Just call me Sydney-the-Unwilling…

Sep 17, 2021 | 3 comments

Vilma Silva as Julius Caesar, Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2017

Maybe it’s an age thing — as in getting set in my ways.  Or maybe the world has just begun changing faster than I can keep up.  Whatever the reason, I’m definitely losing my “willing suspension of disbelief”  — you know,  that “intentional avoidance of critical thinking or logic in examining something unreal or impossible in reality, such as a work of speculative fiction, in order to believe it for the sake of enjoyment.”

I first ran into my wall of unwillingness several years ago at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.  I don’t remember the specifics — it was one of Shakespeare’s history plays, maybe Henry IV Part I or II — and one of the commanders in battle was portrayed by a woman.  Fair enough.  But the character was also portrayed AS a woman with pronouns changed to fit the circumstances.  What was not changed was that she had a wife at home.  All okay in my book except that these were really-o, truly-o historical characters and in real life the commander was a man, not a woman.

Uwe Kockisch as Guido Brunetti

My actor son Charlie was with us on that trip and we discussed the situation at length.  He gave me the “insider’s take” on the possible reasoning of the director etc.  I could not (Charlie might say would not) change my mind.

I’ve been thinking of my “unwillingness” lately in a somewhat different context.  Nyel and I recently learned that author Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti and his Venetian cohorts have become stars of a popular television series.  We were elated!  Next to Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, Leon’s Brunetti is our favorite detective.

We’ve watched two episodes so far and are debating whether to see more.  The series is set in Venice (as are the books) but with a German cast speaking German and with English subtitles.  That was my first hurdle.  Try as I might to tune out the German, I do hear the words I recognize (thankfully, in this case, not that many) which is jarring in the extreme.  Plus none (read not one) of the characters is as Donna Leon so carefully developed them — at least not as far as Nyel and I are concerned.

Alfred Molina as Chief Inspector Armand Gamache in the new “Three Pines” series

As with Louise Penny’s books, each of the Leon characters have become very real to us.  Leon has portrayed them minutely and consistently in twenty-three books.  We’ve watched them change and grow over time.  The television series are NOT those characters although they are co-opting their names and their situations.  We can but hope that “Three Pines” which begins in December, also on Amazon Prime, will be more faithful to the images in our heads.

I feel a bit like a child who loves Winnie-the-Pooh might feel if the beloved old bear suddenly became a reindeer and was speaking Swedish.  My world with regard to Brunetti is off-kilter and I am definitely Sydney-the-Unwilling.


  1. Jane Smith

    Many many years ago I was in Germany….1972 to be exact. My then husband and I decided to go see My Fair Lady at a theater! To our dismay, the movie was dubbed in German with English subtitles. I realize I was in a German theater in a German town, but heck, My Fair Lady is about the English language, among other things. Should it not have been left in English with added German subtitles? Jane

  2. Marilyn T. Oliver

    I , too, love the Guido Brunetti and Dona Leon’s mystery books about Venice. I wouldn’t want to see an interpretation of them in German. Sounds bad!

    • sydney

      Marilyn, I just saw a YouTube piece with Donna Leon and she agrees with us — thought the series was dreadful. “So… German!” she said. And went on to say that the German actors just couldn’t bring themselves to touch one another — pat an arm, grab a shoulder, give a spontaneous hug which is so much a part of every Italian encounter. I felt totally vindicated in my opinion (and yours!!)


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