Saturday, September 17, 2011

Unobservant Eyes

The Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights screenings at the Toronto Film Festival are still echoed in several news outlets:
The Wrap:

It's not a traditional take on the Bronte classic, but Andrea Arnold's "Wuthering Heights" found many admirers.
CNN:
In the past, Emily Brontë's romantic hero (or anti-hero) Heathcliff has been played by Laurence Olivier, Timothy Dalton and Ralph Fiennes. But Andrea Arnold is the first director to cast a black actor in the part -- in fact two black actors, as she also tackles the full scope of the story, from Heathcliff's arrival on the moors as a child to his return as a grown man (played by newcomer James Howson). (Tom Charity)
Página 12 (Argentina):
Pero aquí da un paso más audaz, porque consigue que esa energía desbocada de los personajes se contagie a un film de época, con una materia tan remanida como la novela de Brontë. Lejos de todo acartonamiento o academicismo, las Cumbres borrascosas de Arnold devuelven a la historia original su pasión romántica. La naturaleza hostil, el viento inclemente, las nubes de tormenta no son aquí meros adornos, sino la expresión de las tempestades emocionales que atraviesan Heathcliff y Cathy, cuando se conocen siendo todavía casi niños. La cámara en mano a la manera del cine de los hermanos Dardenne y la respiración agitada del film todo hacen aún más violenta esa relación condenada al fracaso. (Luciano Monteagudo) (Translation)
Loudvision (Italy):
Un film costruito sul rimosso: l'assenza di una colonna sonora tradizionale a favore del vento della brughiera, l'assenza di un'illuminazione specifica negli ambienti e in esterna a favore della luce naturale. Come il rimosso è la chiave del ritorno di Heathcliff, più vendicatore che innamorato. (Raffaele Boiano) (Translation)
The film contains some digital work that is explained on 4rfv.co.uk:
Rushes Film & TV, who have worked with Andrea and Editor Nicolas Chaudeurge on both Red Road and Fish Tank, were asked to work on the VFX which consisted in part of a number of shots of rain addition. However, shooting in the north of England doesn’t guarantee rain on demand and the Rushes team, led by VFX Supervisor Jonathan Privett, were required to both add and subtract rain across a selection of shots to add to the mood and aid continuity.
In addition, various modern details on the landscape and buildings were removed and cleaned up. Louise Hussey, Rushes VFX Producer and Jonathan Privett explained: “The effects had to be seamless and invisible. Andrea’s films are never about flashy visible VFX but subtle work that simply works with the beautiful shots in the right context.”
Some of the recent comments about the film are echoed in the Yorkshire Post. IndieWire's The Playlist doesn't think that the movie has real chances in the awards season:
And “Wuthering Heights” likely won’t hit theaters in the U.S. until 2012, and even then, it’s rather too savage a period piece for awards season—even the BAFTAs are likely to turn their nose up.  (Oliver Lyttelton)
The screening in the Leeds International Film Festival in ScreenDaily:
Chris Fell, director of Leeds International Film Festival, said: “I’m delighted that the 25th Leeds International Film Festival will open with one of the most talked-about British films of the year, and one with strong associations with the Yorkshire region. Andrea Arnold’s raw interpretation of Wuthering Heights is a powerful experience and like none that has come before. The Opening Gala night at Leeds is our most high-profile event and we wanted to give this outstanding film the headline attention it deserves.” (Guy Rimay-Muranyi)
And a few more (and positive) reviews of Blake Morrison's We Are Three Sisters. The Financial Times gives 4 out of 5 stars :
Morrison is detailed yet witty in his web of analogies. He uses genuine figures from the Brontë sisters’ lives but plays with chronology, invents personalities for the non-family members and sometimes conflates characters from Chekhov. The “lovesick major” Vershinin in Three Sisters, for instance, becomes the “lovesick curate” William Weightman, who also has the main characteristics of the idealistic Tuzenbach in Chekhov’s play; Dr John Wheelhouse is both his Chekhovian counterpart Chebutykin and the surly Solyony. Branwell Brontë’s sometime employer (and probably lover) Lydia Robinson becomes a caricature even of Chekhov’s Natasha, with Becky Hindley relishing her portrayal of vulgar and misplaced snobbery.
Morrison also enjoys subverting our expectations by giving cues that he then refuses to pay off. His fourth act departs from Chekhov’s template almost entirely: the characters around the family, like the soldiers stationed near the Prozorovs, all leave but this is the act in which the Brontë sisters directly address the issues of their writing and its success, and their authorial identities ... and two of them visit London, which is two more than made it to Moscow in the original. (Ian Shuttleworth)
Morning Star takes a very different approach:
The acclaimed playwright's sixth play with the Northern Broadsides theatre company, the subject was first mooted a decade ago when someone suggested he adapt Chekhov's The Three Sisters but make it the story of the Brontës.
"At first I wasn't sure how it could be done," he admits over a cup of tea in Northern Broadsides' office in Halifax.
"And then I sat down a year ago and tried to do it. The early drafts were too remote from the reality of the Brontes, they were truer to the Chekhov, but gradually we're getting closer to the Brontë story. I think the Chekhov gives it a structure, a way of containing what is a really massive story." (...)
"There's so much to say about the position of women and about love and marriage that has to be honoured," Morrison says. "But certainly the social and political analysis is important in the sense of what's happening in the background. It is set around 1848, the era of the Chartist movement, revolutions in Europe and social change in industry changing the lives of people. I hope that's all there kicking around in the background."
The decision to place politics "quietly there" has the knock-on effect of Morrison portraying the Brontës first and foremost as ordinary women and secondly as extraordinary.
"They did live an ordinary life in the parsonage, but they were extraordinary in what they did," he stresses. "The whole business of the pseudonyms and the idea of three women all from one family living a little bit remotely from London and getting their books published and achieving success is extraordinary."
And while the sisters in the Chekhov play "talk about work, they want to work, there's a bit of teaching that goes on, but they're privileged and they're looking for a purpose in life, the Brontës just got on with it."
That's nicely contrasted with Mrs Robinson, the woman with whom Branwell had an affair that ultimately led to his downfall. "That whole story is great for the purposes of drama," he laughs. "I love playing with Chekhov where you've got the vulgar but lower-middle-class figure and here you've got vulgar and posh."
Mrs Lydia Robinson is a gift for barbed class comment and while rehearsals were in progress actress Becky Hindley expressed concern that her character is too one-dimensional.
Yet Branwell is, unusually, presented as neither a one-dimensional wastrel nor a genius.
"I think you should feel that he's got a kind of charisma," Morrison says.
"You could feel he's a very passionate man and you should also feel the sense of waste," he explains of the non-judgemental portrayal. "He's a prodigal and he's ruined by addiction to drink and opium but also really to an addiction to love.
"At the same time he was privileged. He was given all of the advantages that the sisters didn't have and there is a good line from a Charlotte letter where she says, 'Men aren't like us.' This is speaking from a woman's perspective - they're not brought up to 'resist temptation'!"
Such insights, which pepper both Morrison's conversation and the script, still have a ring of recognition.
It's these echoes through the years, whether talking about the sexes or social change, that helps keep the sisters relevant to a modern audience.
"What they say about class division, what they say about the employment of governesses in middle-class homes, are insights into a society that are still very relevant today," he agrees.
"I picked up the Guardian today and there's a big piece about contrasting two schools, one where pupils pay £30,000 a year and some comprehensive somewhere and you think, 'Yes this is in some ways what the Brontës addressed too.'"
It's easy to be disheartened by the fact that social inequalities the Brontës challenged in the 19th century remain on today's agenda.
They would, however, take pleasure in the fact that their legacy is remembered in plays such as We Are Three Sisters. (Susan Darlington)
Chester Chronicle:
Against the backdrop of a dark, remote northern town, three remarkable young women live their lives brightly. Haworth 1840s, in a gloomy parsonage where there are neither curtains nor comforts, Charlotte, Anne and Emily Brontë light up their world with outspoken wit, aspirations, dreams and ideas. Anyone who has read a Brontë novel cannot fail to be stirred by their overwhelming humanity, charged emotion and brooding and prescient unease with the status quo. With exquisitely drawn characterisations, a nod to Chekhov and a touch of poetic license, this pearl of a play - written by Blake Morrison and presented by Northern Broadsides - evokes with piercing clarity the life and distinct personalities of these three spirited individuals.  (Michael Green)
Jane Eyre 2011 is reviewed by the Birmingham Mail:
If anything, Fukunaga seems to be almost too in awe of the book since a few more cinematic flourishes would not have gone amiss.
But this is still a welcome change from Horrible Bosses etc which will have been long forgotten in 164 years’ time.
In an age of instant gratification, lessons about the value of solitude for long term benefit still ring true. (Graham Young)
Erica Wagner in The Times liked the film:
There are few things more alarming — to me, anyway — than seeing a film made from a book that I truly love. (...)
And so to Jane Eyre with fear in my heart. I admit that I found the casting promising: I had more faith that Mia Wasikowska might pull off Charlotte Brontë’s heroine than I ever did that Anne Hathaway would convince me that she was David Nicholls’ Em. Michael Fassbender as Mr Rochester: tick. But still, I have my own film of Jane Eyre in my head. Did I really need another ? As it turns out, yes, I did. And furthermore, Cary Fukunaga’s film provides fascinating fuel for the way in which films must almost always be unfaithful to the novels if they are, in the truest sense, to rightly represent them.
“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day,” is the novel’s famous opening line, throwing the reader into a rainy day of Jane’s imprisoned childhood. It’s raining as the film opens, but we see Jane as a young woman fleeing across the moors to find succour at the house of St John Rivers and his sisters — characters who are not introduced until the back half of the book. One measure of this adaptation’s confidence is the way that it deconstructs Jane Eyre’s chronology, flowing smoothly between Jane’s present and her past  to make her story live for the viewer, who may not also have been a reader. It’s a brilliant trick, and ruthles, too — whole elements of the book are discarded and, somehow, that works. And yet, Jane Eyre is still a tale of its time. Of course it is moving, at the film’s end, to see Jane reunited with the blinded Rochester; and yet I thought ruefully of the daughter of a friend of mine, who has just read the book for the very first time at the age of 13 — and who wondered if Jane might not have found a better, more adventurous fate. A good enough question though it’s thanks to Jane, and Charlotte, that her sisters in the future have been able to carve a different path. 
Listed Magazine:
Those familiar with Charlotte Brontë's classic love story will recognise that this is a brave departure from the text. It is a bold, atmospheric, stunningly filmed adaptation.
In the Times, followers of the goof-cult have found a haven:
Following Mr Rodney Bennett’s observation (Sept 16) that Jane Eyre was ahead of her time may I also point out that so were the flowers? Or at least they were out of time sequence. Thornfield Hall is portrayed standing in gothic splendour amid the windswept moors. The trees are bare and only a few slender daffodils dare to brave the elements. Yet in the garden Blanche Ingram and Mr Rochester flirt happily in a wisteria-covered arbour while the other guests walk in a rose garden and beneath a cherry tree in full blossom. Now, even to the most unobservant eye, surely these flowers do not appear at the same time, especially in Derbyshire?  
Annette Shelford Chailey Green, E Sussex
Sir, It’s not just the date that’s incorrect in the new film of Jane Eyre (letter, Sept 15). One trailer of the film has Rochester saying “till death do us part”. This error could have been avoided if the scriptwriter had consulted the 1662 Book of Common Prayer — or the 1960s sitcom Till Death Us Do Part.
Alison Blenkinsop Aldershot, Hants
As the film has been premiered in Sweden there are several reviews published:

Positive: Sydsvenskan, Svenska Dagbladet, Ergo.
Mostly positive: Tidningen Kulturen, Sveriges Radio P1, Folkbladet.
Unt's link is not working at the moment.

More reviews can be read on First Impressions and Filmweb.pl (in Polish). The Italian release date has been confirmed as October 7. 

Andrew Collins's Take Two (Radio Times) looks for the supporting actors in Jane Eyre 2011:
Last weekend I went to the Curzon to see the new Jane Eyre. I do like a costume drama, and this latest version, from director Cary Fukunaga, was handsome and windswept and - in the great tradition of literary adaptations - brilliantly cast, with mostly English actors. The kind you recognise from other costume dramas. Some of them lesser known. My favourite.
The Bromsgrove Advertiser talks about the film, particularly about Mia Wasikowska thoughts about it:
This is a darker, more gothic adaptation of the 19th century tale, in which a teenage girl arrives to work as a governess at isolated Thornfield Hall, and meets the brooding Edward Rochester (Fish Tank's Michael Fassbender).
"What I love about her character is, despite all the hardship she faces throughout her life, she has this innate sense of self-respect and an incredible ability to do what's right by herself as an individual," says Wasikowska.
The Daily Express has one of those articles that mourn physical books:
Shelves of books in a living room make a house feel warm and alive. Long winter nights spent reading a “proper” book in an armchair beside a fi re are hugely comforting but reading Jane Eyre on a soulless metal and plastic Kindle just doesn’t do it for me. Real books smell wonderful and books you have had all your life take you straight back in time as soon as you see the cover. (Richard & Judy)
Sue Arnold reviews an audiobook version of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own in The Guardian. She doesn't seems to be very fond of Woolf's works:
"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction," she advised her audience (women only, of course), and then went on to heap praise on the authors of Emma, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, none of whom had either. "But Mrs Woolf," I like to imagine myself sticking my hand up and asking, "how come you have both in abundance and yet your novels are so boring?"
Patum Peperium has a curious theory:
The Democrats have discovered the 19th century authoress of Jane Erye (sic), Charlotte Brontë, was quite the 21st century political strategist. To get Obama re-elected they are following Miss Brontë's narrative. This morning, Mr. Mason entered stage door left. Mr. Rochester is Obama. Mrs. Rochester up in the attic is the GOP candidate -any one of them. Take your pick. Jane Erye (sic) is the Democrat's traditional contiguencies.  (Mrs. Peperium)
Página 12 (Argentina) talks about Minae Mizumura's novel, Honkaku Shosetsu (A Real Novel), and interviews the author:
 “La profesión de escritor y la vocación son cosas diferentes. Lo tengo presente a diario”, se lee al comienzo de Una novela real. En esta puerta de acceso a una ficción que recrea el clásico Cumbres borrascosas, de Emily Brontë, en el marco de la comunidad japonesa de Estados Unidos durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial y las décadas siguientes, la voz de una escritora japonesa, con vida académica en Stanford, relata la llegada de un “enviado del cielo” que le suministró la materia prima de la novela que escribiría. (...)
Ese comienzo que se asemeja a una declaración de principios sobre la profesión del escritor, confirmó Mizumura, es “pura ficción”, un efecto deliberadamente orquestado de la narración. “Quería darle ese aire trascendental –admitió la escritora–. Brontë se murió sin saber que iba a ser un clásico; yo sé que no puedo poner mi novela al nivel de Brontë, pero es como una alegoría.” (...)
“Fui a una escuela pública; todas las niñas conocíamos Cumbres borrascosas. Japón era un país muy literario."(...)
Nelly, la criada de Cumbres borrascosas, tiene su contrapartida en Fumiko, un personaje “oscuro”, “problemático”, una mujer que siente “culpa”.  (Silvina Friera) (Translation)
And Ñ (Clarín) (Argentina) adds:
¿Por qué elegiste el punto de vista de la criada (Nelly) para contar esa historia de amores contrariados?
Porque si uno está arriba, no ve nada. Cuanto más descendemos, más vemos. Esa es una lección para todos. Corrernos del lugar del privilegiado. Emily Bronté (sic) no podía darle cuerpo y protagonismo a una sirvienta. Yo quise devolverle el rostro a esa criada. Como Cumbres… es en gran medida un melodrama, mientras escribía leía a Primo Levi, para recordarme todo el tiempo que hay una tragedia en la vida. No quería que la historia que contaba fuese ridiculizada. Necesitaba mantener la perspectiva trágica: escribir una novela que Primo Levi pudiese leer. (Ezequiel Alemian) (Translation)
Nosotras (Spain) has no idea of hairdressing in the Brontës' day:
Las melenas se llevarán recogidas, en ocasiones en moños severos en los que no se mueve ni un mechón y otras en romanticas trenzas que rodean la cabeza, como si fuésemos personajes de una novela de las hermanas Brönte (sic). (Carmen López) (Translation)
And Juventud Rebelde (Cuba) has no idea of ... well... has no idea at all:
Por fortuna, las grandes series de la programación dominical nocturna del Canal Educativo nos permiten reencontrarnos, otra vez, desde producciones foráneas, a hitos literarios de siempre. Orgullo y prejuicio, de Jane Eyre[.] (Gertrudis Ortiz) (Translation)
El Norte de Castilla (Spain) talks about Violetas para Olivia by Julia Montejo:
[The author] dice que en su argumento pueden encontrarse relaciones entre hombres y mujeres o 'capas' de violencia, entre otras muchas facetas que la convierten en una novela muy completa y que cuenta con influencias de algunos de sus autores favoritos, como Gabriel García Márquez o de obras como 'Cumbres borrascosas'. (J.S.C.) (Translation)
La Nación (Argentina) reviews a Spanish translation of Irène Némirovsky's Les Chiens et les loups:
La figura de la muchacha propone una delicada combinación de apasionamiento y estoicismo que la sitúa en la tradición de indómitas heroínas como la Catherine Earnshaw de Cumbres borrascosas o la Scarlett O'Hara de Lo que el viento se llevó. (Felipe Fernández) (Translation)
L'Arena (Italy) interviews the writer Marcela Serrano:
Quali sono i suoi autori preferiti?
Victor Hugo, amo molto I miserabili, Jane Austen, le sorelle Brontë, specialmente Emily, Virginia Woolf... e l'elenco andrebbe avanti a lungo. (Translation)
La Depeche (France) interviews the film director André Téchiné, who quotes from his film Les Soeurs Brontë:
Je suis plongé dans les documents et j’essaye de donner une forme à ça. J’aimerais préserver avant tout l’exactitude et la ponctualité dans ce que je raconte. Quand j’avais fait les Brontë, c’était la même chose. On peut aimer ou pas aimer le film mais tout est rigoureusement exact car c’est fondé sur des témoignages ou carrément sur des récits des Brontë. Pour moi, j’envisage presque ça comme un documentaire. (Translation)
Die Welt (Germany) reviews Das Mädchen by Angelika Klüssendorf:
Klüssendorf vermeidet mit großer Geschicklichkeit, das Mädchen entweder zum sozialwissenschaftlichen Objekt verkommen zu lassen, noch sie in Mitleidstränen zu ertränken, ein Kunststück, das an Charlotte Brontës Klassiker "Jane Eyre" erinnert. (Ruth Klüger) (Translation)
Associated Content posts the article: "Feminist Female Protagonists in Jane Eyre and the Scarlet Letter"; Flickr user Jeffreyaw has uploaded some pictures of Haddon Hall; Le Magazine Littéraire (France) talks about the Brontëmania wave; Topzine (Czech Republic) has an article about the Brontës.

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