Director: Vadim Jean
Production Company: The Mob Film Company
Hard as it may be to believe, this was my first ever foray into the world of Terry Pratchett. Certainly I knew of him, and knew that his fantasy works were a rival to Tolkien in their complexity and depth, but somehow, for some reason, I just…never read them. The extent of Discworld, described throughout thirty-nine (39!) novels, frankly defies my imagination. Middle-Earth, Arda, and even my own Erâth (shameless plug, shameless plug (wait a minute; can I plug my own work in my own writing? How does that work?)) pale in comparison to the detail presented herein.
Discworld, it turns out, is in fact a flat world (I honestly did not know this when I presented Erâth as a flat world), resting on the back of four elephants, standing on the shell of a giant tortoise. I am given to wonder, of course, what keeps the tortoise entertained, and what would happen if one of the elephants sneezed, but that is pondering for another time.
Hogfather is a tale of sinister happenings at Hogswatch, which is basically Christmas except that Santa is a hog. On this particular Hogswatch, a group of rather unpleasant characters called the Auditors decide that it’s time to get rid of the Hogfather, and seek out the head of the Assassin’s Guild to commission his assassination. How exactly to assassinate an imaginary person (this got uncomfortable for me watching with Little Satis, who still believes in Father Christmas) is uncertain, but an extremely unsavory character by the name of Teatime (said Te-ah-Tim-eh), who is frankly one of the most disturbing psychopaths I’ve ever come across in fiction, giving even Hannibal Lecter a run for his money, is brought in as the killer of choice. Mr. Teatime manages to capture a tooth fairy, who leads him to the tooth fairy’s castle. Here he collects all the children’s teeth ever, and (I still don’t quite understand how) uses them for force all the children to stop believing in the Hogfather.
At the Hogfather’s absence, Death (yes, Death) takes over his job, understanding the importance of children continuing to believe. The sight of Death delivering presents is delicious, of course. Meanwhile, Death’s granddaughter Susan chases after Mr. Teatime, defeats him, and restores the Hogfather to Discworld at the very last moment.
The story (as told by the film) was confusing and disjointed, which is something that can often happen when a complex novel is adapted to the screen (see The Lord of the Rings), but this actually didn’t detract, but rather added, to the sense of darkness and confusion of the story itself. The production, for a TV miniseries, was phenomenal, from the CGI to the sets and costumes to the direction itself. The acting was of course first-rate, given that David Jason, David Warner and Tony Robinson were involved; however, it was the utterly terrifying performance by Marc Warren that really stole the show.
I really ought to have known Marc Warren better, given his high-profile career in British television, but I’m certainly going to keeping an eye out for him in the future. His embodiment of an untainted, childlike insanity is so real that I was frightened merely watching him. The tone of innocent curiosity Warren puts into his voice clashes so violently with the words and actions of this psychopath has the effect of knotting the stomach on sight – you can’t tell if he’s going to laugh, or laugh and kill you.
I was hoping this would be good, but I was taken aback: it is one of the most astonishing pieces of film work I’ve seen for television, and it will certainly be added to the canon of festive films in our household.