Howard’s End: A review

Last night saw the fourth and last episode of the Edwardian drama Howard’s End on BBC One. Firstly I had never heard of this before, upon realising it is adapted from a novel by E. M. Forster and was first published in 1910, the height of the reign of Edward 7th son of Queen Victoria.

For something I had never heard about or seen before I rather liked it and would be giving it four out of five stars.

Personally I found it rather poignant and moving. This is my review.

It centres around three siblings of Margaret, Helen and Tibby Schlegel; all three are marvellous in appreciating the arts and culture in their own ways. They are intelligent and the two sisters Margaret and Helen have their own inheritances to live off, whilst Tibby is a man with an expectation to work, do well and raise a family in the expectations of Edwardian society.

For me the whole drama highlights the social and economic differences between people in that era. The glamourous associations and wealth accumulated by business with the Wilcox family, who are brought into the story from the start as they grow an association with a trip in Germany. I would like to point out the Schlegel siblings are half German. Helen stays with the family in the countryside at Howard’s End. It seems a charming place but Tibby hay fever stops him and Margaret joining. At Howard’s End Helen began a liaison with the younger son, but it is broken up because of convention.

Moving further into the story there is the comparisons of Margaret a young, vibrant, opinionated and intelligent woman who could have easily led a suffragette movement, to Mrs Ruth Wilcox who was demure, quiet and longed for a freedom that Margaret enjoyed. I think the highlight was shown in a scene with Helen at the Wilcox’s when a debate had begun and Ruth Wilcox mentioned she was glad she didn’t need to vote. Something which confused Helen who like her sister is vibrant, yet she is more naive in another sense.

From this moment I found Helen insufferable, she was childlike and insensitive to others feelings. One thing to compare her to her sister was Margaret sacrifice for her siblings really comes through passionately and vehemently throughout the story which is why as a character I love he, as she shows how dependable she is on family and the unit of closeness they have in comparison to the Wilcox machine. None of the siblings listened to conventions unlike the Wilcox’s whose reputation meant everything, which in the end is ironic, which I will come to later. The only I didn’t find Helen insufferable was the last episode when reality had hit home to the situation she was in. In calling her sister a hero was a thank you without saying the words, which was nice to see a reconciliation between sisters, but credit to Margaret where it was due, in my opinion!

One character I could not take to was Leonard Bast. His domineer and association to his wife Jacky I could not fathom. They were not married yet kept to that preface again because of reputation. His life was not benefited somewhat with his association to the Schlegel sisters, especially Helen who interferes with his life, warning him from a source of Henry Wilcox that the company he worked for as a clerk will soon be closing. He quits his job finds another and is laid off because they reduced staff and he is last in and first to leave. This leaves him in poverty to the guilt of Helen. See this is what I couldn’t understand. Did the feelings develop after she wanted to help him or was he a mere pet project of hers to make the Wilcox’s of the world suffer? Or were there ever feelings? Just a passion to suffice the loneliness she portrayed to have, which in the end she became pregnant by with Leonard Bast child.

Margaret is a woman I admire as she sacrifices so much that in the end she wants something for herself. In falling for Henry Wilcox a man her sister dislikes a lot to the point of vexation. She convenes to the typical Edwardian woman standards with a twist. Margaret is a modern woman in standing up for what she believes in and speaking her mind freely, regardless of her husband Henry Wilcox. She stays true to herself and family even though she is in love with Henry. Helen even points out her heroism to secure a home in a permanent place, as that is why they had to move from Wickham place.

Howard’s end is full of ironies. The Wilcox family especially the children who learnt from their father that reputation and status is everything, yet when Charles the eldest son is found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Leonard Bast the family is in ruin. In comparison to the Schlegel who enjoyed some of the finer things did not purely go on reputations and status which was proven in Helen’s pregnancy prevail and get a happy ending and a house, which is what they wanted from episode one.

That Henry Wilcox only changed not after his second wife Margaret told him the truth of what he was like, but the imprisonment of his son, shows that deep down Margaret and Henry came to a unity. That change is possible.

Furthermore it was a drama that symbolised change, not through the men but with the women. Each character had something to bring and symbolised society itself. For me Ruth Wilcox represented the Victorian woman, the demure, silent woman with no opinion but just to rear children. She dies and in a way that figure of a woman and of a stereotype goes as well. Whereas Margaret represents the new woman, the intelligent opinionated truthful woman who is where the time period would be heading. Helen naïve nature today represents which it didn’t back then the naïve and innocence of youth that was brought to a quick reality with life changing events. Today that would symbolise a war, back then maybe it was a symbol of how Helen never truly conformed the way her sister did, because she didn’t have to. Henry represents the old style of work and relevance of importance in a name and fortune. He is shallow and relies on those only of his class station, before becoming embroiled in a Bast saga and the truth from his wife and the tragedy of his son changes. This represents society’s views of having to change whether it was ready or not. Charles purely represented colonial greed, which was ironic as his younger brother was working out in the colonies of colonial Great Britain.

In conclusion I would watch it again!

 

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Literature, film and adaptations

In this post we will be looking at Wuthering Heights, the only novel from Emily Bronte. It was published under the pseudonym of Ellis Bell in 1847. Emily died the following year.

I will state that I have not read the novel, but I have read extracts and seen a couple of versions of Wuthering Heights. For me it is a gothic horror and in my opinion darker and wilder then her sister’s novel of Jane Eyre.

Today it is seen as a classic in English Literature, but back then it was criticised heavily as it challenged Victorian social norms and values. In my opinion if Emily had been alive and the success and critique Wuthering Heights received, I think there would have been a wide catalogue of gothic horror novels from this Bronte sister.

In researching this novel I found there have been many works created, adapted and inspired by this gothic horror. I first watched Wuthering Heights as a TV mini series with Tom Hardy as Heathcliff. I enjoyed this very much, with the drama and tense nature between the characters of Heathcliff and Cathy. Ever more recently as part of this series I watched the 1992 film with Ralph Fiennes as Heathcliff and the film made me cry, it was that good.

For me I cannot say anything negative about the adaptations I have seen. In fact I found them very moving, inspiring and entertaining.

I find the character relationship of Heathcliff and Cathy a fascinating one. The obsession of love, cruelty, hardness and irony of their story is timeless, like many of the classical novels they are timeless. As the themes they address are universal no matter where in the world or what time of age it is either because of the timeless nature. A story based on the moors that correlates to the scenery of a dark, vast, turbulent nature in a dark and turbulent story.

I like the full circle of the ending where the daughter of Cathy and the son of Hindley end up together. The irony is that Hindley was brought up in the same manner as Heathcliff, as Heathcliff did to Hareton, what Hareton father Hindley did to him. A twist of revenge, that ended up as a bond between the Heathcliff and Hareton.

The importance I found from the ending is the profound symbolism of a continuing legacy of love in the extremities. Catherine and Hareton saw hope in despair, where Cathy and Heathcliff only saw misery.

Also I found that Heathcliff was the child who was the outsider that brought an other worldliness to the family. In the end the cousins whose parents were siblings ended up together and the equilibrium was once again brought before Heathcliff entered into the Earnshaw family.

I found the adaptations compelling, believable, passionate and rather dark, in essence for the gothic horror style. It is a novel that always inspires from the different adaptations to Kate Bush’s song Wuthering Heights. A novel that helps create in many different ways.

I just wonder what Emily Bronte would have thought of it all?

Literature, film and adaptations

This will be the first in a mini-series looking at different authors and how their works have become the most loved adaptations in film and television. In this series I will be looking at specific novels and how they are adapted and portrayed to an audience, it will be both complimentary and at times critical.

In this post I will be looking at the Bronte sisters and their works.

Currently I am reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte after seeing many varied adaptations of this novel, I decided it was about time I read it. I cannot put it down. Even though I know what happens, it is still the anticipation of reading the inner most thoughts and feelings of the characters which you don’t get in film or a TV series. Upon my research I noticed there were many versions of Jane Eyre and I have seen three of them.

Firstly I started an interest with the Bronte sisters and their works at high school when I read a short story by H. G. Wells The Red Room, which had extracts about the red room in Jane Eyre.

The first version I saw of Jane Eyre was the 2011 version with Michael Fassbender as Edward Fairfax Rochester. I did enjoy it when I saw it originally. Then I saw the 1997 film again I enjoyed this and finally the 2006 TV mini-series with Toby Stephens as Rochester and Ruth Wilson as Jane Eyre. The 2006 version I thoroughly enjoyed in many ways and could say is my favourite. This is especially based on the interaction and chemistry of the two actors, which gave it a dynamic that was entertaining and captured the characters accordingly. I have not seen the 1983 version with Timothy Dalton, but I have seen a few clips on YouTube of his portrayal and many see this as their favourite. I can see why as this is the closest to the novel. Being close to a novel is always a thumbs up with fans of any kind of novel being transformed into a drama piece.

After a while I think it is important to read the novel of a classical piece of literature which has been adapted so many times. Why? The reason is that the adaptations are all different and do not include characters which can be important to the story, even scenes are chopped, changed or erased completely. I will admit I was surprised at the notable differences once I started reading the book, in comparison to what I had watched. For me the importance of Bessie when Jane is a child with her Uncle Reed’s family and Miss Temple at Lowood school are highly undervalued. Both characters show a kindness and some endearment to Jane which not many adaptations have picked up on, maybe ever so slightly with Bessie meeting Jane to tell her that her aunt has asked for her as she is dying. However in the novel it is Bessie’s husband and the one time that Bessie and Jane did see each other again is when Jane is at Lowood as an 18-year-old.

Other scenes that have been completely left out apart from one or two is the gypsy scene where Rochester dresses up as a gypsy to antagonise and to draw out the women’s desires and views for his own piece of mind and satisfaction. This scene is vital for the reader as it indicates Rochester’s feelings towards Blanche Ingram and those towards Jane. We never hear what is said between gypsy Rochester and Ingram, which leaves many to the imagination and reading between the lines somewhat. As for a reader that is always brilliant when we get to work things out. The gypsy scene was done in the 1983 version, amazingly done by Timothy Dalton and also in the 2006 version, but instead of Rochester being the gypsy he pays a woman to do it instead, while he hides. Whether it is done in either of these ways, this is an important moment for the reader/viewer as they get to see Edward Rochester in another light altogether.

Out of the versions I have seen in comparison to the novel, in my opinion for me 2011 version is the worst to others I have actually seen. I can see the creativity of starting the film of a scene halfway through the novel, where Jane leaves Thornfield Hall after the non marriage. But if that was your first time seeing or learning about Jane Eyre it is very confusing. But I do applaud the direction it was trying to take. Also the chopping and merging of scenes gave it a mishmash and sometimes rushed feel. Unfortunately with the calibre of talent and the beautiful music and scenery it could have been a success. But for me it falls far from the mark.

My favourite in comparison to the novel would be the TV mini series, as it gave more time to be complex in story and character which probably gave more freedom for the actors. In comparison to the book it gave the essence of character which I thoroughly appreciated and was sorry that it ended as I could have watched more. For me where this succeeded where the other failed was it started chronologically. Also it didn’t merge scenes to the extent of the 2011 film. But this can really be explained by the time constraints of a film and TV series. For me the way the characters were played was spectacular, the difference in Rochester was that it saw a teasing, overtly sexual, worldly and confident Byronic hero. As well as the big difference in Rochester, Jane was a significant difference between the 2011 and 2006 version, as the 06 one gave a vibrant, playful and conflicting character to who she is and what she believes, where 2011 gave off a plain Jane. A plain Jane is definitely not my perception of Jane Eyre from the book.

One thing I find important about Jane Eyre is Charlotte originally published it under a pseudonym of Currer Bell. This is significant as women were expected to be a certain type in social circles, as well as only publishing certain material and Jane Eyre would not have been suitable for the writings of a demure woman. It is important to say that the book was a phenomenon until Currer Bell was identified as a woman and then it was shunned as something a woman should not write. It was not part of their social norm. In today’s world, this particular work of literature would have been celebrated and ironically it still is, with many screenwriters, directors and actors still rolling out a Jane Eyre product somewhere. The reason I specifically mention the social aspects of the publication of Jane Eyre is because this translates to the novel. For me this clash in social values of the time is what makes a film or series of Jane Eyre a success in my view.

In conclusion Jane Eyre is seen as a woman who is modern beyond her years of wanting to advertise and self-assured in an era where women were not seen socially as independent, but as a dependent on a good marriage rather than a career, which Jane strives on as a governess in being a teacher. It is a timeless classic of love, finding out who you are and standing up for what you believe in, even if it will cost you the happiness you wanted.

So which version is your favourite?

Next time I will be continuing the theme of the sisters by looking at Emily Bronte’s novel of Wuthering Heights.

 

Television series conveyor belt

We all love a good TV series whether it be Game of Thrones, Downtown Abby or even The Walking Dead. We all love to escape for an hour or so into a shows universe and take a break from whatever is going on in our lives.

There are many genres and shows that cater to everyone’s taste. Plus there are so many to choose from and diverse ways to watch them, whether it be at the time of showing, catch up or on an online viewer like Netflix or Amazon Prime. So for us the viewer it is a win situation with many choices in many different places, so what is the downside to it all lights have shade.

For this scenario I find that there are so many shows getting cancelled.

Recently I have noticed that shows I have really got into all seemed to have one thing in common, they get cancelled. Now before I continue I am aware that a lot of TV shows rely heavily in viewing figures because of budgets and finances to create such shows. However I feel that shows do not always get the chance they should especially with all that is involved with making such shows. From the production design, director, costume design to the actors.

I find that so often there is a chop and change from TV companies that they want to accommodate the next big thing. It comes over that some shows are just a trend, or in my opinion they seem it is all about a trend. Others are always timeless especially when it is a period drama, but the downfall is whether the right time period is picked up by the right audiences.

A couple of examples are Emerald City, which was a darker and more in-depth take to the classic Wizard of Oz, many fans loved it and the finale left an open-ended conclusion so a chance for a second season could have been made. But it did not happen. Obviously a lot of fans were not happy with the cancellation and took to social media with hashtags on bringing it back. Sadly that looks unlikely. The network that took on this show was NBC and it is not the first time a classic was cancelled by the said network.

In 2013 NBC brought back to life the Bram Stoker classic of Dracula. Starring Jonathan Rhys Myers as Dracula. This was a series that had an in-depth plot, a different take looking at Dracula not as the vampire portrayed as he normally is, but someone wanting to be a man and fighting the two contrasting ideologies and desires. He wanted to change because of his long-lost love who had returned in a new image but with the same features, just like the novel. It is clever how the characters we sympathised with in other versions were turned around. It was interesting, different and just like Emerald City, it was cancelled.

In the last few weeks another show hit the chopping block, a Shonda Rhimes (creator of Greys Anatomy) creation called Still Star Crossed based on the book of the same name. This show is based in Verona looking at what happens after the death of the star-crossed lovers of Romeo and Juliet. After three episodes the scheduling of the programme was changed and then it was cancelled and not up for a renewal of a season two. Fans of the show could not believe it, as they enjoyed looking at a show from a different viewpoint. But I think it was more shocking that it was cancelled even before the first season has finished.

So my wonder is TV companies want us, the public to tune into their channel, to boost their ratings. Yet how are viewers meant to do that when at every turn dramas are being cancelled after one season. The other case for all these cancellations is that sometimes these ideas are just really good ideas but in reality it flops to make a big impression on the wider world.

Honestly I think a lot of it is to do with timing of when these shows are aired and this comes to what I stated earlier about trends. Some shows are thought of at a time when there are a lot of similar shows. Like in the case of Dracula there was True Blood and The Vampire Diaries, so another vampire show may have just not been what people wanted to know about at that time.

In the case of still star-crossed it again comes at a time when historical (even though it is based on Shakespeare) are being on overload, especially with Reign also being cancelled; this show was about the Royal family of the Stuarts and that time period.

In the end that be just the simple answer of it all, in simply the timing was wrong and the programme just did not have the lucky sparkle like others where audiences grabbed it with two hands and went crazy over it.

I mean we cannot compare everything to Game of Thrones can we?

But really we have the power, or we hope we do when it comes to our favourite shows. What we as individual may like and think is doing okay, on a wider spectrum it is not as good as others had hoped.