Even rich aristocratic families do not always have it as easy as it might seem.
While life is outwardly characterized by luxury, fine society, receptions and opulent balls, England at the beginning of the 20th century was a society subject to a wide range of constraints: class conceit, conventions and adherence to old — and often outdated — traditions.
Love, intrigues, war and grief
Such is the case at Downton Abbey, the country castle of the Crawley Family — and not only in the fine chambers and drawing rooms of the lords and ladies, but also among the household staff. The castle's inhabitants have experienced and survived love, intrigues, war and grief over the decades.
The "Downton Abbey" plot is tied into historical events such as the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the Spanish flu epidemic and the battle for women's suffrage.
The fates and fortunes of the figures were broadcast between 2010 and 2015 in the British television series, which continues to be followed by millions of people. Currently, all seasons are running on the streaming service Netflix.
The first film adaptation of "Downton Abbey" opened in theaters in 2019: It grossed $194 million (€182 million), making it more successful than Quentin Tarantino's Oscar-winning "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," which was released the same year.
Picking up at the end of the sixth season of the series, the film is set in 1927 and deals with the British royal couple's visit to Downton Abbey. The screenplay was written by Julian Fellowes, who also wrote the entire series.
One film was not enough
That huge box-office success spurred Fellowes and the film crew to continue — with the sequel turned around relatively quickly. Filming began in 2021, but the start of the movie was postponed several times. Now, however, nothing should stand in the way of its release in theaters: in Germany on April 28, in the UK on April 29 and in the US on May 20.
Universal Pictures is promising a reunion with the entire cast, as well as some new faces. The plot is set at the beginning of the 1930s. In the new film, the family's gravely ill matriarch, Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), seems to have a mysterious past that the family didn't know about: A secret lover bequeaths the lady an estate in the south of France.
A film crew wants to shoot at Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle in real life), with the director and some of the actors who have arrived causing a lot of commotion. Among others, a person appears who is obviously up to no good. This prompts the family to embark on a trip to the south of France, where a wedding is celebrated.
Period dramas are extremely popular
Whether "Downton Abbey" or the currently successful series " Bridgerton," opulent period dramas are well received among viewers. Even in the 1970s, the British television series "Upstairs, Downstairs" made a name for itself due to its attention to detail.
In that series, like in "Downton Abbey," the focus was on the lives of both the gentry and the servants, with the intention of depicting living conditions as realistically as possible. It was one of the most successful series of the 1970s on English, US American and German television.
Currently, the most-viewed English-language series on Netflix is "Bridgerton." It revolves around love, wealth, dance balls, proper manners, good matches and weddings. The casting, however, is unique as skin color plays no role.
The stories about fine English society in the early 19th century are colorfully and opulently staged, winning many a heart over despite the sweet kitsch. A third season is already in the works. It has been a huge catch for Netflix, with only the South Korean series " Squid Game" (2021) being more successful.
And, for those who can't get enough, "Downton Abbey" creator Julian Fellowes has drummed up more: his series "The Gilded Age" has just started on HBO and, in Germany, on Sky Atlantic. It is set in wealthy New York around 1880, where the old-moneyed aristocracy meets families of the new rich, offering plenty of potential for conflict — and entertainment.
Author Silke Wünsch
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