Films

Films set in the Georgian Era:

The Duchess:

The Duchess is a 2008 British drama based on Amanda Foreman’s historical biography of the 18th-century English aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. It was released in September 2008 in the UK. Originally to be directed by Susanne Bier, The Duchess was then left in the hands of  Saul Dibb who saw it through to its completion.

The Duchess delves into Georgiana’s passionate and doomed affair with Earl Grey, the future Prime Minister, and the complex love triangle with her husband and her best friend, Lady Bess Foster. Set at the end of the eighteenth century the film follows Georgiana as she struggles between her many duties as a mother, wife, lover and public figure.

Financed by BBC Films and Pathé, The Duchess was filmed at Twickenham Film Studios and on-location at Chatsworth, Bath, Holkham Hall, Clandon Park, Kedleston Hall, Somerset House and the Old Royal Naval College. It starred Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Hayley Atwell , Charlotte Rampling and Dominic Cooper.

Marie Antoinette:

Marie Antoinette is a 2006 biographical film, written and directed by Sofia Coppola. It is very loosely based on the life of the Queen consort in the years leading up to the French Revolution. It won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design. It was released in the United States on October 20, 2006, by Columbia Pictures.

The film centers itself around a young Marie Antoinette as she travels to Versailles to meet for the first time and marry Louis XVI, the Dauphin of France, thereby sealing an alliance between the two rival countries. Caught between love, night long parties and bad company, Marie faces immense pressure to be both a role model for the country and produce a much needed male heir to the throne. All the while not knowing that the choices she makes will forever change her beloved country.

The production was given unprecedented access to the Palace of Versailles. Additional scenes were shot in the Queen’s own Petit Trianon, the Hameau de la reine and the Paris Opera (which was built after the death of the real Marie Antoinette). While Milena Canonero and six assistant designers created the gowns, hats, suits and prop costume pieces. Shoes were made by Manolo Blahnik and Pompei, and hundreds of wigs and hair pieces were made by Rocchetti & Rocchetti. And the look for Count von Fersen was influenced by 1980’s rock star Adam Ant. Ladurée made the pastries for the film, its famous macarons are featured in a scene between Marie-Antoinette and Ambassador Mercy.

Vanity Fair:

Vanity Fair is a 2004 costume drama film directed by Mira Nair and adapted from William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel of the same name. The previous subject of numerous television and film adaptations, this version made substantial changes, most notably being the almost complete transformation of the character of Becky Sharp. The film was later nominated for the “Golden Lion” Award in 2004 at Venice Film Festival.

The film centers itself around its main character; Rebecca (Becky) Sharp, a social-climbing commoner in class-conscious England. In the film, Becky is treated much more sympathetically than in the book, which depicts her as an amoral woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

Critics gave the film mixed reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 53 out of 100, based on 41 reviews. Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post gave positive reviews, calling the movie “Mira Nair’s fine movie version of the 1848 book, in all its glory and scope and wit.” Meanwhile, Lisa Schwarzbaum, in he Entertainment Weekly review rated the film a B- and added that the film “borders on perky — a duller, safer tonal choice for the story of a conniving go-getter whose fall is as precipitous as her rise.”

Casanova:

Casanova is a 2005 American romantic comedy film directed by Lasse Hallström starring Heath Ledger and loosely based on the life of Giacomo Casanova.

The film opens with a young woman tearfully leaving her son to live with his grandmother. She promises to come back for her boy. Several years later, in 1753, in Venice, Casanova (Heath Ledger), is notorious for his success and promiscuity with women, his adventures being represented in puppet theaters around the city. The Doge, the ruler of the city, is sympathetic to Casanova, but cannot be too lenient to avoid trouble with the church. He warns Casanova that he must soon marry or he will be exiled from the city.

Period costumes were supplied by three different Italian costume houses: Tirelli Costumi, Nicolao Atelier and Costumi d’Arte. Shoes were manufactured by di Pompei, while the wardrobe was also rented from Sastreria Cornejo of Spain. Despite being set in Venice, some scenes were filmed in Vicenza, particularly the Teatro Olimpico, the Renaissance theater known for its intricate forced perspective stage design.

Dangerous Liaisons:

Dangerous Liaisons is a 1988 drama film based upon Christopher Hampton’s play, Les liaisons dangereuses, which in turn was a theatrical adaptation of the 18th-century French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. It was directed by Stephen Frears, having enjoyed successes in British cinema with My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), Prick Up Your Ears (1987) and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987), made his Hollywood début with this film. The film starred, amoung others, Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer, while the cinematography was done by  Philippe Rousselot.

The film begins when the Marquise de Merteuil (Close) calls on her partner, the Vicomte de Valmont ( Malkovich), to seduce Cécile de Volanges (Uma Thurman), the young daughter of Merteuil’s cousin, Madame de Volanges (Swoosie Kurtz). By this, Merteuil hopes to have revenge on a former lover, the man to whom Cécile is promised in marriage. At first, Valmont refuses her proposition; he wants to seduce the virtuous Madame de Tourvel (Pfeiffer), who is spending time at his aunt’s house while her husband is abroad. Upon discovering that Madame de Volanges had been secretly writing to Madame de Tourvel to warn her against his evil nature, Valmont changes his mind and decides to follow Merteuil’s scheme.

The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including “Best Picture”; it won those for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and Best Art Direction. The initial costume design was done by James Acheson, and in particular the screenplay by Christopher Hampton, garnered considerable critical acclaim.

Amadeus:

Amadeus is a 1984 drama biopic film directed by Miloš Forman and written by Peter Shaffer. Adapted from Shaffer’s stage play Amadeus, the story is based loosely on the lives of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri, two composers who lived in Vienna, Austria, during the latter half of the 18th century.

The film begins in 1823 as Salieri, as an old man, attempts suicide by slitting his throat while loudly begging forgiveness for having killed Mozart in 1791. Placed in a lunatic asylum for the act, Salieri is visited by a young priest who seeks to take his confession. Salieri is sullen and uninterested but eventually warms to the priest and launches into a long “confession” about the relationship between himself and Mozart. As the scenes later cut back to this dialogue, it appears that Salieri’s tale goes on through the night and into the next day. This dialogue comprises a frame story, with the bulk of the movie being flashbacks to Mozart’s lifetime.

The film was nominated for 53 awards and received 40, including eight Academy Awards (including Best Picture), four BAFTA Awards, four Golden Globes, and a DGA Award. In 1998, the American Film Institute ranked Amadeus 53rd on its 100 Years… 100 Movies list.

Perfume:

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a 2006 German thriller film directed by Tom Tykwer and written by Andrew Birkin, Bernd Eichinger and Tykwer. It is based on the 1985 novel Perfume by Patrick Süskind. Set in 18th century France, the film tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), an olfactory genius, and his homicidal quest for the perfect scent. The film also stars Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman and Rachel Hurd-Wood; John Hurt provides narration.

The film begins with the sentencing of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), a notorious murderer. Between the reading of the sentence and the execution, the story of his life is told in flashback, beginning with his abandonment at birth in a French fish market. Raised in an orphanage, Grenouille grows into a strangely detached boy with a superhuman sense of smell. After growing to maturity as a tanner’s apprentice, he makes his first delivery to Paris, where he revels in the new odors. He focuses on a girl selling plums (Karoline Herfurth) and startles her with his behavior. To prevent her from crying out, he covers the girl’s mouth and unintentionally suffocates her. After realizing that she is dead, he strips her body naked and smells her until the scent fades. Afterwards, Grenouille becomes haunted by the desire to preserve a woman’s scent forever.

The film was made on a budget of €50 million, making it one of the most expensive German films. Principal photography began on July 12, 2005 and concluded on October 16, 2005; filming took place in Spain, Germany and France. Perfume was released on September 14, 2006 in Germany. It grossed $135,039,943 worldwide, of which $53,125,663 was made in Germany. Critics’ reviews of the film were mixed; the consensus was that the film had strong cinematography and acting but suffered from an uneven screenplay.

Brightstar:

Bright Star is a 2009 film based on the last three years of the life of poet John Keats and his romantic relationship with Fanny Brawne. It stars Ben Whishaw as Keats and Abbie Cornish as Fanny. A British/Australian/French co-production, it was directed by Jane Campion, who wrote the screenplay and was inspired by the biography of Keats by Andrew Motion, who served as a script consultant on the film.

In 1818 Hampstead the fashionable Fanny Brawne (Cornish) is introduced to poet John Keats (Whishaw) through the Dilke family. The Dilkes occupy one half of a double house, with Charles Brown (Keats’s friend, roommate, and associate in writing) occupying the other side. Though Fanny’s flirtatious personality contrasts with Keats’s notably more aloof nature, she begins to pursue him after she has her siblings, Samuel and Toots, obtain his book of poetry “Endymion”. Despite her efforts to interact with the poet it is only after witnessing her grief for the loss of his brother Tom that Keats begins to open up to Fanny’s advances

The film competed in the main competition at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, and was first shown to the public on 15 May 2009. The film’s title is a reference to a sonnet by Keats named “Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art”, which he wrote while he was with Brawne.

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