“Emily”, by Frances O’Connor: the Brontë passion

March 16, 2023 by No Comments


by Frances O’Connor

British film, 2:10

From the author of Stormwind Heights, not much is known. Except that her life was brief – she died at the age of 30 of tuberculosis – and that she hardly left the vicarage of Haworth in Yorkshire where her father was a pastor. The mystery surrounding the three Brontë sisters and their sources of literary inspiration is thick enough to leave all the room to the imagination. And the actress and director Frances O’Connor does not hesitate to draw this fevered portrait of Emily Brontë. If she obviously takes liberties with the truth, the evocation that she draws from it, far from the traditional biopic, will delight the passionate readers of her unique novel.

A contemporary treatment

Wild and solitary, Emily refuses to follow her sisters Charlotte and Anne to the boarding school which intends them to be teachers. Left to herself and to the harmful influence of her brother Branwell, an alcoholic and opium addict, she finds in this freedom and communion with the surrounding nature, the source of inspiration that suits an exalted soul. From there, the nature of her relationship with her brother, possibly incestuous, just like the carnal passion she feels for the vicar of her parish, contrary to her devout faith, do they stem from her imagination or from reality?

The director skilfully mixes biographical and literary elements to get as close as possible to the character. How can we fail to recognize Catherine’s forbidden and reprobate passion for Heathcliff, her characters from the Stormwind Heights, in this very improbable love affair for the time? It allows him, as well as his actress Emma Mackey, dazzling of naturalness, to bring a contemporary treatment to his subject. And to make her a heroine who must break the shackles of a puritanical and hypocritical society to assert herself as a woman and a writer. We sometimes think of BrightStar by Jane Campion in this poetic and dreamlike evocation of the artist’s passion, filmed through a romantic nature.


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