“Downton Abbey 2: A New Era” in the cinema: change of scenery – culture

It’s actually the ultimate humiliation for the proud house: a film is to be shot at Downton Abbey! Old Lord Grantham (somewhat emaciated: Hugh Bonneville) is strictly against it. Declare the venerable castle as a backdrop for good? Especially for a movie set in a casino? It is out of the question. Of course, his daughter Mary (Michelle Dockery plays her as a calculating ice princess) and the servants see things differently: What a great opportunity this film would be to finally catch up with the present! At the same time, money pours into the always somewhat tight coffers, and when one or the other film star drops in: What’s not to love?

The conservative lord is finally convinced by the film shoot when Mary shows him the roof of the property: it is now so leaky that when it rains only a few large tubs prevent major water damage. Well, then you just take the money of these film people. (By the way, we also have the real Highclere Castle that was filmed on saved the filming from decay.) Downton Abbey has become the backdrop, and now, in 1927, even the old lord has to admit it.

Of course, the real old lord behind the whole thing has known this for a long time: Julian Fellowes, “Downton Abbey” inventor, 72 years old and active as a conservative politician in addition to his job as an author, has now given the fans seven years after the end of the beloved TV Series and a feature film brought another theatrical sequel. After the drastic changes that the series was about, from the First World War and the Spanish flu to the introduction of the automobile and other technical innovations, there are now two somewhat lower epochal thresholds: In addition to the film shoot already mentioned, the Tourism as the latest fad of modern times for much excitement.

Because just the old Lady Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) has inherited. And how. A villa in southern France where, decades ago, she spent a very hot summer. Is there another long-gone lover involved that Granny hasn’t told everyone about? But before that can be clarified, the villa is a welcome excuse to flee from the undignified filming. With half their household, the noble family and their entourage move to the Côte d’Azur, and Mary is left alone with the dashing director, which is perfectly fine with the two of them.

"Downton Abbey 2: A New Era" in the cinema: A villa by the sea?  Also for the pictures a welcome change.

A villa by the sea? Also for the pictures a welcome change.

(Photo: Ben Blackall/Universal)

This change of location saves the film from its own conservatism: after six seasons filmed almost entirely in and around Highclere Castle, near London, something new had to be shown. The camera finally dares more here than the usual wide shots of the chic locations: Right at the beginning it flies over the property and through a church window into the middle of a wedding. Just seeing the characters on a ship, by the sea and in another villa is fun, because “Downton” is not only about the overarching theme of epochal change, but also about the furnishings, the clothing of the time, the stately houses , the chic events and the polished, ambiguous dialogues. So now covert insults in white linen suits and poolside champagne, why not?

Of course, everything has always been slightly ironically broken since the first episode. The stiff etiquette of the snooty Brits gets in their own way more than once, but this is always solved with slapstick, situational comedy or self-mockery. Arch-conservative butler Carson (Jim Carter) shuffles through the south of France in far too warm clothing and then decides to solve the problem by buying a lighter hat. How else?

Here the series figures are treated to a worthy conclusion

After the first cinema film in 2019, the visit of the British royal couple to Downton Abbey took something too seriously, what is probably the last story about the house and its inhabitants is more about humor again. Sure, irony immunizes against criticism, and it’s always a bit about concealing the nostalgia for the corporate society that has been cultivated in Great Britain for a little too long. The conservative fantasies that Fellowes lives out here can never be entirely denied, but they are only a side issue.

This film is more about giving the characters a worthy finish – and they get it. Some, whose story has long been told, like that of the nice Bates couple, are only accessories and cues in the film, but that’s probably no different when a series with dozens of characters is to be packed into a feature film. All the more courageous that the film allowed itself to introduce a new main character with Dominic West as the film beauty in the last few meters.

And perhaps shooting the film in Downton is also an appeal not to take it all too seriously: a reminder that this is not about a historical non-fiction book or a political pamphlet, but about a film that is also great fun . A carefree trip to a villa by the sea – even if this sprawling tale about the opportunities, worries and hardships of an epoch in transition seems more relevant than it wants to be.

Downton Abbey 2: A New Era, UK 2022 – Directed by Simon Curtis. Book: Julian Fellowes. Camera: Andrew Dunn. Starring: Tuppence Middleton, Hugh Dancy, Elizabeth Govern. Universal Pictures, 125 minutes. Theatrical release: April 28, 2022.

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