Last Sunday and Monday night saw a cracking period drama on BBC1. No change there then, but the period was the early 1980s in Glasgow. The Field of Blood may have done nothing to disuade people of the idea that Glasgow is No Mean City, but when the writing, direction and acting is of this quality then it would be churlish to complain.
The drama was adapted from Denise Mina’s novel of the same name and was directed by David Kane, more of whom below. This is a pairing which was bound to provide interesting work. Mina is one of Scotland’s most successful novelists and everything Kane is involved in has something that will capture your attention.
The cast is packed with well kent faces, many of whom are from Craiglang and Shieldinch. Ford Kiernon plays a sleazy arsehole in a very convincing manner, and he is joined by Clansman regulars Brian Pettifer and Gavin Mitchell. Also on board are Louise Goodhall, Stephen McCole, Matt Costello and Helen McAlpine and no-one lets the team down. David Morrisey, Derek Ridell and Bronagh Gallagher were also involved and in top form. Morrisey is always worth watching, and Ridell has become one of the best screen presences we have. You’ll recognise him from The Book Group (see ‘You Have Been Watching’ (TV Special) The Book Gro…), State of Mind, and the episode of Dr Who with Queen Victoria and werewolves. I find I always look forward to something just that wee bit more when I find out he’s involved.
Jayd Johnson has the unenviable task of being the hero of the piece, and the fact that she holds her own in this company holds out hope that she has a great future ahead of her. River City is regularly given a bit of a kicking, but if they produce talent like Johnson then long may it continue. Then there is Peter Capaldi who, as long time readers of this blog will know, is not only one of my favourite actors but one of my favourite people. In The Field of Blood he has barely any screen time, another example of director Kane’s confidence, but when he is you can’t take your eyes off him.
He is becoming Scotland’s character actor par excellence, which I hope won’t mean he just appears in such cameos. His character of Dr Pete is an alcoholic journalist whose faith has long since disappeared and who is now battling cancer. Well not exactly battling it, more welcoming it. The scene, which you can see below, of him reciting Dylan Thomas’s Death Shall Have No Dominion is the stand out scene of the drama, and you can see it below. Who would have thought that young Danny Olsen from Local Hero would turn into an actor of such gravitas?:
David Kane is one of Scottish films unsung heroes. Whatever he directs or writes is always of interest. From the fondly remembered Jute City, through his features Ruffian Hearts, This Year’s Love and Born Romantic, then back to writing for TV with Sea of Souls and Rebus. He directs with a sure touch and a wry, if dark, sense of humour. In other hands The Field of Blood could have been a nostalgic nightmare, like Taggart crossed with Ashes to Ashes. Importantly this was down to the non-obvious details he used to paint the period. The pace of the first part was fairly slow and I do wonder if the two-parter was filmed as one. It would have made perfect sense as a two hour feature.
I hope Davie Kane returns to the big screen soon as he is one of the few Scottish directors who doesn’t seem restricted by ideas of what a Scottish film maker should be dealing with. Plus, he always puts together excellent soundtracks. Whereas many directors would have gone for the obvious tracks, Kane works hard to get the music just right. An example of this is his choice of music from The Jam. He passes over Town Called Malice and goes for Ghosts:
the jam – ghosts (live on the tube)
The Field of Blood was a good example of that all too rare beast, a cracking Scottish drama. There are so many talented people in the arts that there should be such collaborations more often. Great writers, great directors and great actors working together. Just a thought.
Watch BBC Scotland programmes on the iplayer whenever you want with Expat Surfer
Further thoughts can be found at scotswhayhae.
Alistair’s latest thoughts on Scottish books appear on the first Monday of every month.