Thursday, 10 May 2012

Scene 14: A Review of Medieval Lives

So, a couple of things, first of all this blog post is very late and I am sorry, but I have been very busy. Secondly, I have just realised that I managed to skip from post eight to ten in my scene numbering system, so technically this is post thirteen! 

Last weekend I watched the entire series of called Terry Jones' Medieval Lives hosted, obviously, by the former Python Terry Jones. 

It was an excellent series, I think, for several reasons. First of all it had a good series premises/structure, which was to take a stereotype of the medieval era, such as the Monk or the Knight, and then challenge the viewers preconceptions. Taking each role in this way gave each episode a strong focus, and at the same time meant Terry Jones could then use the lives of each character to explore the aspects of the medieval world related to them - for example when he looked at the Philosopher he also explored the general medieval attitude to science. 

Secondly, the series was played with a good balance of visual fun and actual historical information. Terry Jones' dresses as each role for the beginning introduction to each episode, and his dressed-up antics are then used as cut aways during later scenes. There are also cut aways using animated medieval pictures that move in jerky cut out movements - giving the programme a little bit Monty Python-esque feel. 

However, at the same time Terry Jones does know what he is talking about, yes there is humour in his presenting style, but he also come across as someone who knows his subject, and he is interested in it. 

On the whole I found the series a very accessible way to learn about the period. The only minor complaint being that I thought one or two of the cutaways seemed a bit quick and a bit unnecessary. 

For those of you studying media/film/tv I'd like to mention another medieval documentary, called Inside the Medieval Mind, that I have now started watching, which makes a good comparison point for Medieval Lives in terms of what each documentary is aiming at in terms of style and audience. 

Inside the Medieval Mind, though I have only seen five minutes of it so far, is obviously aimed at a more adult audience, and comes across as serious and dramatic. The cutaway footage used is tinted in darker shades, there are shots of threatening skies and shadows are used several times. Meanwhile the approach of Medieval Lives of course is one of fun, and therefore more suitable for a family. It has a light-hearted approach, without loss of information. 

In summary, a good example of a fun, family-friendly documentary that does teach you something. 

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