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ELIZABETH BOWEN'S ''DEATH OF the Heart,'' publimelted in 1938, stays an exquisite expedition of adolescence. Even now, when teen-ager anxieties seem centered on whether or not Molly Ringwald will get a date for the college prom, the novel deserve to whisk readers back a mere 50 years to a time when a sensitive 16-year-old girl called Portia can still need to face the profoundly unsettling specter of Innocence Betrayed. This takes location, admittedly, in a very distinct and insulated world of social privilege, dominated by those possessing what Ms. Bowen made a decision to contact ''a herbal grace.'' But, sharply perceived, the story is practically breathtakingly illuminating around the human problem.

Granada TV's two-hour dramatization of ''The Death of the Heart,'' produced by June Wyndham Davies in 1985, is being available in its entirety on Masterpiece Theater tonight at 9 on WNET. With the expenses of longer mini-series coming to be increasingly prohibitive, Masterpiece Theater will certainly be turning even more typically to these kinds of shorter, frequently self-contained productions. This previous seaboy, dramatizations of ''Silas Marner'' and also several Noel Coward short stories were presented using this strategy.

Adapted by Derek Mahon and also directed by Peter Hammond, ''The Death of the Heart'' is a wonderful manufacturing in many respects, specifically in its repertoire of fine performances. But tright here is a hitch, and a substantial one at that: Anyone who hasn't review the novel is most likely to spfinish the first 40 or 50 minutes of the dramatization trying to number out the exact relationships in between the significant characters. The effort deserve to be uncomfortably distracting.

Unfortunately, Alistair Cooke, the series organize, stops working to be as beneficial as he might conveniently have actually been. Instead of sketching in the backgrounds of the story's key protagonists, Mr. Cooke gives a brief biography of Ms. Bowen, noting that she was born in Ireland also in 1899 and belonged to the Anglo-Irish contingent that is ''nearly a race apart.'' About ''The Death of the Heart,'' Mr. Cooke is rather chilly. He just notes that it involves a ''disinserted person'' that becomes the beneficiary of great intentions that are distressingly doing not have in warmth. Mr. Cooke returns at the finish of the presentation to praise a later Bowen novel called ''The Heat of the Day.'' He hopes to check out it dramatized for a TV series some day. On the other hand, ''The Death of the Heart'' appears curiously neglected.

The story is about Portia, still a little bit vulnerable and aching to be loved. She has actually grown up in Europe, the modest circumstances of her paleas relegating her to earlier rooms in hotels or dark flats in villas through no check out. Portia is the daughter of a Mr. Quayne, who one fine day in comfortable midlife in Dorset unexpectedly uncovered himself having actually an affair with an additional woman, later on to be Portia's mother. Divorced by his formidable wife and also shunned by his 20-year-old child Thomas, already at Oxford, Mr. Quayne fbrought about Europe in shame.

The TV dramatization, choose the novel, opens through Portia (Jojo Cole), currently an orphan and also living in the exclusive Regents Park area of London with her now-36-year-old brother Thomas (Nigel Havers) and his wife Anna (Patricia Hodge), that is openly resentful of the teen-ager. The couple have agreed to take in the girl for a ''trial period'' of one year. Anna has actually been unable to have children of her own. Thomas does not like to be reminded of his father's sordid past. The existence of Portia sets the brvarious other and his wife both on edge. Anna is especially upset when she discovers Portia's diary and finds unflattering recommendations to herself. They are not so much untype as distorted, she insists to her haughty friend St. Quentin (Jonathan Hyde), a novelist.

Unspecific of that she really is, Portia enters a residence whose just links via the previous are the furniture and the elderly maid Matchett (Wendy Hiller), leftovers from the Quayne home in Dorcollection. The rather forbidding however sympathetic Matchett starts to tell the girl stories around her father's previously life. The old womale cares. So does the blustery, down-at-the-heels Major Brutt (Robert Hardy), as soon as the close frifinish of Anna's first lover. And then, functioning currently at Thomas's proclaiming firm, there is Eddie (Daniel Chatto), the young, conniving charmer that amprovides Anna until he threa10s to obtain severe about Portia. Eddie is a rat but, in his own struggle for survival, additionally an innocent. He perceptively tells Portia: ''You and also I are enough to break anyone's heart.''

The TV production closely surrounds Portia via an air of artificiality. Anna, Thomas and St. Quentin are personalities out of a Noel Coward comedy gone disastrously absurd. They strike all the ideal poses of sophistication while trying desperately, and also not constantly successfully, to hide their true feelings. St. Quentin likes Anna all the more for her continuous overacting, a type of defiant bluffing. And in the center of these arch charades sits Portia, loosely threaded together, nervous and gangly, watching whatever with a penetrating intensity. ''Her look, stable, level and also unassuming, missed nothing,'' Ms. Bowen writes. Sent off to the seaside tvery own of Seale for a vacation, Portia will certainly start shaking off the last vestiges of adolescence at the decidedly odd home, called Waikiki, of Mrs. Heccomb (Phyllis Calvert), Anna's former governess. An occurrence in a movie residence, involving Eddie and also Mrs. Heccomb's ruthlessly common stepdaughter Daphne (Miranda Richardson), turns out to be vital.

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Ms. Cole is a thoroughly disarming Portia, plain as a crumpet yet radiating intelligence and eager generosity. Disextending that the means of the human being perform not break dvery own quickly right into easy categories of appropriate and also wrong, her Portia still insists on being taken seriously. Little wonder that, close to the end of the tale, the shrewd St. Quentin have the right to observe: ''This evening the pure in heart have simply obtained us on toast.'' Most viewers will certainly no doubt agree.