In The Beautiful Lie, the writers have reimagined in a contemporary Australian context the 1878 realist novel of Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, which also tells a story of adultery. Tolstoy wrote the work partly in order to criticise the Russia of his day, and it's a little hard to conceive of a society so different from Russia of the 1870s as Australia in 2015. The pressures on spouses, for a start, are very different now. The law is very different. Social expectations are very different. You wonder how the makers of this new TV series are going to play it with their new visual vehicle.
Some things never change however. Which brings me to the role of Dolly Faraday, played by Utopia's Celia Pacquola. Dolly's husband has been unfaithful with the au pair girl and Dolly is struggling to keep her family together while simultaneously allaying the internal pressures produced by her vanity. Particularly troublesome, you would think, for a young mother with several children.
Also a standout for me in the TV series is Alexander England as Peter Levin. In the novel, Levin is Tolstoy's hero, an independent rural landowner and therefore a cut above any other breed of personage you could imagine. Certainly more noble than someone as trivial as Skeet Du Point (Benedict Samuel), whom the Anna character, Anna Ivin (Sarah Snook) falls in love with in a fairly comprehensive way in this episode. The tensions introduced into the drama by the appearance of each of these characters in the episode is testament to the quality of the acting and directing. There is a palpable presence in the voice of someone like Dolly as she drags the tattered rags of her relationship around the sets inflecting every utterance with her own brand of disastrous calamity.
In the second episode the police get involved and Anna is arrested, so you wonder what the poor snipe has gotten up to. Bad luck if anyone's been murdered, you'd think, just as she's found the love of her life. But this is that kind of drama. The production is so high quality that you really do care, and you talk about these fictional characters as though they are real people inhabiting your own world. Make sure you watch the second episode tonight at 8.30pm on the ABC.