"Beautifully acted" -- The Independent (U.K.) As imagined by Jean Rhys, the villainous madwoman in Charlotte Bronte?s Jane Eyre becomes an innocent, born into two cultures but belonging to none. The exotic Caribbean confou... more »nds young Englishman Edward Rochester when he arrives in 1830s Jamaica to pursue his fortune. Nevertheless, he finds nothing to fear in beautiful Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway. She eagerly succumbs to his courtship, entrusting him with her dowry and her destiny. In the intoxicating surroundings of their honeymoon house, ecstatic lust turns to suspicion and betrayal as her world and his disastrously collide. In this passionate and heartbreaking love story, the shadowy character created by one brilliant novelist becomes fully realized in the hands of another. Rafe Spall (The Chatterley Affair) and Rebecca Hall (The Prestige) star in a fresh adaptation that captures all the sensuality, suspense, and nuance of Rhys?s masterpiece. DVD SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE biography of Jean Rhys, SDH subtitles, and cast filmographies.« less
"Jean Rhys came to fame following her novel Wide Sargasso Sea. Most often the novel is read as a colonial-feminist corrective to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. The madwoman in the attic is here given a voice through her daughter who reenacts a self-same fate. The merits of the novel are manifold, and it is an exceptional feat that here is a rendition of the narrative with such vivid emotional energy and lush psychological initmations that it must be regarded as a magical piece of moviemaking. Mind you, my ratings are on the main consevative, but it would be best to append cum laude to this quiet production. The cast is outstanding so much so that the nuances of the tale are diffracted with dexterity while retaining the ambiguity of the textual equivocations, whereby no one character is easily packaged in an easy interpretation. Rather we see the coils and wranglings of passion, culture, conceit, pride, diffidence and the allure for the "other" with such sparkling clarity through a spectrum of carnivalesque dialectics that each character unveils a personality both complex and of vertiginous depth. The texture of the plot thickens with every turn and the allusions to Jane Eyre transcend the indulgence of the passions lived by the two main protagonists and the "colonial markings" are traceable everywhere. Adumbrations of postcolonial trauma, the wretched of the earth of the Carribean so to say, inform the espousal of two culture with that jarring brush of victimhood that stems from a people of insurmountable resources and affectations that are illegible to its counterpart. History is brought in as necessary but always contextual and well-pleated within the unfolding of the story. The music, the landscape, the overall pulsing energy makes of this tale of madness a prism through which women speak the candor of their inner turmoil as men betray themselves in an attempt to civilize the mind and soul of the truly free. And please there is no romanticizing involved here. In fact, even nostalgia proper is absent. Romantic reservations climax upon a crisis of identity that is ostensible and undeniable. It is a snapshot of a picture that bleeds with emotional beauty, and where the mixing of blood is frustrated by a magical hex that seizes the protagonists in an impasse that is heartfelt and indelible. Picture perfect."
Backstory of the Shadowy Madwoman in the Attic
Stephanie DePue | Carolina Beach, NC USA | 05/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Wide Sargasso Sea," a new television production by BBC Wales, based on the esteemed novel of the same title Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, has been broadcast in the United Kingdom, but has not been broadcast here. Nevertheless, lucky us, this sexy, tragic tale is now available for the first time for purchase on these shores. The film, as the novel on which it's based, functions as a prequel to famed British 19th century novelist Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics). And oddly enough, though "Jane Eyre" has been filmed many times, for big screen and small, this is only the second take of "Wide Sargasso Sea;" another, Australian-made version,Wide Sargasso Sea, intended for the big screen, came and went without notice in 1993, though it featured several big-name stars.
This TV version is filmed, like its predecessor, in the fantastically beautiful green island of Jamaica, and it's certainly beautiful to watch. It stars several lesser-known young performers; as the young Englishman Edward Rochester, Rafe Spall( Masterpiece Theatre: Room With a View; Shaun of the Dead,); as beautiful Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway, Rebecca Hall ( The Prestige); and as obeah woman/servant Christophine, Nina Sosanya, (Peter O'Toole's recent TV film Casanova (Masterpiece Theater)). All inhabit their roles fully, giving us a well-balanced cast. The film script follows Rhys's book in shifting the action of Bronte's from the 1810s to the 1830s, shortly after slave emancipation. It was adapted for the screen by Stephen Greenhorn; directed by award-winning Brendan Maher ("The Road from Coorain"). It tells the unhappy backstory of West Indian heiress Bertha Mason, as she was to be known in her later life, the first Mrs. Rochester; the madwoman in the attic whom Jane Eyre must defeat in order to become the second Mrs. Rochester.
Surely, in the history of Western literature, there can have been few more inspired ideas than that of Rhys's; to develop the tragic kernel at the heart of "Jane Eyre," and few writers better equipped to do it. Rhys, a twentieth century novelist, was herself born in Domenica, a British colony in the West Indies; she was the daughter of a Welsh doctor, and a third-generation Creole woman of Scottish descent. She knew the snobbish, repressive, patriarchal culture very well; and also the uneasy social position of the Creole woman - generally understood to be not necessarily entirely of white ancestry, but accepted as such for necessary social reasons. (At one point in the story, a servant calls Mason a "white cockroach," a slur that I understand was frequently directed at Rhys in her own early life.) This dichotomy, of course, creates a tension that will be very difficult for such a woman to handle, and can be seen as a major cause of Mason's madness; in addition to the fact that she fails to understand England, or the English, properly: she just cannot see that Rochester is a typical proper Englishman of his time.
Rhys, born in 1890, led a wandering, alcoholic, bohemian life all over 20th century Europe. She is widely esteemed as a feminist author these days, as are all her works, but most particularly "Sargasso," and its heartbreaking tale of a woman at sea in an alien culture. She had an affair with noted novelist Ford Madox Ford, reputedly had a threesome with him and his Australian wife, published a novel Quartet (Norton Paperback Fiction) about it all, and certainly benefited from his literary advice. She also had a relationship with omnisexual British jazz singer/author George Melly; she and his bandleader John Chilton wrote a sardonic song about it: "Living with You." Most of her books utilized modernist techniques and West Indian sensibilities, to deal with wandering penniless women, no longer as young and pretty as once they were, seeking one more generous man. As a writer, Rhys fell silent for many years mid-career, until she published "Sargasso" in 1966. The novel won the prestigious W.H. Smith Literary Award, also the Royal Society Literary Award. She said about it, "It has come too late." She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1966, and a Commander of the British Empire in 1978, a year before her death.
Mind you, this is not to take anything away from Bronte, herself, also a deservedly feminist icon these days, as is her Jane. Both remind us that it was possible for women to snatch achievement from even the most patriarchal culture. Furthermore, Bronte may have written a great romance; but she was realist enough to recognize that it was built on the misery and misfortune of the shadowy madwoman in the attic.
We have here a great, fresh story, well-told, that was filmed alongside a new version of "Jane Eyre;" and adds a lot to it. You should see them together if you can manage (and, thank goodness, it's got subtitles).
The movie adaptation of a novel written by Jean Rhys
Midwest Book Review | Oregon, WI USA | 07/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wide Sargasso Sea is the movie adaptation of a novel written by Jean Rhys, as a deliberate prequel to Charlotte Bronte's classic tale "Jane Eyre". In the story, Rhys imagined how Mr. Rochester from "Jane Eyre" met and married his first wife, and how she became a madwoman in the attic. Set in early 1800s Jamaica, the young Englishman Edward Rochester (Rafe Spall) captivates the beautiful Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway (Rebecca Hall); yet the passionate lust of the newlyweds quickly gives way to suspicion, fear and betrayal. Originally aired in the United Kingdom, Wide Sargasso Sea is now available to American audiences on DVD with special features including a biography of Jean Rhys and cast filmographies. An absolute "must-see" for anyone who has enjoyed Charlotte Bronte's great works of literature. 84 min., color, widescreen, subtitles. "
A STORY IN ITSELF ALONG THE WAY TO 'JANE EYRE'
Harold Wolf | Wells, IN United States | 12/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It would take some nerve to write a story based upon a well-known book by none other than Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre). Wide Sargasso Sea is successful, and in it's own right. So why did the beautiful wife of a young Englishman get locked up and get labeled mad? Why the fire?
Jean Rhys story has been beautifully brought to film with Rebecca Hall making the romantic loves and losses of Antoinette believable. Her nude scenes leave little to the imagination inside the honeymoon Jamaican house. She throws herself into assuring the young Edward love her. If nudity and sexual situations offend, stop here. It's unrated but probably should be considered an R due to the fleshy parts.
It is 1830, and Antoinette forfeited all control of her 30,000 dowry. Does she not deserve passionate romance? But secrets and whispered tales abound. Antoinette is caught between the English and Jamaican worlds, owned by no one except...her now suspicious husband. Will her history destroy the future? You will feel for the heartbroken Antoinette through her unsuccessful attempts to lure back her Englishman's love. Who's right? Who's betrayed? Who's mad?
This is a 5-star book adaptation worth a second viewing, and then the third watch can be coupled with "Jane Eyre". Very well done by BBC Wales (Kudos) and then Acorn Media with the DVD.
A great (and steamy) prequel to Jane Eyre!
Another Jen | Alexandria, VA United States | 06/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although it kind of takes a bite out of the Jane Eyre story that I know and love, I definitely enjoyed this steamy new movie version of the prequel by Jean Rhyss. Veteran Brit actor Rafe Spall and Rebecca Hall (Woody Allen's newest discovery) have wonderful chemistry and the story is haunting."