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Friday, July 07, 2006

Kudos to make Wide Sargasso Sea for BBC4

I must confess that I had a hint that this production was planned but as I could not find confirmation I chose not to post about it. And now, here it is! From the Guardian:

BBC Wales has commissioned independent producer Kudos to make a BBC4 TV movie based on Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys's 1966 prequel to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.
The film has been adapted by Stephen Greenhorn, whose other work includes the BBC1 dramas Glasgow Kiss and Derailed, and will star Rafe Spall - last seen on the channel in The Chatterley Affair - and Rebecca Hall, alongside established stars Michael Maloney and Victoria Hamilton.


Set in the lush landscape of Jamaica following the emancipation of slaves in the 1830s, Wide Sargasso Sea tells the story of the arranged marriage between Bertha Mason, a white Creole heiress, and Mr Rochester, who became Jane Eyre's lover in Bronte's book, which was published in 1847.

The BBC4 controller, Janice Hadlow, said: "It's great that Jean Rhys's captivating prequel to Jane Eyre is being adapted for BBC4 and with such a fantastic cast."
Filming is under way in Jamaica and in locations around the UK by Kudos, the company behind Spooks, Hustle and Life on Mars.
The drama is being is produced by Elwen Rowlands and directed by Brendan Maher.


This is not the first time the book has been adapted for film. It was made into a movie in 1993 starring Nathaniel Parker and Karina Lombard. Generally thought of as a very pretty looking pornographic film, and a poor adaptation of Rhys' novel.

ETA: NB: I have just read over the Guardian's synopsis again and have several errors to address. It is not the story of the marriage of Bertha Mason and Mr Rochester. It is the story of the marriage of Antoinette Cosway and her husband (who is not named).

7 comments:

marshalsea said...

Can't wait, I love Spooks , Hustle and especially Life on Mars.

Kudos have a great track record!

Brontëana said...

I haven't seen any of those films, but I did not find the material in WSS to be as rich as people say. Have you ever read it yourself?

marshalsea said...

I felt as though Jean Rhys gave a voice to Bertha that was lacking in Jane Eyre.

Jean herself was a white creole and she identified heavily with women that were uprooted for the sake of their 'superiors'.

There's a brilliant passage in WSS where Antoinette talks of how she misses her reflection now that she's in England.

Jean's prose is beautiful, yet unsentimental. I'll have to dig my copy out to get the exact passage.

I really like WSS, even though Jean directed a few criticisms towards Charlotte and her book.

Brontëana said...

I only read it once, and as a rule I don't believe I have read something properly until I have read it at least twice or even three times. The first time I was very disappointed- I saw nothing beautiful in her style. I found it very disjointed and careless in regard to narrative voice. It is unpopular to say so, but that is my honest opinion.

I am alone- I think- in believing that Rhys does far more to harm Bertha than to give her more life than she had in JE. In short, I believe Rhys has effaced what Bertha did have- almost her entire history, her name even (which is Bertha Antoinetta Mason on the marriage certificate) and replaced it with an alien one- possibly reflecting Rhys' own experience. That has been my chief problem with the book, besides the faults in style.

Anonymous said...

Antoinette Cosway is, I believe, Bertha Mason, if they're following the book. Her mother married Mr. Mason, hence she sort of took his name. But the story /is/ that of Bertha and Rochester.

Brontëana said...

to anonymous:

It is true that Antoinette's mother marries a Mr Mason in the book at that Antoinette takes his name, but the details of Antoinette's and Bertha's lives are very different, including very basic details such as the time in which their marriages take place. In her letters Rhys makes confusing statements about whether or not, or two what extent Antoinette is supposed to be Bertha. In one case she says something to the effect of: 'if Bronte can take Bertha then I can take poor Antoinette' implying they are two separate characters. They behave differently, have different histories, and different names.

Maisy said...

I am alone- I think- in believing that Rhys does far more to harm Bertha than to give her more life than she had in JE. In short, I believe Rhys has effaced what Bertha did have- almost her entire history, her name even (which is Bertha Antoinetta Mason on the marriage certificate) and replaced it with an alien one- possibly reflecting Rhys' own experience. That has been my chief problem with the book, besides the faults in style.

You're not alone in thinking this, but you're right in that it is a popular stance among readers of WSS to want to replace Brontë's characterizations with those of Rhys. Peter Hulme has written extensively on this subject.

Additionally, Rhys even changes the time period of Bertha and Rochester's marriage, moving their wedding from 1819 to approximately 1940. Rhys' purpose is to tie Bertha's story to the 1838 Emancipation, and to parallel Bertha's experience with her own family history.

As a fan and scholar of both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, I've long believed that it's tricky and even unfair to reread Brontë's text by filtering it through Rhys'. I think each work needs to stand on its own. Rhys' novel strays so far from the facts and events established in Jane Eyre that it seems erroneous, imo, to analyse the characters in JE by what Rhys writes about them in WSS.

Rhys also makes the same mistakes (misinterpreting culture, following stereotyles) that she feels Brontë made in JE--just like her characters Antoinette and "the Englishman" do with each other.