For Remembrance Day (11th November) Into Film suggested the film Private Peaceful, which I have not had a chance to look at until now. However, it is not the film that I was able to peruse, nor the book, but the Radio 4 audio drama, adapted by Simon Reade. Yes, it is not a film, but I thought it would be a good format to review, especially considering my love for Torchwood audio plays during my recovery.
I own the Michael Morpurgo novel that the film and drama are based on and I feel like I must have read it as a child, but it clearly didn’t make much of an impact on me. However, having listened to the audio version I find it hard to understand how it didn’t make more of an impact. Set in World War I, it follows two boys thrust into the world of adulthood as soldiers, both too young to serve overseas but keen to do their bit for the war effort.
Knowing it was a story about the war, there was a considerable amount of detail before war even broke out, something that I surprisingly enjoyed, despite meaning that the main portion of the story about Private Peaceful did not begin until what seemed like halfway through. I really managed to connect with the brothers and their friends and family because of this and the nature of an audio play meant that there were only a select few characters involved, so no confusion between minor and major players in the story. The incidental music clearly defined the chapters of Tommo and Charlie’s lives, and was a beautiful addition to this beautiful story. The composer of the film score, Rachel Portman, is one of my favourite composers, previously known for One Day and Never Let Me Go – one reason I hope to one day watch the film.
Poignant, thought-provoking and full of twists, Private Peaceful is one of many productions that brings the horrors of World War One to life, with happiness and tragedy in equal parts. Four stars.