So, part two of the Red Riding Quartet … sorry, Trilogy: the year of our Lord 1980. Directed by James Marsh, who won a Bafta and an Oscar for the outstanding documentary Man On Wire (here’s me interviewing him at the Baftas), this was, I felt, more successful than 1974. It was less opaque, easier to follow and the tone was set very much by Paddy Considine’s quiet, note-perfect performance as Peter Hunter. It’s so refreshing to see actors at work who aren’t just trying to win awards. And in a hell as vivid and overwrought as the Yorkshire of David Peace, that’s even more of an accolade. When all around are losing their heads, Considine/Hunter keeps his.
Once again, screenwriter Tony Grisoni has found a linear story within the dank, tangled prose of Peace. Although it has clear links with 1974 and – as anyone who’s seen the trailers or glanced at the billboards will already know – next week’s 1983, 1980 stands alone. Having read all the books in the Quartet now, I’d say that they are interlinked in such a way as to make the reading of one, in isolation, an incomplete experience. Having just finished reading 1983 – this very morning, in fact – I feel an urgent need to go back and re-read 1974, armed with the knowledge of the other three books. That’s a set of books, right there. Anyway, on TV, Marsh seemed to hold his camera steadier than James Jarrold last week, more focused, and it suited the approach of the unhurried, analytical protagonist. (Eddie Dunford was an outsider, too, but he was stumbling around, searching for the truth, and the dreamlike quality of 1974 suited him.) Because this one featured a vaguely fictionalised Yorkshire Ripper – the names of the victims had been respectfully changed and, in the book, he’s called Peter Williams, although we never heard his surname in the film – it felt more like a history play, despite all the extraneous, fictional detail.
The real Ripper story is grisly enough but of course Peace makes it worse. And believe me, TV viewers were spared most of the gory details – not least the ordeal of Libby Hall. There really is no point in comparing the books and the films. (The endings of the films are clearly all going to be neater than the books – you can see why.) I actually wish I’d read 1980 before knowing about Considine’s casting, but hey, there he was, in my head throughout, getting in the way of my imagination. These films need to be owned on DVD – they’re coming out on April 13, with extras – so that those fucking idents for Compare The Market Dot Com, with their inappropriately silly, crime-linked theme, can be banished forever. It’s been said before, but why oh why must the ads on TV be SO MUCH LOUDER than the programmes? (They are the best advert for the infinate continuation of the licence fee that I’ve ever heard.)