Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

January 1, 2006


Drink with the Brontes, and a Review of Tenant (1996).

Here's a cute little gift idea. Penguin Books has a line of mugs designed after the covers of their original 1935 series of classics. Two of these titles are Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. They also have lawn chairs and other things if mugs don't appeal.

I have also found a very long review of the 1996 film of Tenant of Wildfell Hall, so soon to be released on DVD. From the looks of things, we are all in for a treat. The full review can be found here, but here are some excerpts for your convenience:

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall stands apart from the other adaptations of Bronte novels to film. Why? Because it remains true to Anne's original novel. The words uttered by the cast are very close to those of her book and this is an admirable thing because only one other film version of a Bronte novel has been this accurate and particular in following their works and this was a BBC version of Jane Eyre produced in 1983. But despite great performances that film had weak production and an unimpressive lighting and set design. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is by far the most atmospheric attempt made by any filmmaker who has tried to capture the essence of what the Bronte's conveyed in their brilliant novels. It is the one film adaptation that isn't afraid to be as gritty and harsh as the rocky moors that the novel was conceived among.

The performance by Tara Fitzgerald as Helen is absolutely brilliant and I'm sure Anne Bronte would have approved of her work in the film. Fitzgerald refused to wear any makeup whatsoever because she wanted it to look as authentic as possible and it does. There are no people with luminous skin and elaborate hairstyles. (This is definately not a frilly, go find a husband, Jane Austen type production.) This film is far more beleivable considering the time and area for which it takes place. Tara Fitzgerald plays her Helen as one who is stoic and stubborn, all the while knowing that goodness, faith and truth will be her guide and her savior through the dimmest days. Fitzgerald never wavers for a second. She IS Helen from the first frame to the last and her determination in staying true to what was written is very admirable. The other two leads in the film are equally as awesome, that of her farmer and 'good guy' friend Gilbert Markham played by Toby Stephens and the tormented and brutal Arthur Huntington played by the 'great at being morose' Rupert Graves. His name says it all and he is completely believable as the husband who has succumbed to adultery and alcohol. Graves plays Arthur with a tense, always thinking, always full of unrest, state of mind. The kind which Anne Bronte was trying to evoke. He pulls this off to perfection every second his face on the screen. No one could have been better in this role. Even Arthur Jr. played by Jackson Leach is brilliant as the impressionable but otherwise happy child who is trying to make sense of all that has transpired around him. Leach never hams it up or gets overtly emotional for the 'big scenes'. He is just completely natural with his portrayal and registers very well as the child. The Direction by Mike Barker is remarkable. He is equipped with great camera methods that serve to enhance the film's aura. In moments of fear his camera spins round like a top out of control. When there are moments of isolation, Barker's camera is far and distant as though he wants us to see Helen's seclusion in all it's wide open sadness. When there are moments of great anger the camera pans back and hovers behind solitary objects, just watching in silence. There is a difficult task for this film when it has to follow the novel's flashbacks to when Helen was first married and trials she underwent. These scenes are painstakingly placed within the present day storyline. Just like the book, they are a bit shakey to follow at times but in the end it all succeeds.



  1. Hey, I resent that Jane Austen remark! 😉 Tara Fitzgerald certainly doesn’t need any make-up. It’s been a while since I saw it but Graves’ Arthur didn’t seem quite as menacing as in the book. Still, it was very well done. “Atmospheric” is exactly right.

    Comment by Sylvia — January 2, 2006 @ 1:27 pm |Reply

  2. It was a tad dismissive, wasn’t it? And I’d have him know that there were very few if any frills in the JA films I’ve seen, at any rate 😉 I am very much looking forward to seeing this for the first time!–>

    Comment by Brontëana — January 2, 2006 @ 7:46 pm |Reply

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