Friday, February 28, 2014


Sherlock the sociopath turned psychopath


This series is essential to understand what is happening to any cultural product with time. Nothing is eternal, nothing is ever understood the same, nothing can outlast time itself. To say tat sounds like a common place statement, and yet so many people are still speaking of Shakespeare as being eternal, though he did not exist before his first play was performed. Not to speak of the Bible, the Quran, the Dhammapada, etc. All these books were written on one particular date and occasion, and this writing was a long process, at times a whole collection of various writings, with the exclusion of many others though similar and from the same people or source.

Conan Doyle is eternal, isn’t he? Sherlock Holmes is eternal isn’t he? John Watson is eternal, isn’t he? And yet the BBC is doing with this fictional character what it did a long time ago, though quite more moderately in this latter case, that of Shakespeare’s full production of all his plays, as recognized in the 1980s. And they do it brilliantly.

It is brilliant to set the various stories within the present modern context. Afghanistan is more interesting than the South African war. Modern taxis and automobiles are more interesting than horse-drawn vehicles or the old primitive taxis of the 1920s. It is also more interesting to have modern smart phones and tablets and portable computers than pigeons and owls. The stories speak to us directly because they are positioned in our very world.

The second element is the psychological aspect of the characters. Sherlock Holmes is described with a lot more realism in his morphine addiction or in his crooked and twisted sex life, not to speak of his infancy, childhood and parents. He is even provided with a brother who is a top civil servant of the government. Sherlock Holmes has a real personal and social density. He is at the crossroads between criminals, official police, secret services, the top and often invisible civil service and politicians. We really are in a world we know and not a world of the old days, a world that does not exist any more. Does it give more density to Sherlock Holmes? I believe so, even if at times he is a show-off and particularly redundant at that.

They also manage to give to strange events a dimension that makes them imaginable, maybe not feasible and believable but more believable than in the original stories. His death and resurrection is funny like hell and there are so many versions provided to us on the screen that we are just wondering if he really died and really resurrected or if he did not die and did not resurrect? We are just confronted to some kind of electronic game with life and death. It is funny. But on the other side he does not play on his underground jobs so much, his art of disguising himself into anything and anyone. But we can survive this loss.

The stories are also dealing with a reality we know very well. Anyone who knows about the famous plot theories about the world and all political events will be at ease in this approach which is a real marvel as for plotting the end of the enemy, of the challenger, of the shadow cast on you, of anyone and anything that is making you small and insignificant when you are world leader of anything, even drugs and crime. Of course it is in many ways absurd, but Ukraine is there to show that these politics of plotting may be quite effective at times.

Don’t expect a classical series with forty-five minute episodes. The episodes are quite longer than that, even more than one hour and a half, or close to it. But they are very dynamic and you won’t go to sleep on them.

The main pleasure remains that these characters are marvelously revived, recreated, adapted to our own psyche and we can maybe not fall in love with them but really appreciate their finesse, and their very perverse English humor, one of the best humors in the world. The best example is John Watson’s best man’s now famous speech that is just everything but a best man’s speech, but really funny it is. Indeed. Just like the switch on the counter of a mega bomb.


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