Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Brontes: too much reality?

I love reading biographies of strong, intelligent women. If a new book comes out on Jane Austen or Abigail Adams (the wife of our second president), I'm always the first in line to read it. I must own three or four books about the Bronte family, so you'd think I'd be thrilled to learn about an upcoming film about that bunch of siblings. But I'm squirming at some of the descriptions in this Guardian article:

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.

Doesn't that third paragraph contradict the second? First we're told that "It is this dark vision...that will be evoked," and then we're assured that the film "will not replace chocolate-box images with black clouds and tragedy."

Yes, the Brontes were real people who lived in difficult times. But while I'm no fan of sugar-coated history, it sounds as though this biopic might edge too far in the opposite direction, aiming to shove our noses into those dungheaps so we can smell the Brontes' reality. I'm going to keep my eye on this project, and if it looks like the film's going for grittiness in order to play up the heroism of the Bronte siblings, I'll probably give it a miss and stick with my books.

How about you?

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TrudyJ said...

Does your collection of Bronte bios include Lynn Reid Banks' Dark Quartet and its sequel? Those were the first (and only) Bronte bios I ever read so I never did have a "chocolate box" image of them ... Banks' portrayal of the family is pretty dark. It's hard to imagine the film could make it worse. I read Dark Quartet 20 years ago (moment of shock ... I could READ BOOKS 20 years ago??? I am old!) on my first trip to England when I was trying to work through my relationship with a college boyfriend who seemed doomed to self-destruct no matter how hard he tried not to. Reading about the career of Bramwell Bronte was just the thing I needed to sink me into a state of near-depression.

I'll probably see the film!

Mirtika said...

I'll see it. And if it shows more of a real picture of how people lived, all the better.

I sometimes get very impatient with the glamorized versions. I think if folks saw just how revolting life was for the regular folks in the time of Austen, Dickens..and the Brontes, we will appreciate very much more our public health systems and indoor plumbing. :D

Of course, I'd prefer not to see too much of horrors, such as the film version of THE NAME OF THE ROSE with the truly hellish vision of the Medieval monastic setting. Ugh.

So, I dunno what I want.

Okay, maybe I just am tired of everyone having perfect make-up and hair and teeth. After seeing Victorian House, it seems to me that grooming might not have approximated costume drama perfection.


I think one of the things I really, really loved (among so many) of the NERO WOLFE tv series (cut off too soon, alas), was that they made the women actually LOOK like they were in their time period. The stark orange-red lipstick, the hair that looked done via old-fashioned methods (a bit hyper-stylized and stiff from rollers and a lot of spray). It wasn't a modern beauty thrown to the past, but an attempt to capture the groomed look of women then.

I guess I'd like to see more of what the Brontes would have seen, as long as I don't have to visit the gutter too long.


LK said...

Who would be your choice is terms of casting?

Shelley said...

Hopefully the movie would turn out much better than the description!

As for the winestem charms, before I read what they were, I thought that you were holding earrings - so I suppose it is quite possible to have them made into earrings!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I'm not much for reading history, but I'm glad your back to posting...I have dialup so I couldn't hear the audios!

I'm going to the Phila Christian Writers Conference next week, and...LOL...you'd better believe the laptop is going too!

Brenda Coulter said...

No, Trudy, I haven't read the Banks books.

Mir, I'm not rooting for an idealized version, but for an even-handed treatment of the subject. I don't like perfect hair and makeup any more than I like gratuitous "grit."

LK, I'm not all that interested in actors. I figure if they're doing a good job, we shouldn't notice them at all.

Shelley, I tried on the "earrings" just now, and they work fine.

Bonnie, darlin', you didn't miss much on the audio posts.