A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Pillars of the Earth is a historical miniseries filled with graphic violence, including rape, murder, and torture. The series also features an incestuous sexual relationship, some sex, and partial nudity, as well as a generally dark and dreary tone.
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What's the story?
Set in 12th century England, THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH is based on the novel of the same name by Ken Follett. This is a story of religious and royal power struggles, war, love, and the evolution of cathedral building. The story centers around Tom Builder, a stone mason, who loses his job working for William Hamleigh, and in short order loses his wife, leaves his baby son on her grave, meets a witch and her son, and finds refuge and work at the monastery in Kingsbridge where he begins work on a cathedral. From here, the story unfurls over many years, many families, and many locations, all connected. The miniseries riffs on actual historical events, included the civil war between Queen Maud and King Stephen.
Is it any good?
First and foremost, The Pillars of the Earth is incredibly and intimately violent. There aren't legions of nameless zombies mowed down by machine guns in this series. Instead, viewers are subjected to slow torture scenes, up-close images of venereal disease, and bloody battle scenes between beloved characters.
However, if you can stomach the violence, the intricate web of storytelling showcased in the series is impressive. Taking place over eight episodes, the miniseries packs in an impressive level of detail. History, especially the civil war between Queen Maud and King Stephen, is laid out in vivid, albeit violent, detail. The acting is nothing to sniff at either. The treacherous and absolutely evil Bishop Waleran (Ian McShane) is particularly affecting -- a character fans will absolutely love to hate.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about portrayals of violence. Do you think this miniseries accurately portrays the violence of the time? Why do you think that the filmmakers chose to accentuate the violence by using techniques such as spattering the camera lens with blood?
How does the miniseries represent psychological violence? Is it portrayed differently than physical violence? How does the miniseries communicate these feelings?
How does the miniseries represent differences between classes? How does it compare to the way movies represent contemporary differences between classes?
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