Thursday, February 9, 2023
Mackay and Whitsunday Life
Australian actor-turned-director Frances O’Conner, with her debut film Emily, has managed to create something interesting and thoughtful – beautiful in its own right – yet something more akin to our modern sensibilities than it is to the time of the Brontë sisters.
Cobbling together some old things, placing them into a new form, and wiggling them around a bit, O’Connor has put to screen a well-constructed debut that muddles with the factual parts of history. Although, there is not too much known about the middle Brontë – so it is a land rife for creative imagining - other than her penning of what is one of literature’s finest, wildest romantic stories: Wuthering Heights.
In Emily, O’Connor uses a great deal of artistic license to imagine the transformative, exhilarating, and uplifting journey to womanhood of who she envisages as a rebel and misfit. It is ostensibly a recreation of Wuthering Heights where its creator plays the main role. “How did you write Wuthering Heights,” Emily’s sister, Charlotte -the famed writer of Jane Eyre – asks in the film. Well, this fever-dream film proposes that she lived it.
Someone who was historically reclusive, the Emily we see here is instead transposed with a sardonic, “I-won’t-play-your-game” archetype of the tortured artist who eventually becomes one of the world's most famous, enigmatic, and provocative writers.
Certainly, this will not be the last time the Brontë sisters are “reinvented” for contemporary audiences. This writer believes it is a reductionist way of viewing a group of complex women to reflect ourselves, rather than allowing them to be who they are, to teach us things.
It is not purposefully harmful, trying to package them within the constraints of our modern life and sensibilities, yet it still is. Emily still has its merits belied by O’Connor’s message: do not conform, express your creative freedom, even in the face of ridicule.
For a rainswept period piece and a romantic fairy-tale with visual brilliance in its cinematography, Emily is worth the watch – just remember it’s hardly true.
Emily will show at the Bowen Summergarden Cinema from February 18.