North and South 2004
Richard Armitage’s breakthrough role on TV was Victorian cotton mill-owner John Thornton, in the BBC’s 2004 adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South.
He had been steadily building a career in British television, playing a variety of increasingly more important supporting roles from 2001 onwards. But Thornton was his first leading role, and it took his career to a new level.
Set in the 1850s, Gaskell’s novel tells the story of Margaret Hale, a vicar’s daughter from the south of England, whose family moves to the northern industrial town of Milton. There she meets the owner of one of the largest local cotton mills, John Thornton. Used to the genteel society of the south, she struggles to adjust to the grime and poverty of the busy mill town at the heart of the Industrial Revolution. She clashes repeatedly with Thornton, critical of his manner of doing business and his treatment of his workers. But gradually they grow closer and come to understand each other. It’s a ‘social problem’ novel with a compelling love story at the heart of it.
“I live in fear that I will never find a role like Thornton again, but that’s the challenge. I loved playing the role so much and I think it will stay with me forever. It was just a part I completely devoured and related to.” – Richard Armitage
Pride and Prejudice 1995
Jane Austen’s classic novel is brought to the screen once again in this intelligent and witty romantic drama. Elizabeth Bennett (Jennifer Ehle) is one of five sisters living on a British country estate in the 1800s. At a time and place in which matrimony is considered a woman’s logical goal in life, Elizabeth displays a cautious reluctance toward marriage — so when a wealthy young man, Fitzwilliam Darcy (Colin Firth) expresses an interest in courting her, she isn’t so sure she cares for him. Elizabeth and Darcy discover that they have a great deal to learn about each other — and no small amount to overcome in their minds — if they are to find happiness together. Pride and Prejudice was produced as a five hour mini-series by the BBC and was first shown in the U.S. on the A&E cable network.
The Age of Innocence 1993
In Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Edith Wharton’s 1920 novel, romance between an upper-class gentleman and an ostracized lady is doomed by 19th century New York society. Shortly after his engagement to blandly genteel May Welland (Winona Ryder), Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) is reacquainted with May’s scandalous cousin Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer). As the head of an esteemed family, Archer initially uses his standing to try to rehabilitate Ellen’s reputation, but he finds himself increasingly drawn to her disregard for the codes of New York manners.Bound by ingrained society mores and his peers’ insinuations, Newland tries to dodge his growing passion by rushing his marriage to May, but he cannot keep himself from confessing his love to Ellen. Recognizing that Newland could never abandon his sense of honor and be happy, Ellen pushes Newland to May and leaves town. The marriage proceeds as dictated, but when Newland unexpectedly sees Ellen again, he yearns for the affair to come to fruition. However, he underestimates not only what May knows but also her ability to uphold the rules of propriety. Sumptuously shot by Michael Ballhaus, the film offers meticulously designed costumes and settings that evoke a culture as seductively beautiful in its surfaces as it is stifling in its rituals. Unspoken emotions are expressed through such details as yellow roses or a clipped cigar, a fade to red or a single camera move. Using Wharton’s original prose to comment on the setting’s hypocrisies, Joanne Woodward’s voiceover narration suggests how much decisive power is buried beneath dainty femininity. The Age of Innocence received five Oscar nominations, including Best Supporting Actress for Ryder and Best Screenplay for Scorsese and Jay Cocks, and a win for Best Costumes Synopsis by Lucia Bozzola
The Great Gatsby 1974
This third film version of F. SCOTT FITZGERALD’s classic 1925 novel was one of the most hyped movies of the summer of 1974. Robert Redford stars as self-made millionaire Jay Gatsby, who uses his vast (and implicitly ill-gotten) fortune to buy his way into Long Island society. Most of all, Gatsby wants to win back the love of socialite Daisy Buchanan (Mia Farrow), now married to “old money” Tom Buchanan (Bruce Dern). Calmly observing the passing parade is Nick Carraway (Sam Waterston), Gatsby’s best friend, who narrates the film. Francis Ford Coppola’s screenplay is meticulously faithful to the original novel, but Theoni V. Aldredge’s costume design and Nelson Riddle’s nostalgic musical score won the film its only Oscars. The huge supporting cast includes Howard da Silva, who played Wilson in the 1949 Great Gatsby, and a very young Patsy Kensit as Daisy’s daughter.
Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Of all the adaptation, I felt this one had the most feeling to it. You could feel his love and heartbreak for her.
Jane Eyre 2006
After a wretched childhood, orphaned Jane Eyre yearns for new experiences. She accepts a governess position at Thornfield Hall, where she tutors a lively French girl named Adele. She soon finds herself falling in love with the brooding master of the house – the passionate Mr. Rochester. Jane gradually wins his heart, but they must overcome the dark secrets of the past before they can find happiness. When Jane saves Rochester from an eerie
fire, she begins to suspect that there are many mysteries behind the walls of Thornfield Hall. Her fears are confirmed when Rochester’s secret past is revealed, destroying her chance for happiness, and forcing Jane to flee Thornfield. Penniless and hungry, she finds shelter and friendship in the shape of a kind clergyman and his family. But she is soon shocked to uncover the deeply hidden truth of her own past. This lavish and sensual new version of Charlotte Brontes classic novel is modern and moody, timeless and romantic. Starring Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester, Ruth Wilson as Jane, and Francesca Annis as Lady Ingram.
A Promise 2013
French filmmaker Patrice Leconte (Felix and Lola, The Suicide Shop) makes his English-language debut with this period romance adapted from Stefan Zweig’s Journey into the Past, and centering on the affair between a handsome male secretary and the wife of a wealthy industrialist. Frederic Zeitz (Richard Madden) is a man whose strong work ethic is only exceeded by his formidable intelligence, which makes him the ideal candidate to work as an administrative assistant for prominent steel-factory owner Karl Hoffmeister (Alan Rickman). Before long, sparks are flying between Frederic and Hoffmeister’s younger wife Lotte (Rebecca Hall), and the young secretary is invited to move in with his boss’ family while tutoring his employer’s young son Otto (Toby Murray). Meanwhile, passions between the young pair begin burning out of control, leaving both to ponder an uncertain future as the powers of fate begin to push them apart.