Review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Crossposted from things she read

This weekend, I watched the BBC’s 1996 adaptation of Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, starring Tara Fitzgerald, Toby Stephens, and Rupert Graves. This is one of the two movies I selected as part of the “All about the Brontës” challenge and I was not disappointed.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Having read the novel a few months ago, I was eager to watch the series. As with most novels that are adapted into film, the series differed from the book but I found that it did not take away from the experience. Tenant is a disturbing tale and the series effectively captured the threat and anxiety of Helen’s situation. The novel is complex in its exploration of women’s place in society and the tenuous position of wives and mothers in particular. The film did a good job of emphasizing this by presenting Helen as the focal point of the story, though removing Mr. Markham as the main narrator of the tale.

Tara Fitzgerald’s portrayal of Helen added to my understanding of that character. In my reading, Helen came across as a very hard and pious individual, seeming a bit priggish until I learned the reasons for her high moral stance. While watching the film, I felt sympathetic towards Helen from the beginning, the occasional flashbacks that she experiences aiding the viewer in understanding her obvious sadness and isolation, and her devotion to her son. When reading the novel, my sympathy towards Helen grew when she reveals her past to Gilbert Markham, about halfway through the book.

The interaction between Gilbert and Helen is less charged in the film, as many of the misunderstandings that arise during their early interactions are glossed over. Their friendship is a lot more easy in the adaptation and Gilbert seems much less proud than he does in the book.

I found that Rupert Graves was wonderful as Huntingdon. He played such a vile character and really made me hate Huntingdon. The relationship between Helen and Huntingdon was sexed up in the film, adding a different dimension to my understanding of the situation between these two.

All in all, a good start to my Brontë-watching 🙂

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Author: gricel d.

writer. librarian. cat lady.

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