The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996– )
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It's hard to gauge today just how forceful, feminist and extraordinary Ann Bronte's masterpiece, "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall", actually was. Emerging from the primeval slime of restrictive corsets bodily, mental, societal her heroine, Helen Huntingdon, escapes a miserable marriage, flees brutality and alcoholism, braves not only her abusive husband's fury, but society's pinched intolerance and malicious gossip, to wreak change in her life. She pays a price; but retains her self-respect; she falls in love along the way; she emerges battered but victorious, and strong. I just love watching women like these on screen.
The actors are superb the best Brits have to offer. The love story is beautifully handled, with real passion and feeling by well-matched actors. Tara Fitzgerald inhabits every aspect of the complicated heroine, and as has been said here by other reviewers, no less sharply defined and beautiful a face could survive that petrifying hairstyle. Toby Stephens, striking sparks off her, contributes just the right combination of headstrong, handsome youth and passionate, yearning vulnerability. Rupert Graves (one of my favourite British actors ever) enjoys himself as the charismatic villain (so much so that you're almost with him at the end. No one's perfect). The supporting cast ably create a world into which you sink without feeling that coarse compromises have been made to modern tastes, and without having felt preached to. Another BBC classic, highly recommended: this is how romantic literature should be dramatised.
Do watch this film, its a great version of the book and very moving indeed. I'm sure Anne herself would have been happy with the way it was produced.
Excellent acting and great locations.
Sort of a spoiler- The ending scene is a funny reversal of what happened in the book.
I saw the original on TV sometime ago and remembered this production as less gripping than most Beeb costume drama. I rewatched on DVD this week and still have the same impression of it. It's a good story at first, but weakens when the heroine becomes oh so terribly brave and noble and returns to her utterly vile husband when he's ill and I got so totally irritated with her saintliness. I suppose this was the "right thing to do" when the story was written as well as contributing plenty of angst, and it was difficult for a woman to be independent of her husband as marriage made her no more than his possession, let alone to carry on scandalously with a lover as I expect a lot of the modern audience would have liked to see. But it's hard to take the santimoniousness nowadays and especially when this heroine had a strong, brave admirer ready to defend her against anyone and everyone. So re the story as in the film I'm equivocal. It's well done as per the novel, but somewhat irritating as per today's kind of life.
Steadfast hero Gilbert was certainly a saint to put up with his ladylove's variable and often cryptic behaviour and persistent self-denial and to be so consistently supportive. So I felt it a great shame that when Helen was at long last free to be with him, the script didn't allow him a bit more than about one minute to fall on each other for a quick hug before the titles came up. This was completely ridiculous when we'd been waiting all this time through all that dripping sentiment over the undeserving husband for a decent bit of dialogue and a good embrace between hero and heroine. Instead, the ending was as though the film makers had run out of time or finance or just couldn't be bothered. "Here you are - one minute, do what you can in that, then cut as the director wants to go home now....." I was left feeling totally dissasatisfied.
However, very high commendations to the acting of Toby Stephens a perfect and very handsome hero, and Rupert Graves a superbly nasty and self-pitying villain. Tara Fitzgerald was satisfactory within the confines of the script that forced her to be a depressing and rather sanctimonious victim so much of the time.
That said, I love these classic dramas and virtually all of them are a sight better than much of the "modern" drama on TV these days. So 7 stars because in spite of the irritations it's still a good watch.
It could have used a bit more screen time for the yummy Frederick Lawrence (played by James Purefoy). And Gilbert Markham was amazingly "on it" from the very start of the movie.
The one who most thrilled me via surprising shock and awe and wonder was Rupert Graves as Arthur Huntingdon. I adore him in Forsyte Saga, and all else I've seen him in. But he outdoes himself here as Arthur. In my wildest dreams I could not have pictured him playing a demented psycho such as Arthur Huntingdon. But he does. And I love it. And I love him.
Nicely shot, with a lot of surprisingly modern camera techniques for a Bronte novel. Usually this works well, although occasionally it gets self conscious (a couple too many 360 shots).
The acting is solid, with Tara Fitzgerald an edgy but still empathetic heroine. But Rupert Graves' switch from flawless seducer to "worst man in the world" type villain is a bit over the top, although that may be the material, or approach more than performance. Indeed, at times I could feel Graves (a very good actor) trying to maintain some humanity under the almost Gothic heartlessness.
The music is interesting and effectively anachronistic as well, often sounding something the Cocteau Twins, but as with the cinematography after a while it starts to get both repetitive and too self consciously avant-garde for a story mostly told in a straightforward Masterpiece Theater fashion.
Lastly, the tidy ending bothered me a bit. The film did a good enough job capturing the complex difficulties of life, that I found myself wish for something that felt more honestly open ended.
All that said, I still enjoyed the story, the scenery, and being transported into another time and place as only good storytelling can do. A quite good adaptation, I just wished it was great, and for 30 minutes or so, thought it might be.
I saw an advert for this on a video.Then my sister discovered that we had the book so I read it.I rented the video on the same day I finished the book.I thought it was very memorable as was the book. The cast was brilliant.Tara Fitzgerald was excellent as Helen and Rupert Graves was hateful as Arthur.The costumes,music and settings are stunningly beautiful.
WARNING!DON`T READ ANY MORE IF YOU HAVEN`T WATCHED THIS
On the downside there are some sex scenes that have been added in and some violence.This is why the video is rated 15. There are some other things that have been thrown in.After the first part,I felt that the accuracy went downhill. While the book is better than this,I am glad I have seen it and would reccomend it to people who have read the book,are fans of Bronte or like costume dramas(I am all 3!)as long as you fastforward through the sex scenes. The book is rather underated.Anne Brontes books don`t seem to be that widely read or well known as Jane Erye or Wuthering Heights which have made it into television and film several times. Another thing.When I read the book ,I was surprised at how much religion ther was in it,but here they had axed that all out!
First of all, the music (and songs) seems totally out of place in a period drama (sounds as if it's been written for a contemporary horror film)and like another commentator, I was particularly annoyed by the way the cameras spun and spun round the actors. I've seen some scenes filmed that way in "North and South" and it seemed all right there but in The Tenant, it's definitely overdone and simply annoying. Camera movements cannot make wooden acting lively.
Most of the second roles were difficult to distinguish at first and the script lacked clarity. None of the characters were properly introduced at first. The little boy gave a very good performance, he's very cute and the best feature of the film.
SPOILERS Tara Fitzgerald's characterisation of Helen Graham made her appear cold and harsh, letting no emotion pass through. She doesn't seem to be able to cry at all in a realistic way. I just couldn't believe Markham could have fell for her and I'm not mentioning the awful hairdo she was given. I could not help feeling some sympathy with her husband! Fancy being married to such a virago... Besides, he was the only main actor that sounded right to me. Toby Stephens I found just OK, Helen Graham's brother not very good.
Maybe it's difficult to adapt a novel that deals with such bleak subjects as alcoholism and cruelty. Besides, what is only hinted at and left to the reader's imagination in the book is dwelt upon with complaisance in the TV adaptation: making some scenes both gross and comic, (like when Huntingdon's eye starts bleeding) and others far too sexed up for a period drama! I mean, don't we get enough of those bed scenes in contemporary dramas?
As for the movie... eh. Nothing special. The cameraman clearly had an unfortunate addiction to circling and circling and CIRCLING around everything, making the viewer quite nauseous. Why the director didn't put a stop to this is beyond me--but maybe he was too busy trying, and somehow failing, to draw good performances from these normally excellent but inappropriately-cast actors. All in all, a weak adaptation. Your three hours would be better spent reading (or re-reading) the book.
Production is good - the 2 houses featured suit the story. The actors are good as can be expected. Rupert Graves is effective as the abusive unfaithful husband. Tara Fitzgerald isn't quite pretty enough for the role - so many men shouldn't fall so hopelessly in love with her.
There are some departures from the novel but they are improvements for dramatic effect.
Overall worth watching.