Talking Heads: The Hand of God TV PG
Telling Tales: An Ideal Home
Airing Sunday, October 31, 2004 on PBS
(Check local listings; dates and times may vary)
Eileen Atkins stars as Celia, a cautious seller of old furniture and clocks, in Alan Bennett's spellbinding monologue The Hand of God, a perfectly paced 40-minute gem.
Filmed in half-a-dozen simple scenes set in a modest antiques shop, the story involves Celia's daily battle to keep the stock moving. Celia is an antiques dealer who just about manages to make a living but with stock ever harder to come by. Then one day Celia lucks into a Good Samaritan relationship with Miss Ventriss, a dying woman who owns a home stocked with treasures. It's almost more than Celia's honest, if avaricious, conscience can bear.
As in many of Bennett's pieces, the story develops in a miraculous direction that gives it the taut impact of a fable -- or at least the sober moral of a cautionary tale.
The Hand of God is followed by a short monologue featuring Bennett himself from his biographical Telling Tales series. In An Ideal Home, Bennett reminisces about growing up in post-war Britain in the apartment above his father's butcher shop which, despite the reek of rendering dripping, his 'Mam' made as genteel as possible. Bennett talks about his Mam's collection of 'old things,' his childhood embarrassment at the fact that their home didn't have a hallway, and the insidious influence of women's magazines of the day.
Uncommonly riveting, Bennett's monologues "catch the woeful intimacy in which in the TV age lonely people talk to themselves as if in interview," says David Thomson in The New Biographical Dictionary of Film. "The form is as poignant as the words or the performances."
Eileen Atkins' Talking Heads piece is the fourth in the series to appear on Masterpiece Theatre, following previous performances by Patricia Routledge, Maggie Smith and Alan Bennett.
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