Review: The Miniaturist | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: The Miniaturist

Redbrick's Marketing Secretary Kamila Geremek reviews a disappointing adaptation of Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist, as some things transition to the small screen with less elegance than expected

The Miniaturist is a two part mini-series based on the best-selling author by Jessie Burton of the same title. It is one of my favourite books and therefore you can imagine my excitement when I heard about the BBC adaptation that would air over Christmas. Nella Oortamn (Anya Taylor-Joy) moves to Amsterdam to live with her new husband Johannes Brandt (Alex Hassell). Upon arrival she is greeted by Brandt’s sister Marin (Romola Garai) and the house servants Cornelia (Hayley Squires)  and Otto (Paapa Essiedu) the tension is palpable. In order to keep Nella occupied, Johannes presents her with a dollhouse as an extravagant wedding gift and it is not until Nella writes to the miniaturist asking for certain items for her doll house, that secrets of the family begin to reveal themselves

Anya Taylor-Joy does a brilliant job of portraying Nella as more than just an innocent hopeless protagonist, but as a woman who demands answers
Anya Taylor-Joy does a brilliant job of portraying Nella as more than just an innocent hopeless protagonist, but as a woman who demands answers. Her youthfulness is perfectly juxtaposed with Marin, the controlling and often pessimistic sister. This sets up perfectly the ongoing power battle between the two women which brings a great dynamic to the often-dull storyline. The casting in general is brilliant and the characters are just like I imagined them when reading the book several years ago.

The first episode does a good job of building up the tension and the mystery of the miniaturist however it falls flat and soon you can become bored and even confused as to what is actually going on. It is not until we are about 50 minutes in that things start to heat up and the final 40 minutes feel rushed with action with no real reasoning for them. Whilst I am glad that the production was so adamant on doing the book’s portrayal justice, I could have done without seeing Nella staring into the camera with a constant puzzled look on her face, with more about the miniaturist and the events that unfold following Johannes’ big secret instead. The book spends a significant number of chapters describing all the finer details of the story and for somebody who has read the book it will be a delight to see this in the mini-series. Even though it’s important for the production to not stray far from the original, it is also important to keep the audience engaged. I knew that sooner or later big things were going to happen. But if you have not read the book then you will spend most of the time wondering why you are wasting your time on a TV show that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Therefore, it no surprise that the viewing figures dropped by 400,000 by the second episode the following day.

I almost wish they had focused on these and explored them in more detail than focusing on Nella’s obsession with marzipan
The second episode is far more interesting and it is a little disappointing for it be the shorter of the two. The story is full of twists and this episode does a brilliant job of raising different themes throughout the events such as the place of women in society, and racial and religious prejudice. I almost wish they had focused on these and explored them in more detail than focusing on Nella’s obsession with marzipan. Throughout all of this, I think the core creepiness of the book gets lost as I kind of forgot about the doll house and it became entirely insignificant. The confrontation with the miniaturist herself was a little underwhelming and felt disjointed from the overall storyline, it kind of just filled in the gap of the mystery that we stopped caring about half way through the first episode.

If you read the book, you will enjoy this adaptation and its true likeness to the novel. However, some things are just better left on a page and I really wish the mini-series had spent more time on the core action of the book than on building the tension, a success of the book that the show could never meet.

(@omg_kam)



Published

29th January 2018 at 9:00 am



Images from

BBC Media Centre and BBC First



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