Dylan Thomas: Return Journey Review


Dylan Thomas: Return Journey is a one-man interpretation of the lectures Dylan Thomas gave during a tour to the USA towards the end of his life. Starring Bob Kingdom as Dylan Thomas and directed by Anthony Hopkins (who admits he'd have liked to play Thomas at one time), the DVD is definitely a niche product, consisting mostly of poetry being read out aloud.

This version of the production was commissioned as a Christmas Day special by BSB, but was shelved when Sky took over its rival satellite provider. Bob Kingdom effortlessly steps into the role of Dylan Thomas, unsurprising as he'd previously played the role on a stage tour around the world. He both looks and sounds like Thomas here... and he reads the poems and recounts the anecdotes with a real sense of charm. You can expect some of the most celebrated of Thomas's works such as Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night and And Death Shall Have No Dominion, and Fern Hill (despite the menu rather sloppily proclaiming that it's actually 'Fearn' Hill).

Anthony Hopkins – yes, he of Hannibal fame (amongst others, obviously; I'm not trying to be rude about him!) – makes his directorial debut here and everything works fairly well. It's not an action-packed piece of film-making, nor does it have a rigorous narrative flow to it, and so the directorial input is considerably more subtle here. Basically it's a one-man show, to camera, with some bare-ish sets so that the poetry and Kingdom's performance take centre-stage throughout. It definitely feels like a theatre show transposed for another medium, which is fitting, since that's exactly what it is.

I'm a big fan of Dylan Thomas, and none of the poems were new to me, so I have to admit it was a pleasant disc to have playing and yet nothing I would have considered buying for myself. The addition of the lecture segments didn't add enough dynamism to fully hold my interest and it's hard to imagine the audience this disc is really being pitched at.


The picture is presented in 4:3 standard TV format and has quite a lot of grain throughout, perhaps because it was a made-for-satellite-TV production, but perhaps moreso because it was filmed in 1990. Colours are good and natural, with shading adding a nice effect during some of the scenes. The contrast between light and dark shades also works well – again, unsurprising given the format.


Audio is stereo and only available in English with no subtitles. That's actually a real shame, it would sometimes be nice to be able to read the poems as well as hearing them. It's also an oversight for such a recent release.


I wasn't expecting many extras, and I got exactly that. Two short introductions by Anthony Hopkins in which similar information is presented, in terms of Dylan Thomas's life and career, and Hopkins's view of the production. Specific poems act as chapter headings, so you can hop to one you're particularly interested in, but as specified above I'd have like to have seen the text of the poems included somewhere on this DVD.


Of course the proviso here is that it's a DVD of someone readying Dylan Thomas's poetry. If that doesn't strike you as a good or enjoyable idea, you aren't going to enjoy this one bit. The mellifluous portrayal of both poetry and 'lecture' elements does have a rather soporific effect, but overall it's not terrible, just very very niche.

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Last updated: 26/06/2018 08:35:56

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