delighted recently to learn that the BBC’s 1999 production of
Shooting the Past is available on VHS and DVD.
news for Australian audiences is that there is also a repeat screening
this summer on ABC TV.)
magnificent made-for-TV series was written and directed by Stephen
Poliakoff. On the face of it, the drama tells the story of the conflict
between a wealthy American businessman and a group of librarians. He is
planning to dispose of a collection of ten million priceless photographs
housed in a mansion he has just bought. The librarians are the
collection’s custodians and they want to preserve it intact, so they
attempt several strategies to thwart his intentions.
the surface story Poliakoff is presenting us with several important
messages. One is the value of libraries and the staff who run them, know
them and love them. Economic progress may be a good thing, but often it
threatens the preservation of the world’s heritage.
Even more significant is the idea of — to quote the words of a friend of
mine — “making discoveries about mysterious, profound meanings from the
past”. (If that description itself sounds a bit mysterious to those of
you who’ve not seen Shooting the Past yet, I’m sorry, but I don’t
want to give away vital parts of the plot.)
are Lindsay Duncan as the library curator Marilyn Truman, Liam
Cunningham as the businessman Christopher Anderson, and Timothy Spall as
the eccentric Oswald Bates, Truman’s chief researcher. As always,
character actor Spall gives a wonderful performance.
As far as
I’m concerned, Shooting the Past ranks up there with those other
classic British television dramas Talking to a Stranger (1966)
and Edge of Darkness (1985). So, wherever you live, if you
haven’t experienced this TV treat, take my advice and buy or borrow it