Now that the press has discovered that Jane Austen is out and the Brontës are in, we suspect we will have more amusing and Cluebat-worthy articles like this one in USAToday, as the press, unlike Charles Musgrove, just loves to neglect the reigning power to bow to the rising sun.
Filmmakers’ long affair with the divine Miss Austen is finally waning, after two decades of movies made from her elegant novels with their well-mannered characters, placid plots and witty repartee
Wait a minute–there was a gap of SIX YEARS from 1999 MP to 2005 P&P. Are we ignoring that now? Are we also ignoring the 1996 Zefferelli adaptation of Jane Eyre, and the 1992 adaptation of Wuthering Heights starring Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes, and whatever happened to that planned biopic about the Brontës that was supposed to star Michelle Williams and some other flavors of the month? Of course we’re ignoring all the TV adaptations (two each of JE and WH, by our count, as well as one of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall). They don’t “count,” despite the fact that many people will see the “Hollywood” films once in their local house and then over and over at home.
But enough with the endless circling of the Pump Room at Bath — time to get hearts racing! Time to bring back those wildly Romantic Brontë characters — plain Jane Eyre and moody Mr. Rochester, doomed Cathy Earnshaw and vengeful Heathcliff — to rend their garments, wail disconsolately and stagger across windswept moors.
We’ll forgive this, since they used the title case for Romantic. That gives it a different connotation. (But does Jane Eyre ever purposely rend her garments? Dunno.)
“Austen’s characters achieve their greatness through a kind of sideways movement toward happiness, (while) the Brontës hurtle themselves headlong into the maelstrom of emotions and situations,” says James Schamus, head of Focus Features, the artsy studio that made Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and now is making Jane Eyre (with BBC Films) with hot young director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre).
“Besides, those nasty tar-hearted uptight purist spinster Austen Bloggers complained when we tried to turn P&P into Wuthering Heights. Don’t they understand that this is ART?”
The Brontë biopic has been in the works since 2007 and has a director, Charles Sturridge (Brideshead Revisited), but no cast. Brontëwill tell the story of the sisters themselves (the third sister was Anne Brontë, author of the less-well-known The Tenant of Wildfell Hall), whose collective life story is as dramatic and tragic as their classic novels.
Oh, that’s what happened to it. It’s just sitting there waiting for the pendulum to swing back.
“The Brontës have proved to be more adaptable to film than virtually any other writers,” says Andrew McCarthy, director of the museum. “They seem to come to the fore in times of difficulty, while Jane Austen adaptations seem to thrive during periods of economic calm. There’s a harsher feel to the Brontës. They are books that contain difficult, extreme emotions — and (maybe) they feel more appropriate in times of economic strife.”
Now, that’s an interesting commentary. We’ve complained that the most recent set of adaptations has contained a extra dollop of melodrama that Jane Austen never intended; perhaps that’s why it was felt necessary.
But let’s not kid ourselves: the real reason for the use and overuse of public domain texts for film adaptations is that THEY ARE FREE. No diva living authors making all sorts of unreasonable demands like payment and fidelity to their original.
Flavorwire (in addition to some more annoying commentary on the USAToday article) adds:
Let’s also not forget that Wuthering Heights is a Twilight favorite, the book Edward and Bella obsess over. In fact, the series has Emily’s book sales skyrocketing, perhaps aided by a new cover clearly designed to cash in on vampire chic. As Meyer realized, the appeal of the Brontë novels is very similar to that of the vamp-craze films and books (not to mention they’re about as chaste as Twilight). They’re all about romance that manifests as pain, men who, despite their love may be too monstrous to tame, and the women who can’t help but be devoted to them. We have been critical of vampire mania in the past, and it still creeps us out a bit. But if it’s helped to bring Heathcliff and Jane and Lucy and Rochester back into the popular imagination, it can’t be all bad.
Because Heathcliff isn’t at all creepy and he’s totally a romantic hero. Thanks to Alert Janeite Lisa for both links.
And since everyone is sending us this, here you go.
While we enjoyed this immensely, Jane Austen didn’t really need Boomerang Book-Throwing Action; as the packaging of the Jane Austen Action Figure says, her main weapon was Character Study. 😉