Monday, February 9, 2009

The Books of the Brontë Sisters and Hollywood

I have, over the years, become increasingly annoyed with Hollywood and their poor adaptations of favorite Classics. Hollywood prefers to edit things in a way that more than not, they leave out the best parts of the novels and give a dribble of the story.
My most recent complaint has to do with the poor handling of the genius of the The Brontë Sisters. These novels are dark, despairing, romantic, passionate and sadly, not always well portrayed by Hollywood, CA. The sisters transport you to their version of the world with their writing that it's criminal most of us read these novels in high school at a time when we do not really appreciate them.

Charlotte -Jane Eyre
Emily - Wuthering Heights
Anne - Agnes Grey/The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Spoilers will be listed so stop if you want to see these films or read the books!

Due to the intensity of these novels, it seems the mini-series a la BBC or Masterpiece Theater or A&E are better suited to producing better versions and gaining a legion of fans that are fiercely protective of these works.
Let us start with Wuthering Heights starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. By the end of the film, when Heathcliff is holding his love as she dies, you are in tears and feel all his pain. Then you read the novel and realize that the movie only covers the first 30 or so pages of the book! There is much, much more to the novel, such as Heathcliff turns into a heartless fiend. The 1992 version with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche is a much more faithful following, where the cruel underbelly of the novel is truly exposed. By the time I was done with the book I wish I had written the damn thing!
Jane Eyre with Orson Wells and Joan Fontaine is wonderful, until you see the Masterpiece Theater production of Jane Eyre from 2006 with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson. The 2006 version is truer to the novel and the actors posses a chemistry that is raw and unyielding. I actually could not believe some of the dialogue so I grabbed the novel and lo and behold, Charlotte did write those powerful words that come tearing out of Jane's mouth when, with her heartbreaking, tells Edward she cannot bear to be without him. I recently read that the 1983 version with Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clark is an even truer version!!
Oh, I also recommend the 1996 version of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall if you are feeling particularly Gothic and in need of a "longing in love" type of story. Toby Stephens again, the man is brilliant with a beautiful smile and Dame Maggie Smith as his mother. Lucky bastard!


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