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Agatha Christie's Poirot

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Agatha Christie's Poirot Empty Agatha Christie's Poirot

Post by Admin on Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:05 am

after the cups, the marmalade, the tea / among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me
July 23rd, 2011 (01:18 pm)

This week we watched "After the Funeral," an episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot. For those of you who didn't spend third grade writing rip-offs of Murder on the Orient Express, Hercule Poirot is the lead character in most of Agatha Christie's mysteries. He's a private detective with great pride in his Belgian heritage, great powers of observation, and a few charming idiosyncrasies -- he's sort of like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Lieutenant Colombo, plus a funny little mustache. But we didn't undertake to watch this episode because I was feeling nostalgic. We watched it because it features Michael Fassbender. And then we watched it again.

"After the Funeral," is really just your average drawing room mystery drama -- all intricate details and red herrings. It's far too convoluted for your average American audience, of course, and to try to explain here. What you really need to know is that Fassbender's part blew me away.

Fassbender plays George Abernethie, who is characterized early on as "a bit wild." (By which they clearly mean rakish and hot.) He is also the favored nephew of Richard Abernethie, an elderly man with a fortune but no children. When Richard dies suddenly, but not unexpectedly, everyone in the extended family is certain George will inherit his estate. So imagine their surprise when they find that George has supposedly been written out of Richard's will altogether. Then, the day after the funeral, Richard's sister is brutally murdered and everyone in the family is a suspect. Enter Poirot. (George is the only family who recognizes Poirot by reputation, btw. That's neither here nor there, but my heart soared.)

As one member in a very large supporting cast, Fassbender drifts on and off screen, but we clearly see that poor George is troubled, and you get the sense it's not just because he's been disinherited. He quarrels with his mother, drinks himself into oblivion, and trades barbs with his cousin Susannah. And, oh, Susannah. Susannah volunteers with the church, on a mission to help orphans in Bechuanaland (aka Botswana), living quite the opposite life from George's days at the track and nights drinking. They snipe at each other -- he calls her a prude, she scolds him for, well, being himself -- but there's something suspicious between them. Something we're kept guessing at until the very end. Except I'm going to tell you what it is right now:


They are cousins and they totally got it on. (Okay, okay, I know that's not so out-there an idea for the British, but "After the Funeral" is set in the late 1940s -- incest was surely falling out of fashion by then.) Interestingly, this little incestuous intrigue was not part of Christie's novel. It was written specifically for this production, to eliminate another, even more complex story line. So, score another for Michael Fassbender choosing to play a character with a dark side/secret.

And he really just brings it to this random little domestic murder drama. It's incredible acting from him -- all in small gestures, meaningful looks and aborted lines, bleary-eyed grief and dead-cold anger. I won't be spoiling the main plot (erm, much) to tell you that poor George has had his life turned upside down by more than just this funeral. As [info]mattie4 pointed out, there's no such thing as "favored nephews" in British drama, only illegitimate sons, and indeed this is the case with George Abernethie. So George is (1) irate with his mother for having lied to him his entire life (his mother was married to Richard's long-deceased younger brother, btw -- there's no incest there, at least), (2) doubly broken up about Richard's death, (3) thinks he is responsible for Richard's death, having shouted at Richard about the situation just the day before he died, and (4) totally in love with his cousin Susannah, who sleeps with him but then pushes him away and buries herself in missionary work out of grief and guilt, even though she loves him too. (Gaah, it's so wrong, but I'm actually such a sucker for this dynamic that I don't even care. Theirloveissostarcrossed. Also: no wonder he's drinking himself under the table.)

Fassbender balances all this angst while keeping up a playboy veneer and even slipping in moments of genuine tenderness (oh, oh, like when he reaches for Susannah's hand at the end, and she shoves him off! oh, my heart!). It's amazing. Hell, it's down right mesmerizing. Whoever directed this knew precisely what they were working with because there are times the camera absolutely cradles him, training in on his long fingers, big sad eyes, and all those gorgeously sharp angles. The good news about the incest is that we got more Michael Fassbender naked! Waist-up naked, which is still enough to nearly stop your heart (or at least make you pause the video to deeper appreciate, which I maybe did a half dozen times), combined with some lovely kissing. And lovely arms. Ooh, and before all that, there's a scene of him waking up on a park bench in a stupor where he may as well be naked he's so damn sexy -- the man has possibly the world's most perfect ass, even those high-waisted 1940s pants can't hide it. Overall, let's call it a 48% on the how-naked-is-he? scale.

Anyway, despite being a skeezy rake, George becomes the emotional center of the story. At the very end we leave off with him, just one small man against the backdrop of this gigantic estate, watching his family -- including Susannah -- drive away. And here's this man, [info]nefariousginger said, who has everything a young man about town could want and yet he has nothing because he doesn't have her. MY HEART, IT IS BROKEN.

For kicks, here's George and his cousin lover. Actually, you know what? I'm just going to link you to screen caps of the whole damn thing. Here, share in George's manpain (and revel in the sets of suspenders!).

One more thing! There's an actual line, delivered by the butler, about how the vicar came for tea the day before Richard died. All I could think, of course, was "More tea, vicar?" Heh.

Oh, and Michael Fassbender also says the word "tuppence." That's apropos of nothing, but it made me giggle.

I want you to know I tried very hard not to gush. It's not my fault it didn't work.

crossposted to dreamwidth

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