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Sunday, November 13, 2005

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester film to be released in North America.

This post from Brontëblog reminded me that there is soon to be a film released that marginally pertains to Brontë studies. The film is called The Libertine, starring Johnny Depp as John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. The film itself was made sometime last year, I believe, but until now it has been very difficult to track down and hasn't been released in the theatres in North America at least.

Briefly, there is much to be discussed regarding to what extent Lord Rochester provided material for the character of Edward Rochester. Clearly, the relationship isn't as profound as that of a model per se, at the very least he is his namesake. There are several important similarities, however, which do indicate a conscious decision to utilise certain aspects of Wilmot's life. Many of these are symbolic resonances: names, and places in Jane Eyre such as St.John (the name of one of the Earl's relatives), Elizabeth- the ancestress of Mr Rochester- is also idenitifed with one of the Lord's relatives, and the battle in which Mr. Rochester's fictional ancestor Damer de Rochester was slain is the same in which the first Earl of Rochester was created. During this battle (of Marston Moor), one of the generals in the conflict was named Fairfax. Other key elements, a little more profound, are the Lord's penchant for 'drawing out' ladies while in disguise, his poetry (he is best known for being a poet, and a rakehell) is often bittingly cynical about the human race- in his Satyr on Reason and Mankind, he refers to Reason as being an ignis fatuus leading into error- a motif appropriate for Jane Eyre in which he is lead into error (and much is made, of course, of the similarity between 'eyre' and 'err').

Not much work has been done on this subject so far, but it will certainly be rewarding. I've already written on it, and there really is more to it I'm sure (If I had but time!). We must alo keep in mind what Charlotte had to say in Mr Rochester's defense:

Mr. Rochester has a thoughtful nature and a very feeling heart; he is neither selfish nor self-indulgent; he is ill-educated, misguided; errs, when he does err, through rashness and inexperience: he lives for a time as too many other men live, but being radically better than most men, he does not like that degraded life, and is never happy in it. He is taught the severe lessons of experience and has sense to learn wisdom from them. Years improve him; the effervescence of youth foamed away, what is really good in him still remains. His nature is like wine of a good vintage, time cannot sour, but only mellows him.

One last interesting point is the casting of the film. The plot deals somewhat with the affair between Rochester and his mistress Elizabeth Barry, played by Samantha Morton. For those readers unaware of what is so interesting here, Samantha Morton played the part of Jane Eyre in the latest film (A&E 1997). The picture above shows her and Johnny Depp in a production photo from http://imdb.com

The film opens: November 25th, 2005 (LA/NY); January 13th, 2006 (expands). The trailer and other information can be found here.


Anonymous said...

Look at this old post of ours , you can find some links if you are interested in this topic.

M. (BrontëBlog)

Brontëana said...

Yes, I did see that. I used the Pittock article as one of the sources for my own paper- which wasn't entirely on the Wilmot/Mr Rochester connection. I set him in opposition to one other model. The Pittock article is basically only a sketch outline. There is so much more to reveal from this association than has been done to date.