An Inspector Calls is a one-episode BBC TV movie based on a 1945 play. It aired recently in the UK, and hopefully will make its way over to our side of the pond! This version (there’s been a 1954 feature film, and various TV adaptations) stars David Thewlis and Miranda Richardson.
The basic set-up is this: in 1912, a rich family is having a dinner to celebrate their daughter’s engagement. Mid-dinner, a mysterious police inspector (Thewlis) shows up and starts interrogating the family about the suicide of a girl. As the story unfolds, you find out that each family member (and the daughter’s fiancé) have a connection to the girl. I don’t want to give away any more of the plot, so I’ll just say that A) it is very play-esque in that everything (minus flashbacks) happens in that one home, on that one evening, and B) there are a lot of strong performances. The story is all about trying to get both the characters and the audience to question class distinctions, and is very much in that vein of “impending upper-class doom given that World War I is around the corner.”
The costumes were designed by Amy Roberts (Upstairs Downstairs [2010-12], Wuthering Heights , The Virgin Queen , Cold Comfort Farm , and many more). She was in luck in that since the story takes place over one evening, each character had one featured costume — although there were a few other outfits worn in flashbacks.
In general, I thought they did a great job of keeping the costumes to 1912 exactly with one exception:
David Thewlis as the inspector was all dark suit, bowler hat, stiff collar:
Arthur and Sybil Birling are the patriarch and matriarch of the family. They’re ALL ABOUT being as stiff and buttoned-up as humanly possible, which is reflected in their clothing:
I found promo images of this dress, which is SO 1912 — love the layers, soutache, and buttons — but I don’t recognize it from the show. My theory is that it’s what’s worn under the coat seen on screen (what a waste!).
Their engaged daughter Sheila wears dark red, an interesting choice for an unmarried lady, but it’s really beautiful — and captures my favorite thing about 1910s costume: the layering.
In her flashback, she goes shopping with her mother:
Their son Eric:
And Sheila’s fiancé, Gerald:
Eva is the girl who (maybe) commits suicide. She’s poor and works in a factory, so this is her main look:
Eva wears drab looks:
But some of her other looks are an improvement:
At one point in the flashbacks, Eva gets to dress up. I thought this was a really interesting (in a good way) color choice to put on a blonde:
Overall, I’d give the whole thing a solid A — the story is very interesting, the acting is great, and the costumes are 99% perfect. We’ll let you know when this airs Stateside!
Have you seen An Inspector Calls yet?