Monday, 27 April 2009

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996)

After Our Mutual Friend (1998), Wildfell is my favourite BBC literary period drama of recent-ish years.
We hadn't watched it for a couple of years, since Linn and Suzie came to stay (yes Linn, this is the one you have no memory of watching even though Suzie, Suzie the girl with no memory, remembers it all perfectly. We had pizzas... Remember?!) but we watched it all again last night because Anna is reading through the Brontës' work.
Ah, Toby Stephens; Mr Markham the educated farmer in Anne's Wildfell Hall, Mr Rochester in Charlotte's Jane Eyre, if only he had been cast as Heathcliff in Emily's Wuthering Heights he'd have the whole set. And what a Heathcliff he would have made!! Much more convincingly rugged than Tom Hardy (though maybe not more dangerous, no one's more dangerous that Tom Hardy!) If you're unlucky enough to live in America you might have seen Tom Hardy as Heathcliff in this year's attempt at Wuthering Heights. It hasn't been shown on British telly yet but I've seen it and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Sure the costumes are on the Robin Hood side of good, and the wigs are equally terrible, but it was the most faithful adaptation I'd ever seen and Tom Hardy has the perfect voice for Heathcliff. Why the hell did they have to change the ending though?!
Anyway, enough of that, back to Wildfell. Again the ending has been changed- they always are- but I think for the better, it's still the same twist, just happening to different people. If you're looking for good faithful adaptations then look to the BBC, Hollywood does it badly. The only think I get a bit pinickity about when it comes to Brontë novels on screen is location. This is another thing I was pleasantly surprised at in the ITV Wuthering Heights (2009), they actually filmed The Moors, on The Moors! Not the North York Moors where craggy rocks cover every bit of open land, but the actual Brontë West Yorkshire moors where I live! Where the Brontës lived!! Yeah, Wildfell falls down when you see people staggering over white rocks that just don't exist here. Same with Jane Eyre if I recall, maybe North Yorkshire is cheaper...
Right, back to what I know about, reviewing the actors' good looks: Toby Stephens here looks a hundred times better than he did in The Camomile Lawn (1994) two years earlier, Tara Fitzgerald looks the same as when she was in The Camomile Lawn, I bet she couldn't believe her eyes seeing young Tobes stride up to her all suddenly handsome! Though he is still not Rochester-handsome ("Look at me, Jane, I'm so unbelievably hideous!" smoulder). Go and see Ibsen's A Doll's House in the West End at the moment to see Tara and Tobes both looking fabulous, except it's all sold out, so you can't, or rather, I can't.
Rupert Graves, Rupert Graves, if one Uptown Boy was missing from my favourite Westlife video, it's you Gravesy. You'd have fit in a treat with those handsome twits and you'd have got my vote. Yes, the reason I love Wildfell is because I love Gravesy. I still love Gravesy even though, let's face it, unlike Tara and Toby he seemed to be at his gorgeous peak back in 1996. As Huntingdon he is a horrible creepy bastard, the kind I love, Tobes is all sweetness and light holding puppy dogs and being lovely, Gravesy treats the viewers to the most disgustingly graphic kisses EVER on TV, he makes your flesh crawl but damn is he charming!
The dialogue is all straight from the novel, Gravesy getting all the best lines. Even though Anne wrote the book to show the perils of drinking and living it up- probably because of old Branwell, the hideous drunk of a brother, I still prefer Huntingdon to Markham, he seemed like a right laugh. Though I suppose if I was somewhere in the novel I wouldn't be goody-two-shoes Helen the abstainer, I would be that fat tart who gets off with Gravesy all the time and dresses like a real dolly bird.

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