“He Changed Our Notions of Good and Bad in Society” – E.M. Forster: His Longest Journey (TV Review)

Rating:

Whether or not the name E.M. Forster is of meaning to you will depend largely upon your age and the set texts that were assigned whilst studying. As a novelist, Forster is best known for works such as A Room With A View and Howard’s End although it is as likely that you will know his work for the television adaptations as you would for the original texts.

He was a member of the famous Bloomsbury group and has remained relevant in the years since his passing as one of the 20th Century’s most notable British authors.

This quaint, if somewhat niche documentary delves into one of his earlier (and lesser-known) novel – The Longest Journey – a book which is the most explicit of all his works in its evocation and focus on same-sex relationships. It remains the only one of his six novels to have not been adapted for the screen (large or small) but, as the documentary explores, was by far his most personal.

As someone who came to this film not knowing much about Forster beyond his friendship with Virginia Woolf and in spite of a promising beginning, I found it a little difficult to follow. Whilst there is an attempt to provide a certain degree of context to the discussions; the film has a tendency to slide into a wistful rumination on what Forster “may have thought” about a number of topics. As it moves through its relatively short run time it becomes increasingly meandering and lacks any significant narrative.

By far the best content was that of Forster himself speaking, and of the all too brief amount of his material that was featured, it overshadowed much of the surrounding content. A combination of archive interviews and talking heads from Forster Biographers and Academics the documentary seems to struggle with knowing which story it is that it wants to tell.  

Whilst it succeeded in piquing my interest in Forster’s writing (and made me want to seek it out) as a whole it lacked any true sense of substance or any singular focus resulting in the constant background music becoming increasingly noticeable and off-putting.

For fans of Forster with an already reasonable knowledge of his biography, this will likely be too light on detail, for those of us without the knowledge there is too little.

Dir: Adrian Munsey and Vance Goodwin

Narrator: James Wilby

Featuring: Patricia McGuire, Peter Monteith, Dr. Keith Carne, Sandie Campin

Prd: Adrian Munsey and Vance Goodwin

DOP: Jeremy Read, Joy Dickenson, Robbie Stauder

Music: Adrian Munsey

Country: United Kingdom

Year: 2019

Run time: 49 minutes

E.M. Forster: His Longest Journey Premiers on Sky Arts at 8pm, Monday 7th October

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