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Masterpiece’s Any Human Heart: The Writer Has Three Faces

In Recaps on February 18, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Young Logan Mountstuart (Sam Claflin) wrote in his journal in “Any Human Heart.” (Screen cap)

Any Human Heart, the three-week Masterpiece miniseries that PBS began airing February 13, tells the fictional tale of Logan Mountstuart, a British writer whose life spans the 20th century and includes Forrest Gump-style brushes with real-life historical figures.

TV Columnist is recapping the show using Logan’s own words – his inner thoughts and on-air journal entries.

Episode one opened with elderly Logan (Jim Broadbent) in a reflective mood:

I have this image in my head. It’s a kind of recurring dream that I can’t explain – a boat on a river in Uruguay, with a little boy fishing. Am I the boy in the boat, or am I the observers on the riverbank? Is this a vision of an individual life, traveling through time? Which life is truly mine? I’m all these different people. All these different people are me.

Logan flashes back to 1926, when as an Oxford student (played by Sam Claflin) he took to his journal and “solemnly declared” he would lose his virginity.

Logan and his friend Peter Scabius (Freddie Fox) bet each other to see who could seduce Tess (Holliday Grainger), a slightly older woman in town.

Logan lost the wager – and shared his disappointment in his journal:

It’s utterly preposterous to be a virgin at my age. Absurd. Shameful. I should be concentrating on my book. I should be writing. But thoughts of sex keep intruding themselves. Peter and Tess are lovers. He spends weekends at her cottage. He’s won the bet! It’s totally and utterly unfair.

When Logan met fellow college student Land Fothergill (Charity Wakefield), he was instantly smitten.

She’s the one. Forget Tess – simple, comely Tess. Think of Land: sophisticated, intellectual, provocative.

But when Peter’s disapproving father discovered his affair with Tess, Peter broke off their relationship and Logan comforted her – losing his virginity in the process.

All the bells of Oxford seem to be celebrating my joy! Logan Mountstuart – you are no longer a virgin! But Tess is Peter’s girl. Shame on you, Logan Mountstuart. This must never, ever happen again. Never, ever.

But it did.

Logan and Tess’s affair ended when she became pregnant (Logan was sure he wasn’t responsible) and accepted Peter’s marriage proposal.

After graduation, Logan promised his dying father (Ken Bones) that he’d follow him into the meat-processing business (“corned beef is going to keep you very comfortable”) but when Mr. Mountstuart died, Logan broke his pledge and moved to Paris to “write, write, write.”

In the City of Lights, Logan got drunk with Ernest Hemingway (Julian Ovenden), began writing (via typewriter) his first novel and reunited with Land, who finally became his lover.

Strange, to think I am now familiar with all the singularities of Land. Outline your emotions: Happiness and contentment. What are your ambitions? To be with Land, every day possible. Why? Because, because I am in love with her.

Logan’s salacious literary debut, The Girl Factory, became a bestseller and he proposed to Land, who brutally rejected him because she said he wasn’t a serious writer.

On the rebound, Logan married spoiled heiress Lottie (Emerald Fennell).

I’m ready for marriage and married life. I. Love. Lottie. I am completely over Land. Completely.

But he wasn’t.

Logan fantasized about Land when making love to Lottie, who eventually gave birth to a son: Lionel, named – over Logan’s objections – after Lottie’s stuffy father.

An older Logan (now played by Matthew Macfadyen) published The Cosmopolitans, a book on obscure French poets that he wrote to impress Land.

It didn’t sell well so Logan took a journalism job, writing about old churches in Portugal, where he fell head over heels for beautiful Freya Deverall (Hayley Atwell), a BBC journalist who became his mistress.

Life has to be encountered with a mixture of sheer ignorance and blind faith. Sheer ignorance because you can’t ever know what will happen – ever. And blind faith that this time the roll of the dice will bring you luck.

Logan rented an apartment in London to focus on his journalism career – and to be with Freda.

He continued to encounter the famous and the soon-to-be-infamous, meeting Ian Fleming (Tobias Menzies) in a bar and Prince Edward (Tom Hollander) and his mistress Wallis Simpson (Gillian Anderson) on a golf course in France.

Logan took a journalism assignment reporting on the latest military conflict in Europe – but before he departed, Freya told him she was pregnant.

“Everything’s changed now. Everything’s real,” she said.

Logan’s life as a war correspondent was miserable.

So this is war in the 20th century. Mechanized terror, faceless killing machines. The infernal nightmare that is the Spanish Civil War. Or should that be the mind-bending tedium, the crushing boredom, the terminal fatigue? I should be writing another novel. Will I find my inspiration here, in Barcelona? I doubt it. All I think about is Freya. Freya. Freya.

An evening drinking with old friend Hemingway and his mistress, journalist Martha Gellhorn (Sia Berkeley), inspired Logan to go home and divorce Lottie.

Logan was confident all would go well.

It’s time. There’s no going back. Lottie is essentially a sweet, kind person. We can be civilized about this. Grown up.

But they weren’t.

During the legal proceedings, Lottie’s monocle-wearing father Lionel (Rupert Vansittart) repeatedly called Logan a “bastard;” Logan also learned he would receive no money from Lottie’s family – and that he would be able to visit their son only once a month.

Logan and Freya reunited and moved into a tiny apartment outside London, where Logan was in heaven:

It’s Shepard’s Pie for supper. Food of the Gods. Tomorrow I must paint the nursery. Michaelangelo attacks the Sistine Chapel. Absurd head-reeling sensations of bliss. Intoxicating, chest-filling emotion that must be pure happiness.

Logan married Freya, who soon gave birth to their daughter Stella.

As the episode concluded, old Logan reflected on his life:

We never stay the same person. We change as we grow old. The things that happen to us make us different people. It’s part of the story of our life.

Logan used an Imperial typewriter to pen his first novel in “Any Human Heart.” (Screen cap)

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  1. I don’t remember all that stuff at the end with him divorcing Lottie. Is that from episode 2 (Channel 4’s episode 2)? I’d like to watch more of this show. It’s interesting storytelling, although it does get a bit confusing with all the jumping around.

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