The Brontë Sisters
|The Brontë Sisters|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||André Téchiné|
|Produced by||Yves Gasser
Alain Sarde (executive)
|Written by||Pascal Bonitzer
|Music by||Philippe Sarde (arranger)
Gioachino Rossini (Tancredi: Overture)
Robert Schumann, etc...
|Edited by||Claudine Merlin|
|Running time||115 minutes|
The film was written by Téchiné with the collaboration of Pascal Bonitzer and Jean Gruault. The cinematography was by Bruno Nuytten. It was a project that Téchiné wanted to make since 1972, but only after the favorable reception of Souvenirs d'en France (1975) and Barocco (1976), he was able to find the necessary financing. Produced by Gaumont, the film's originally running time was cut from three to less than two hours upon its release at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival.
The film stars Isabelle Adjani as Emily, Marie-France Pisier as Charlotte and Isabelle Huppert as Anne. Pascal Greggory plays their brother Branwell Brontë. The plot centers around the sisters' sombre relationship with Branwell. It is set in a careful recreation of the period.
Four young siblings: Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne, live a stoic existence in a small village in the English country side. Their old father, an Anglican minister, a rigid spinster aunt and Tabby, the maid, complete their household. The siblings have artistic ambitions and rely upon each other for companionship. Branwell is a painter and a self-portrait with his sisters is worthy of the general admiration of the family. He wants to pursue a professional career, but only goes as far as to establish a friendship with Leyland, another artist. Emily's favorite pastime is to walk across the bleak moors that surround the village dressed as a man. Anne, the youngest of the siblings, is her companion. Charlotte, more ambitious than the others, convinces their reluctant aunt to give her money to go to Belgium in order to study French. Her idea is to eventually come back and open a school. With their aunt's money and permission, Charlotte and Emily go to Brussels. Once there, Charlotte falls secretly in love with her teacher Monsieur Heger, who is already married. Emily plays the piano at school, but has a hard time there and is teased by her classmates for being English and Protestant in a Catholic country. Meanwhile, in England, Anne finds employment as a governess, taking over the education of the daughter of a wealthy family.
While his sisters are away, Branwell deals alone with the death of their aunt. Her death makes Emily and Charlotte come back home. Emily is relieved and helps Branwell to find solace, taking him to the Black Bull Inn, the tavern and hotel of the town. Charlotte, on the other hand, lovesick, returns as soon as possible to Brussels to be reunited with Monsieur Heger, but her love is unrequited. Thanks to Anne, the aimless dreamer Branwell finds a steady job as the teacher of Edmund, the young son of the Robinson family, Anne's wealthy employers. Mr Robinson is strict, and, with his air of superiority, humiliates both Anne and Branwell. Mrs Robinson, flirty and unsatisfied, starts an ill-fated affair with Branwell. When Anne finds out about their relationship, she quits her job and returns home. Both Branwell and Charlotte have to deal with their broken hearts. After the death of her husband, Mrs Robinson sends Branwell a letter ending their affair.
Branwell's life takes a dark turn. He gives himself over to drinking and becomes addicted to opium. During a windy night, a fire starts in his bedroom and he has to be rescued from amongst the flames by his sisters. Sneaking into Emily's bedroom and searching amongst her things, Charlotte discovers Emily's poems. Deeply impressed, she finally is able to convince the reluctant Emily to have them published. Soon the three sisters have their poems, and later a novel each, published. Reviews of Emily's novel, Wuthering Heights, are particularly harsh. However the novels of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, the pen names adopted by the three sisters, are the talk of London literary circles. Speculations about the sex and identity of the Bells force Charlotte and Anne to go to London to introduce themselves to George Smith, Charlotte's publisher.
Unaware of his sisters literary accomplishments, Branwell dies of marasmus exacerbated by heavy drinking. Emily, stricken by tuberculosis, refuses all medical treatment, insisting on carrying on with her household chores. When she finally agrees to send for a doctor, it is too late, and she dies. Anne is also terminally ill with tuberculosis. Following her wishes, Charlotte takes her to see the ocean for the first time, and Anne dies during that trip.
Charlotte is the only survivor among the four siblings. Left alone with her elderly father, she pursues her literary career and marries Arthur Nicholls, her father's curate. In the company of her husband and her publisher, Mr Smith, Charlotte goes to the opera in London and meets the famous author William Thackeray.
- Isabelle Adjani as Emily Brontë
- Marie-France Pisier as Charlotte Brontë
- Isabelle Huppert as Anne Brontë
- Pascal Greggory as Branwell Brontë
- Patrick Magee as Reverend Brontë
- Hélène Surgère as Mrs. Robinson
- Roland Bertin as Mr. Nicholls
- Alice Sapritch as Aunt Elizabeth Brontë
- Xavier Depraz as Monsieur Hager
- Adrian Brine as Mr. Robinson
- Julian Curry as Mr. Smith
- Rennee Goddard as Tabby, the maid
- Jean Sorel as Leyland
- Roland Barthes as William Makepeace Thackeray
DVD & Blu-ray release
Previously to 2013, the film had only been released on DVD only in region 2. It was released in Spain in French with Spanish subtitles or dubbed in Spanish as the options offered, but it is currently out of print. It was released in Sweden in 2009 as part of a box set of Brontë-related films.
- Marshall, Bill, André Téchiné, Manchester University Press, 2007, ISBN 0-7190-5831-7
- "Festival de Cannes: The Bronte Sisters". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
- "The Bronte Sisters". Culturalianet. Retrieved 2009-08-08.