The glorious castle of Gormenghast is home to the ancient family of Groan, where nothing has changed for thousands of years. The dynasty is threatened by the charming and evil kitchen boy Steerpike (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). With the birth of a new heir, Titus Groan, Steerpike begins his ruthless ascent to power. As he charms, outwits and terrorises the castle's inhabitants, only Titus, the young and timid Earl of Groan, stands in Steerpike's way. Who will triumph. And can Gormenghast survive?
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Hmm... Gormenghast was absolutely nothing like what I expected. Set in a castle/city completely cut off from any other trace of civilization, Gormenghast is a very strange place, governed by rituals such as the blessing of the meat racks and the choosing of the bright carving. A cross between Phantom of the Opera and Alice in Wonderland, I watched the first half with one eyebrow raised, murmuring 'Huh?' to just about everything.
In some places, the story would threaten to drag, and then kitchen boy Steerpike (Jonothan Rhys Meyers) would turn up and I got swept in again. Often, I found myself wondering where all this was going though. It seemed that Steerpike was undermining everything, almost just for the sake of doing so - though one quickly notices that he is falling in love with the childlish teenage princess.
When he got burnt in a fire and began wearing a half face mask, I really noticed the Phantom of the Opera similarities. The tragic hero, desperately in love and yearning for a single kind word, rejected by everyone, capable of incredibly evil acts... At this point, I was hoping the young prince Titus would steal the scene and give the story some direction, but he actually was as weak a character as Steerpike claimed. And what on earth was with that Wild Girl he was in love with? They built her up to have this profound significance to the story and then she turns out to be completely pointless.
Four hours of watching later, my eyebrow was affixed in a cocked position and I was still thinking 'huh'? A bizzare, colourful, creative trip that managed to kill almost every character and left me wondering what the point had been. It's not that I didn't like it, I just didn't really get it...
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