[Review] BBC’s Casanova (2005)

cast: Peter O’Toole , David Tennant, Rose Byrne, Rupert Penry-Jones, Matt Lucas, Shaun Parkes, Nina Sosanya, Laura Fraser

directed by: Sheree Folkson

“You would make the finest husband, Giacomo, but you were never meant to be someone’s wife”

I have many guilty pleasures when it comes to movies and TV shows but there’s something in my heart and mind each and every I stumble upon a British production. Russell T. Davies “Casanova” is one of those series that lingered and showed its head every once in a blue moon. It’s witty, funny, it breaks your heart and leaves you thinking. It’s a rare jewel and not just for the thinking part. Leaves you thinking of what? Of David Tennant being a better choice than Heath Ledger? Yes, Tennant is better than Ledger and this mini-series makes Lasse Hallstrom “Casanova” effort feel like a meal one prays to forget and wash his palate, shuddering from the memory.

What’s all the fuss about a mini-series? Well, legend goes that Russell T. Davies was very impressed by David Tennant’s acting, so impressed that he cast him as the Tenth Doctor. You know as in Doctor Who.

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Davies was enthusiastic to pen a script following Casanova’s memoirs going for what many left as a side dish, the man behind the legend, the trials, the tribulations, the demons tormenting this character. This is were Hallstrom failed to deliver, he put on the show, the glamour, the sensuality but he left behind the heart. Davies picked up the challenge and Tennant poured his heart, wits and soul in the performance without making it look like a struggle. Imagine being cast as the younger version of Casanova, the older version being portrayed by Sir Peter O’Toole. Now put Tennant and O’Toole in the same movie and let them go wild.

“Casanova” doesn’t leave behind the womaninzing ways of this character but puts on front his compassion and respect for women. He listened to them as both Tennant and O’Toole say it. The script is rich in humor and wit but not for one second forgets to show the heart and add substance.

Who was Giacomo Casanova? The son of an actress who abandoned her child thinking a little boy is not the right accesory for the Russian Court. The movie follows a flashback pattern with Older Giacomo living as penniless librarian in a castle in Bohemia. He begins to tell his story to Edith (Rose Byrne), a kitchen maid who has just got the job. She lost her father, she was to provide for her family, in a time when getting a job wasn’t a nine to five affair and children grew faster than they should. Giac has sought his fortune in Venice and while trying to make a name for himself, he felt in love with Henriette (Laura Fraser) only to have the Duke of Grimani (Rupert Penry-Jones) come and destroy everything. It’s not a story of love conquers all, love lifts us up where we belong. It’s about heartache, betrayal, wanting to leave a better legacy than one had and see every dream and every hope shattered. The older Casanova has made everything possible to erase any trace of his existence but as Edith argues, the fool, that charming, arrogant fool shouldn’t be destroyed.

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David Tennant delivers an echanting performance, he makes you root for his character and hope he will succeed. You smile when he triumphs, you laugh when he fails because he wanted so and you feel like your heart is breaking when he loses everything. In his life many other characters have gravitated. There’s Rocco (Shaun Parkes), his man-servant, the voice of reason and a dear friend, there’s Bellino (Nina Sosanya) a woman who couldn’t have his love therefore she settled for a shallow fame and fortune life, there’s his grim and silent son Giac ( Brock Everitt Elwick, older version played by Tom Burke) and there’s Henriette, the one he couldn’t forget.

Love doesn’t conquer everything everytime and the young, the foolish and the bold ones fall to the ground. What remains is the truth, the memories, the trials, the hope that one day she will come and they’ll dance once more.

“She’s on her way. She’s almost here. She’s here…”

Edge and Back: 8/10

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