The Thirteenth Tale (2013)





Olivia Colman, Vanessa Redgrave, Sophie Turner, Steve Mackintosh, Alexander Roach, Emily Beecham, Tom Goodman-Hill, Michael Jibson, Adam Long, Antonia Clarke, Lizzie Hopley, Madeleine Power, Gordon Winter, Robert Pugh, Janet Amsden


Ageing novelist Vida Winter (Vanessa Redgrave) enlists biographer Margaret Lea (Olivia Colman) to finally write the story of the life, including her mysterious childhood spent in Angelfield House, which burned to the ground when she was a teenager.


"Do you believe in ghosts?" Vida Winter told Miss Lea at the first meeting. I don't, and to be honest I'm not a fan of this kind of fiction. But when last summer I came across Diane Setterfield's novel, I surprisingly enjoyed it. Quite a lot. So, as I found out there was a film based on the novel, I couldn't help but do anything in my power to watch it. Well, I've seen it now, but what a let down!

The Thirteenth Tale is a decent drama that doesn't capture the essence of the book it's based on, and completely lacks of suspense.

I've been reading around people saying Christopher Hampton brilliantly adapted this film. I couldn't disagree more. While some parts of the story are slightly changed and some parts are omitted - which is not a big deal after all - the dialogue got it worse. Since the key elements of the story are wrapped in the dialogue, making it shorter to conveying those plot points to the viewer in the shortest time possible was not a smart choice.

Also the troubled and sick relationship between Charlie and Isabelle is barely introduced - for a moment I thought it would have been omitted -, and incompletely.

The film suggests a romantic liaison between Margaret and the Doctor, implied by the way the look at each other, that is not important at all.

And the way Margaret/Colman looks at her reflection in the windows is kinda creepy. In the book that was explained by the dead of Margaret's twin sister. Born dead, Margaret never had the chance to meet her sister, and for that reason she feels like a half-person, and she looks at her reflection because she think she might see her sister. In the film this part is changed so the reflection thing is pointless.

Anyway, the scenery is wonderful, and the acting is quite good.


  1. I love the book. I've been wanting to catch this adaptation but it's difficult to find.