By Valerie Milano
Beverly Hills, CA (The Hollywood Times) 8/1/14 –
“I’m fascinated by the public and private display of character…..”. Hugo Blick
The Sundance Channel premiered its new dramatic series The Honorable Woman Thursday night at 10:00. It’s not a passive watch. By a simple twist of fate, this political-espionage thriller about Israeli/Palestinian relations hits our airwaves at the height of the current conflict in Gaza.
The story revolves around British-Israeli baroness Nessa Stein (Maggie Gyllenhaal), daughter of an Israeli arms dealer. As a child, Nessa witnessed her father’s assassination. The killer was a Palestinian. The Baroness is now a British upper-class activist who seeks to promote peace. The show opens as Nessa announces a deal (bankrolled by her foundation) to lay fiber optic cables in Gaza to bring the internet, education and free flowing communication to the besieged region. The Baroness awards the contract to a Palestinian who is murdered before the ink is dry on the deal. Of course, the Israeli government is the number one suspect in the crime; enter Hugh Hayden-Hoyle the head of the Middle Eastern division of British Intelligence, played to world weary perfection by Stephen Rey (The Crying Game).
The cast is spot on, and American star Gyllenhaal passes flawlessly as faux British royalty. Gyllenhaal manages to mix the high-sheen grace of a Julie Andrews with the grit and steely resolve of dame Judy Dench.
At its heart, The Honorable Woman is your standard issue spy thriller. However, the lush cinematography and location ambiance are feature film quality. And, true to the genre, the core issues get lost in the subterfuge and intrigue. Brutality and mayhem is practiced by morally reprehensible shits from both sides of the conflict; all of whom feel they have God and the blood of their children on their side.
The Honorable Woman had a tough brief in its premiere episode. Setting up a convoluted plot matrix and array of duplicitous characters is always a challenge for a new mini-series. We also have to negotiate several jump cuts and flashbacks. The writers integrate all these moving parts as gracefully and skillfully as possible. However, any viewer with an attention deficit might find The Honorable Woman tough sledding.
The Honorable Woman is relevant, thoughtful, well written and perfectly acted. But, don’t expect the series to take sides. It’s about the futility of trying to heal hatred encoded in human DNA for generations. Moreover, in the Israeli /Palestinian landscape, it seems no good deed goes unpunished.
The Hollywood Times.net, and other publications had the opportunity to speak with Hugo Blick; the creator, producer, director of The Honorable Woman and the series starr Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Hugo Blick talked about the origins of the story, HUGO BLICK: “I was interested primarily in taking and looking at a essentially at a woman who stood on a world stage and suggested that she had an engagement in the idea of reconciliation and in an environment in which a conflict had been ongoing and appears to be intractable. I’m fascinated by the public and private display of character and that if a woman stands for it or a character stands as a leader on a world stage and says, “I want to go this way to try and effect this thing,” I’m intrigued at the vacuum, in a strange way, that may exist in that personality that needs to take a world stage position because they are disorientated about themselves. So, in a strange way, they’re looking outwards; they’re not looking inwards. And so that gave me the construction of an idea of the psychology of the character who was willing to go one direction and risk her own life in taking that direction, partly because she has yet failed to engage in the psyche of her own soul. So that was the beginning of it.”
Maggie Gyllenhaal spoke about her characater Nessa, MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL: “I was attracted in this script to the whole spectrum of expression that was available to me as Nessa, because, yes, she’s very powerful and graceful and intelligent. She’s also really childish and broken and hungry and desperate and all of the things that I think I mean, I recognize those qualities in myself. They all exist in me ”
Creator Hugo Blick talked about the importance of filming on Location in London, HUGO BLICK: “We filmed in London. I’ve lived in London a good few years, and I was intrigued in making London a place of threat really. I was so there’s an interesting, very, very big wide when Nessa Stein a big event happens at the end of episode 1, and Nessa has presented herself with all the artifice of establishment control, as we’ve just discussed. She’s just been newly ennobled as a baroness. All this architecture, as we were discussing over here, is around her. And then there’s this moment where she has to run barefoot through a darkened park. And she runs through a thing called the Albert Memorial, which is Queen Victoria’s memorial to her dead husband. It’s a huge megastatue of establishment power. And there it is with this woman running underneath it. And it’s also about establishment power that used to be colonized. So it’s about the Middle Eastern relationship to that past. And actually, all it’s saying here in that big image is how vulnerable this woman is to all that establishment weight. It ain’t there to protect her. It’s there to protect itself. And she’s about to put herself against it. So the architecture is very much part of the psychology of our understanding of her.”