After what seemed like a walk through the words of a book, I took a car ride through the scenes on a screen into the world of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson once again. What catches our eye heavily depends on how we are travelling. While legs may ache from all the walking, a car ride seems easy enough. Thousands of words condensed into a single frame; Pages of description captured in a single look! That’s the power of the film, but so much now depends on the viewer. The conclusions are left much more open and highly subjective. Sherlock here appears to be more snobbish, more annoying and faster than the one in the book. The speed perhaps, is not just because of the mode change; it’s also due to the change in time. Perhaps, if the 1880s Sherlock were to appear now as he was then, people would think him too considerate and totally decent. Introducing Dr. Watson, we find him waking up from nightmares of scenes of war. What a coincidence that since the book was written in 1880s, we have another war in Afghanistan. This is history repeating itself, literally and literarily! With our excessive emphasis on the diseases of the mind in this era, the consequence of Watson’s nightmares is that he finds himself with a therapist. As Sherlock observes in a matter-of-fact way, ‘You’ve got a psychosomatic limp. Of course you’ve got a therapist.’
As is to be expected of any self-respecting detective of this age, Sherlock is adept in the use of gadgets. Hacking, group messages, ‘Find-my-phone’, GPRS Tracking, CCTV cameras and even the humble microwave (holding a pair of eyeballs) delightfully shout out that it’s the age of technology. In this postmodern translation on TV, we find attributes of characters in surprising places, where we were not expecting them at all. For instance, there’s polygyny that’s crucial to the plot in the novel. Here you find adultery, which serves not the plot but only to show the prowess of Holmes, as illustrated by the way he extracts the information about a person’s marital fidelity from the state of her wedding ring, dirty on the outside and clean on the inside. Then, there’s the word ‘Rache’ which appears in both versions. But the reasons are reversed. The wrong conclusion then is the right one now. Also, in a poetic stance, the hunter in the novel is retained as a metaphor. ’Who hunts in the middle of a crowd?’ is the question that ultimately leads to the killer.
In a lighter vein, now is the age wherein two men sharing a space and a few adventures can only mean one thing: That both of them are gay! Mrs. Hudson thinks so; A restaurant owner thinks so; At a point, Watson suspects it of Holmes and Holmes suspects it of Watson too. We are quickly relieved of these mushrooming suspicions although the other characters do not give up their conclusions so easily. Such a thought never crossed Doyle’s mind, I bet. A reflection of the Now and its piercing focus on sexuality!
The killer in both cases is a person who takes people places. In the book, it’s a man of physical strength, at ease with horses. In the film, it’s a man of intelligence, at ease with spaces. Coming to the motives behind the murders, we are treated to a fascinating story of the travails of the killer and the justification in his murders in the original. Here we find a psychopath who, having made a pact with the devil, makes people die so that his girls can live a happy life after his death. Perhaps, we should acknowledge that there is love in both. The sword of death hangs above both our protagonists. One wants to keep it at bay until he has had his revenge. One is driven by the sword and makes a devious game out of it to give him the satisfaction of outliving four healthy individuals. Life and death seem to be doing a dance of contrasts!
The essence of the killer is not in his physical prowess and earthy skills of that era. It’s all about the mind. Perhaps, that’s what moves the world now. In this new version, we find no dashing victim, no moving love story and no noble motives. Instead, it’s a man broken by fate and divorce. This transformation has a huge role to play in shifting the emphasis from the killer to Sherlock Holmes, without a doubt.
On the whole, how I see this is that the creators cut the novel into pieces, scattered them all over the show and somehow still managed to retain the soul of the story of Sherlock Holmes from the pages of the past to the picture of the present!