Nov 23 2015
This Friday, another series will be making its debut following a strong response during the annual Amazon Pilot Season. James Poniewozik in the New York Times agrees that the show is "chilling" and "unsettling", but worries that the character building is weaker than the world building. "It's more about characters living in this world and not a story that would drive a television series".
In the series, Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos) joins the resistance when she discovers a tape that could possibly show another outcome of World War II, with the Allies winning the war. "'What if I left the house five minutes later? What if I hadn't met so-and-so?' There's a constant questioning". Frank Frink (played by Rupert Evans), the boyfriend Juliana leaves behind in San Francisco.
The most gnawing problems with "The Man in the High Castle" have to do with the acting. Former writer for The X-Files Frank Spotnitz developed the series and penned the first two episodes, and when I learned he was involved, I wasn't surprised. Or are they actual glimpses of some other universe, some other reality? The historic scale of their human carnage is too much avoided. What can you do? Amazon, by contrast, does a whole bunch of things to an adequate enough degree that you want to keep shopping with the company.
The Japanese Pacific States consist of everything west of the Rocky Mountains; the Greater Nazi Reich comprises the land east of the range.
This week's podcast includes conversation about "Into the Badlands", "Fargo" and canceling TV shows.
That sleek and sexy look of the '60s that Mad Men glamorized? Still that stylish...just with Nazis. Like many adaptations of Dick's novels, this project is ambitious yet intuitive. In one particularly eerie scene, Joe, stranded along a rural road with a flat tire, wonders why the sky is suddenly filled with little white flakes that look like snow but aren't. But beneath the lavish set pieces, the period feel, and the only-can-be-seen on TV drama, there are elements of The Man in the High Castle that hold true.
"The thing that's fascinating to me is there were many, many, many good people in Nazi Germany".
"This is a world where Elvis didn't happen", Evans said. So you could say Wegener is haunted by the atrocities he committed on behalf of the Reich, and his efforts to avoid war between the Japanese and the Nazi Empire is his attempt of atonement and redemption, so to speak. "We depart from the novel, but we only did it to try to be more faithful to the ideas, to try and find ways to dramatize them more clearly", he said. There are too many "gotcha" scenes of bodies emerging from where you'd not expect them, but not in that vintage, Rossellinian way - it's more like a parlor trick that the directors use ad nauseum in the absence of other parlor tricks. "You have to be careful and honest and not inflame needlessly".
The premise of it; the alternate history, that "what if" mentality? It amplifies the series' resonance.
You play the character Joe Blake. "He tells us he doesn't want to spoil it for us". You do not step out of line, you do not take initiative. "If you don't do it, you're not being honest".
"So we were very lucky to be the most popular pilot on Amazon".
It was a story that Paris-born actress Alexa Davalos, who plays Juliana, a young woman who becomes interested in the resistance after her half-sister is killed in front of her, found gripping from the off-set. He's driving potentially game-changing cargo across the country, something that could spark an uprising against the fascists ruling America, when he gets a flat tire. Oh, it's just ash from the hospital, explains an amiable midwestern cop sporting a swastika armband. "Drag on the state". "There's a quote, 'Misunderstanding of the present grows fatally from the ignorance of the past.' I think that says it all right there". "We literally went everywhere else".
"It's dicey material and it's potentially offensive material", says Frank Spotnitz, who created the series.
"The Man in the High Castle" isn't just saying that the Holocaust could happen again. At the same time, we've only just scratched the surface. We have really no control. "We don't like to think that our fate is changeable like that and we could go from good to bad due to circumstances beyond our control".
We even have a new vocabulary for watching television now. In the early going, Joe is a mystery man. We don't know exactly where he stands. Even on a pure entertainment level, The Beatles wouldn't exist.
"Actually, I had a great idea I tried to pitch the writers", Kleintank says, lightening the mood a bit. "I don't want to give anything away but... yeah". 'What's your name?' Joe asks.
In our world of instant online reaction, putting any TV show in the hands of us viewers to rate and slate can be a daunting task for those involved. "It's really easy to say all Nazis are zombies, or werewolves, or aliens from another planet".
Spotnitz - whose wife Melissa spent part of her childhood in Washington Township, where she still has an aunt whom the family visits at the holidays - first read Dick's novel as a college student in 1981, and it stayed with him.
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