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4 thoughts on “Film Review: Wolf Hall

  1. This is interesting – I felt when I watched Wolf Hall that it’s best if you have some knowledge of the history. I haven’t read the book, but the Tudors are a big interest of mine so I know the story well, but I remember thinking that I’d find the TV adaptation of the book a bit confusing if I didn’t!

    To be honest, I think a good way of understanding the characters better is to watch the Showtime series The Tudors. James Frain is a wonderful Cromwell. I know it’s been slammed as being too Hollywoodised and factually incorrect at times, but parts of it are marvellous.

    I liked Damian Lewis as Henry – I thought he was suitably self-congratulatory, self-obsessed and charismatic. But that may be because I love Damian Lewis, full stop! I thought Rylance was excellent as Cromwell. Oh, and this is the first time I have ever heard Thomas Cromwell described as ‘sassy’ – I love it!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment Terry! When I read the book, Cromwell’s sassiness is what immediately stood out for me – his dialogue, body language, and the narration style all added to this. I did feel intrigued by The Tudors (I know how strongly you feel about this time period too) but then I still feel daunted by the idea of historical fiction! I know a secondary school outline of the Tudors, but I feel like sometimes historical fiction can get too bogged down in politics and facts, which ruins the fiction aspect. I did do some research to understand Wolf Hall when reading the book, and that definitely paid off, but I wouldn’t seek to do tonnes of research before reading or watching something because then that would spoil the enjoyment of it, and I’d see it more like a study programme or a chore! 🙂

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  2. I’m a huge, huge fan of shows produced by the BBC (for me it instantly screams “quality”) so I’m always looking for new suggestions. I’m not familiar with the originals so I can’t compare it to anything if I do end up watching it but it does sound quite interesting to me. I love historical dramas so I think it might be right up my alley. I am (was?) a massive fan of The Musketeers and was so sad when I heard it wasn’t getting a 4th season. Good to see there’s still good stuff for me to watch. Anyhow, great read.

    Would you be interested in sharing your work on Moviepilot/Creators? Feel free to shoot me an e-mail so I can expand on that. I’d love to hear from you. My contact details are on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for getting in touch! I’ll have a look at your site in a bit 😊 I’m a huge fan of BBC productions too – particularly when I’ve watched ITV book-to-film adaptations or dramas, I know exactly what you mean about “quality”!

      Liked by 1 person

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