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The Pillars of the Earth (Part 1)

8.03 h 23 min201015
Ken Follett’s best-selling novel is brought to life in a star-studded and critically acclaimed eight-part miniseries! Emerging from the war-torn shadows of England’s Dark Ages, an idealistic mason, Tom Builder (Rufus Sewell, The Holiday), sets out on a quest to erect a glorious cathedral bathed in light.
Sergio Mimica-Gezzan
Ian McShaneRufus SewellMatthew MacFadyen
English [CC]
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Supporting actors
Eddie RedmayneHayley AtwellPeter BathurstSarah ParishNatalia WornerTony CurranDonald SutherlandAlison Pill
John RyanHoward EllisAdam Goodman
Starz Entertainment
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Prime Video (streaming online video)
Available to watch on supported devices


4.4 out of 5 stars

247 global ratings

  1. 68% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 14% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 9% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 4% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 4% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United Kingdom

J NewmanReviewed in the United Kingdom on 20 December 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
Part 1 & Part 2 separate rentals/purchases
Verified purchase
Having read Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth many years ago, I remember being utterly absorbed into the narrative of medieval village life, markets, monks and murders. Above all, taking on a life of its own and breathing life into everything around it, is the building of a huge Gothic Cathedral, the extraordinary ambition of artisans, priests and stonemasons, which is slowly, through the years, taking shape under the stonemasons’ mallets and chisels.

Ken Follett’s epic saga is set in the fictitious village of Kingsbridge and chronicles the period from the sinking of the White Ship carrying the heir to the Throne (Son of Henry, King of England) and the consequential fights of accession, ‘The Anarchy’ from 1135-1153. A period of late Medieval England that while seeing an exponential growth of town life, trade and ever more complex stone masonry was also characterised by the paradoxical beliefs of witchcraft, Church Indulgences, miracles and bitter political struggles.

The Prime mini series (or rather Part 1 and Part 2) of Ken Follett’s saga offers almost as much entertainment as the book is a good read but in a different way - much of the subtly and depth is lost in transcription (as it always is from book to film) and of course any historical drama ends up looking ‘costumey’ and ‘staged’ by the sheer virtue of trying to produce an authentic look - PotE perhaps more so than some.

However, while some of the script was a bit TV drama and some of the acting of supporting roles questionable, the main characters were well developed and well acted. Eddie Redmayne (not my favourite actor by a long shot) was really competent as one of the main characters driving forward the building of the Cathedral - the problem with Eddie Redmayne is I can never get away from the conscious feeling I am watching Eddie Redmayne and not the character he is happen to be playing. There’s nothing wrong with his acting but some actors just have such an overpowering stage persona which can sometimes overshadow the character they are playing.

The character of Father Philip, Prior of Kingsbridge, played brilliantly by Mathew Macfadyen, was a steadying influence of rationality in a chaotic environment of excess, violent retribution and political intrigue. His was the only character I really warmed to. To be honest, some of the key players had so little screen time I had trouble working out who they were and what they were up to.

Pillars of the Earth is complex with several differing themes woven through the main narrative of building the Cathedral. To produce a screenplay version of such a masterpiece of literary achievement as Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth is a challenging endeavour, the nuances of spiritual and emotional colour of the characters in the book is very difficult to convey on film - little is left to the imagination or subjective interpretation - it is a little sad that the miniseries does not better reflect the skills of Follett as a writer/story teller but I think that is always a risk when trying to jump media with a well written book.

However, to sum up, I really enjoyed Pillars of the Earth and would recommend it as a good binge of 7 hours viewing as long as you come to it expecting something on the level of Merlin the TV series rather than Lord of the Rings blockbuster. I would also recommend reading any of Ken Follet’s books if you haven’t already done so.
KingReviewed in the United Kingdom on 13 December 2020
2.0 out of 5 stars
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Heard good things about the book on which this is based and like anything set in the medieval period and the monastery life but the Name of the Rose this isn't.
The story is quite convoluted and not particularly interesting. Not sure they cast the right actors either many of whom look out of place and lack charisma.
More like a cheap BBC production with average production values.
MR JOHN EVANSReviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 February 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Been conned.
Verified purchase
Not pleased about the purchase because a few days later it came on 5 Select FREE. feel as though I have been conned. The only thing in its favour really good series.
Julian AstinReviewed in the United Kingdom on 04 January 2022
1.0 out of 5 stars
Profoundly underwhelming
Verified purchase
Exposition. Exposition. Exposition.
Never have I witnessed such a relentless tide of exposition.
The writing and directing of this is an insult to a very good cast.
They must be as furious. Rightly so. They are squandered.
Producers hang your heads in shame.
alan selbyReviewed in the United Kingdom on 10 October 2017
3.0 out of 5 stars
Must try harder
Verified purchase
After reading the books , found the portrail of the characters and acting left a lot to be desired. Not to the game of thrones standard,perhaps the budget was to blame. I much preferred the books,
One person found this helpful
tvllpReviewed in the United Kingdom on 07 December 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
close to the book
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There has been no expense spared to bring home the same atmosphere as the book
BladeReviewed in the United Kingdom on 13 January 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Verified purchase
Very true to the novel. A great tale. Some great acting.
blanc sanglierReviewed in the United Kingdom on 02 August 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
great adaptation of a good book
Verified purchase
It was medieval life true to its reality, in brutality, cruelty and bloodshed.
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