onsdag 3 april 2013

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Two days ago I finished reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë.
So, this evening I could finally watch the filmatization of it from 1996 starring Toby Stephens <3 <3 <3 and Tara Fitzgerald with Rupert Graves as Mr Huntingdon.

For the person unfamiliar with the story it is about a young girl, Helen, who falls head over heels for a man who we today would call a "playa" (or player, as it is correctly written). He is a man of fashion, too fond of drinking and gambling and has no concept of what a marriage is really about. Helen is but a girl when she marries him, and despite seeing hints of what is to come marries Mr Huntingdon far too soon and believes whatever vices he has, she can make him change. 

She soon learns that this is not the case, however when she's faced with his verbal abuse, his cheating, gambling and excessive drinking. He humiliates her in every possible way, but what can she do, she's stuck with him. 
the not-so happy family

When Huntingdon starts to take an interest towards their son however, determined that he'll not be as cold as his mother, and involves little Arthur in his depravity, then Helen starts to think again. She realizes that if she is to spare her beloved son the misfortune of ending up like his father, she must leave him and take her son with her. She writes to her astranged brother and asks that he help hide her in their old childhood house, Wildfell Hall.

She moves into Wildfell Hall, dressed as a widow, pretending she doesn't know her brother who is her landlord and hopes to live a quiet life, supporting herself and her son as a painter. The neighborhood becomes interested in this mysterious, cold, haughty woman who has decided opinions on alcohol and child rearing. Mr Gilbert Markham then takes an interest to her.

They both fall in love, but are unable to do anything about it because she is still married, and on the lam so to speak. He can't figure out why she's so reluctant to have a relationship with him, but mistakenly ascribes it to the rumours the village has started about her and Mr Lawrence (her brother).

Lawrence & Arthur

When Helen, who then calls herself by her mother's maiden name (Mrs) Graham, she over time starts to trust Gilbert and feels she needs to explain her situation to him, before he falls even more for her. Thus we are told of her tragic tale of an unhappy marriage to a scoundrel, through her diary. 

It was a very realistic and rather accurate filmatization of the novel, except for a couple of things in the end. It would have been perfect had a scene that I thought beautiful in the book appeared where she picks a flower to give to Mr. Markham and says "This rose is not so fragrant as a summer flower, but it has stood through hardships none of them could bear: the cold rain of winter has sufficed to nourish it, or its faint sun to warm it; the bleak winds have not blanched it, or broken its stem, and the keen frost has not blighted it. Look Gilbert, it is still as fresh and blooming as a flower can be, with the cold snow even now on its petals. - Will you have it?"
Of course the rose, enduring hardships is a symbol of her heart, that is maybe not as beautiful as the other flowers in the summer, but it is strong and still stands, and she is offering it to him.

Fans of Toby Stephens will not be disappointed, he is so beautiful and young and it is him. He has an undeniable presence and it delights me to see him in every scene as the good and passionate Mr Gilbert Markham. And there is only one actor in the world who can deliver a fairly simple line with that kind of passion.

this is my copy, pleasant to the touch and beautiful to look at

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall book:
*Warning! Spoiler!!*
 I think Wildfell Hall has a lot of things for one to think about. The advice is basically not to undergo marriage unwisely or too much in a hurry, or to really know who you are marrying. It touches on subjects like adultery, alcoholism, and explores men's relationships to women and women to men. It moved me because it is basically a story about a woman freeing herself from a destructive relationship and doing whatever is in her power to save her son, even if it goes against the norm and socially accepted behaviour. (Leaving one's husband wasn't heard of back then, or it was deeply shameful.) Ultimately she does it for her son, so that he won't grow up to be like his father who ruined himself and ultimately died because of his alcoholism. It is about what we do to save the ones we love, and a bit of feminism, as some discussions are about how boys are raised as opposed to how girls are raised and wether or not they should be shielded and exposed equally. And lastly, it is about second chances. She is lucky enough that she had a second chance at happiness with Mr Markham, who was a man worthy of her, as she was a woman worthy of his love.

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