New film Emily imagines the life of the most mysterious Brontë – The Irish Times

In Charlotte Brontë’s preface to the second edition of Wuthering Heights, she describes the author of that book, Emily Brontë, as a loner.

“I must confess that she had little more practical knowledge of the peasantry among whom she lived than a nun has of the country people who sometimes pass through the doors of her convent,” wrote Charlotte. . “My sister’s character was not naturally gregarious; circumstances favored and encouraged his tendency to isolation; except to go to church or walk on the hills, she rarely crossed the threshold of the house.

As a child, Emily, as various biographers relate, would hide behind doors or under tables if visitors came to Haworth Parsonage, the Yorkshire home where the family lived. As an adult, Emily sometimes remained silent even when addressing herself directly.

“I’ve always found her a fascinating character,” says writer-director Frances O’Connor. “She was 30 when she died. She was an intensely private person. She was antisocial. She literally couldn’t leave the parsonage without getting sick. And yet, she wrote this gargantuan literature full of passion and fierce intelligence. I always wondered who she was.

O’Connor, a British-Australian actress who rose to international fame in films such as Patricia Rozema’s Mansfield Park, Steven Spielberg’s AI.Artificial Intelligence and John Woo’s Windtalkers, will unveil her first feature film as as writer-director at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival next month. A new trailer has already garnered plenty of hood-related admiration online.

Emily, O’Connor’s wildly imaginative biography of the most mysterious Brontë sister starring Emma Mackey, conjures up an origin story for a feverish novel dismissed by contemporary critics with the words: “Here all the faults of Jane Eyre [by Charlotte Brontë] are multiplied by a thousand, and the only consolation we have in thinking about it is that it will never be generally read.

“Wuthering Heights was considered a very inappropriate novel,” says O’Connor. “People were horrified about it. And that’s when they thought it was written by a man. So I think Charlotte edited out her sister enough just because she was afraid of how they were going to be judged.

Emily Brontë never married and there is no evidence that she formed any romantic attachments. Anne Brontë, her younger sister, was Emily’s closest companion. Ellen Nussey, a friend of the Brontë family, called the siblings “twins – inseparable companions, and in closest sympathy, which never had an interruption”. Anne’s possible affection for assistant parish priest William Weightman (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen of The Invisible Man) is projected, in O’Connor’s script, onto Emily.

“I didn’t want to do a real biography down the line,” O’Connor says. “I wasn’t really interested in doing this as a story because I wanted to connect the film to Wuthering Heights. And there were also things I wanted to explore about myself as a person and my life growing up. I wanted to watch a young woman find out who she is. Because of that, I just let the narrative do what it wanted to do and that’s what it wanted to do.

Emily opens October 14

About Herbert L. Leonard

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