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The Brontes of Haworth - The Complete Series [DVD]
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In their isolated world on the Yorkshire Moors, the Bronte sisters found an escape in the childhood fantasies that would help mould the novels now regarded as classics of world literature; the grey-stone parsonage at Haworth in which they spent much of their short lives has become a place of literary pilgrimage. In this acclaimed mini-series, distinguished playwright, author and critic Christopher Fry tells the extraordinary story of a troubled family of genius.
Vickery Turner, Rosemary McHale and Ann Penfold portray the shy, precociously talented Bronte sisters; Michael Kitchen plays Branwell, the brother whose life, ravaged by drink and drugs, ended at the age of 31, and Alfred Burke stars as the Reverend Patrick Bronte, the widowed father who would outlive all his children.
Tracing significant events and key periods, each member of the Bronte family is brought vividly to life in this meticulously researched series.
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This serial is not up among the greats - 'I Claudius', 'Pallisers', 'Jewell in the Crown' 'Brideshead' etc. But it is very good.
As far as I can tell there is considerable accuracy in what is presented about the lives of the Brontes. However, the screen writer does not just slavishly chronicle details of the Brontes' lives. He cleverly contrasts Branwell's failure with the success of his sisters. Central to the success of this is Micheal Kitchen, who wonderfully conveys Branwell's charm and fragility and also his inability to grow up. When he goes to London to seek his fortune you feel his fear and you know he has to go home. Emily is suitably Sturm and Drang. Charlotte shows all the pent up passion of her heroine Jane Eyre and comes across as a bit prudish, with an acerbic wit and quite a bit of get up and go. Finally, Anne surprised me. She was full of gentle courage and forbearance. I came away from the serial loving her and wanting to know more and also wanting to read her books.
In terms of the production. It was a bit slow to get going, but once it did, I found myself staying up later than intended for just another episode. The children morphed beautifully into the adults. The adults bear a good resemblance to the portrait of them by Branwell. The final episode though did suffer from a couple of lengthy, rather wheezy death scenes that got a bit irritating. It is for this reason that I rated the production 4 not 5 stars. Otherwise the acting was uniformly good to the extent that I often felt I was watching the real people not actors. I think though it is important to be clear, this production definitely has a stagey feel to it. It is not in any sense glossy. Even though it has been filmed in Haworth and on the moors, it could just as easily have been done in a theatre. The scenery is largely irrelevant, compared to the relationships among the five main characters.
There have been complaints about the quality of the film and sound. It is true that the film is showing its age. It is also true that the rustling of the clothes can be a bit annoying and the volume of the music can be a bit high compared to the speech. I think though it is important to judge something within the limits of what technology permitted then and for me these are small complaints. What is important is whether a production has been well written, whether the actors do the script justice and whether the viewer comes away feeling like they got something out of the time that they spent watching. I most definitely did and I am happy to have had the opportunity to see this production rather than not see it because was too expensive to fix problems such as volume, or film.
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