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Saturday, July 29, 2006

More News on Biopic 'Bronte'

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At last we have some idea of what this long- very, very long-awaited biopic of the Bronte Sisters will look like thanks to this article from the Observer:

Among the Morris dancers and Bronte tea towels, there is little today in the Yorkshire village of Haworth to dispel romantic images of Charlotte, Emily and Anne strolling on sunlit moors, gaining inspiration for tales that would one day busy the costume drama industry.
It is harder to imagine dungheaps and foul drains, the open sewer in the street and the cholera and typhoid that killed most children before their sixth birthday. It is this dark vision of Bronte country that will be evoked in the first major British biopic of the literary household.
Bronte, likely to be filmed from October in a Yorkshire village that has yet to be chosen, will not replace chocolate-box images with black clouds and tragedy. The £6 million movie will argue that what the sisters achieved in spite of the death and disease was a miracle of imagination and nothing short of heroic.


Charlotte, best known for Jane Eyre, will be played by Michelle Williams, the American actress who starred alongside her partner, Heath Ledger, in Brokeback Mountain. The role of Emily, author of Wuthering Heights, has gone to Nathalie Press, who appeared in the recent BBC adaptation of Bleak House and the critically acclaimed film My Summer of Love. Anne, who with The Tenant of Wildfell Hall never matched the literary reputation of her siblings, will be portrayed by New Zealander Emily Barclay, who was in the film In My Father's Den.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers, seen opposite Scarlett Johansson in Woody Allen's Match Point, plays Branwell, a failed artist who turned to alcohol and opium, while Ben Chaplin plays the Rev Arthur Bell Nicholls, who married Charlotte nine months before her death. Brian Cox, the veteran film actor currently appearing in Tom Stoppard's Rock 'N' Roll on the London stage, plays the family patriarch, the Irish-born Rev Patrick Bronte, who outlived all his offspring.
The film seems to be a safe bet for producer AMC Pictures because of the world's seemingly insatiable appetite for all things Bronte.

'There was terrible disease in the town and burials in the ground around the Brontes every day,' said Angela Workman, the film's writer and director. 'Yet within this trauma they created and turned it into a heat and a life force.'

[...]

'There's a fear of telling this story because there's a fear it will be too depressing,' added Workman. 'There was great tragedy in their lives and they died young, but the lifespan for women in that region at that time was 25, and it occurred to me that the Brontes lived beyond that. For me, the story is about the way they defied death and created.'

From the suppressed emotion between Jane and Mr Rochester to the wild passion of Heathcliff and Cathy, many readers have speculated on the Victorian writers' sexual lives. Workman, a Canadian of British descent who spent four months researching at Haworth, said: 'Everyone talks about how passionate the books are. I think writing became an outlet for them. That will be in the film: a sexuality that emerges out of them in the way it does for people who can't express it, who are physical and temperamental. It comes out in their fantasies as they're playing, in the dirt, wind, rain, cold.'

Brian Cox said of his character, Patrick: 'He lived until his eighties and saw them all off - he was an extraordinary man. Haworth was one of the wettest places in the world: they were living in a permanent state of damp and were doomed from the start.'

ETA: The imdb.com page for 'Bronte' .

10 comments:

mysticgypsy said...

"Anne, who with The Tenant of Wildfell Hall never matched the literary reputation of her siblings,"

um...quite unfairly stated!

Brontëana said...

I saw that. It is very sad how she is consistently written off. Tenant is possibly my third favourite Bronte novel- I like it better than Wuthering Heights... I think. I was thinking the other day of how ridiculous it seems to me that these rather attractive actors are playing the Brontes.

And the sexuality from playing in the dirt idea... is... interesting. I know the project has been planned for well over a year now, but it sounds a little like it is leaning towards Polly Teale's 'Bronte.'

mysticgypsy said...

"but it sounds a little like it is leaning towards Polly Teale's 'Bronte."
That's what I thought too.

marshalsea said...

Don't forget Agnes Grey; higly underrated!

I'm excited at the propect of Nathalie Press playing Emily - she's a brilliant actress.

Liz said...

Hmmm, not sure about this. It seems to be more from the school of bleurghness, you know, that the Brontes were so full of bleurgh that they had to bleurgh it out messily onto the page. Instead of, you know, logically constructing clever, intricate plots and themes. I am probably being a little harsh, but I hate anything that detracts from their skill! As to sexuality – in my opinion all the sisters know exactly what they were doing when they made their books so wonderfully racy. They had read Richardson, after all, and probably the naughtier bits of Byron and George Sand. To think otherwise is to assume the horribly patronising tone of Thackeray when he describes Charlotte as some rampant sex-starved spinster waiting at home for any young man but no young man ever comes.

Anyway, I am probably overreacting.

Brontëana said...

to mysticgypsy:

Oddly, it looks like there are other biopics being produced about female authors lately, and the trend seems to be that they attempt to explain how they could write such wonderful romances if they were spinsters. I'm hoping it doesn't go down that road- it doesn't sound like it so far...

Brontëana said...

to Marshalsea:

I don't know how long you have been reading along, but I went through quite an odyssey to find a copy of Agnes Grey! Anne's poems are also very good, and also underrated.

Brontëana said...

to Liz:

I know, I have much the same fear but so far there doesn't seem to be any indication that the film will be going in that direction. I was also thinking recently about how often female writers are not given credit for creativity. I don't believe that male authors faced the same sort of test.

And, really... there's no sex in the Bronte novels (despite the fact that filmakers sometimes like to put a little in because WH isn't passionate enough without it- I suppose, they must know best...). So, women who are not sexually active cannot have a sexual imagination? That is, they can't imagine passionate relationships with men? It seems odd to me, but the question of 'how them spinsters' could write these novels is ridiculously prevalent.

Rant over. ;)

mysticgypsy said...

"So, women who are not sexually active cannot have a sexual imagination? That is, they can't imagine passionate relationships with men? It seems odd to me, but the question of 'how them spinsters' could write these novels is ridiculously prevalent."

YES!!! I am so glad you mentioned this! This question of spinsters and creativity really intrigues me, along with how so many try to argue that a woman MUST have had sexual experiences in order to write powerful novels..as if the Imagination was not enough! I was particularly frustrated by the recent claim made about Emily, where someone had a BBC drama made about how Emily fell in love with a country boy called Robert (his last name escapes me now). However, I wrote a little entry about my thoughts on this matter here

Brontëana said...

to mysticgypsy:

It is offensive. The whole attitude today seems to be that any objections to such an 'explicit' view of the Brontes is just prudishness, but that isn't so (remember the 'Charlotte was a filthy bitch' article that was supposed to be in praise of her on the recent aniversary of her death?). I am not familiar with all of the details of this theory that Emily had a lover, but from what I know of her character and genius I'd think that it is a cheap way of 'explaining' her. As if she needs explaining.