Tag Archives: movies

Tea with Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte’s 200th birthday last year inspired me to re-read Jane Eyre, and I decided to make this part of my Read Harder Challenge by watching two film adaptations for comparison to the original text. I’d been meaning to re-watch the 2006 BBC version with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson, and I’m always eager to watch the 2011 theatrical version with Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska. What a pleasure to read the book*, watch both adaptations and compare! It also was great fun to pair the book with tea and a sweet treat, as you’ll see below.

(*Actually, I alternated between reading the e-book and listening to Thandie Newton’s spectacular audio performance.)


I’d forgotten that both the 2006 and 2011 adaptations were filmed at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire (as was the 1996 Franco Zeffirelli version with William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg!). I’ve visited Haddon Hall in both the summer and at Christmas time, and it’s one of my favorite old piles in all of England. It seems perfect for Thornfield Hall–castellated and gloomy in a Gothically romantic way, also boasting a rushing stream and lovely terraced gardens. The 2006 version makes a little more use of the Haddon Hall interiors, whereas the 2011 version uses Broughton Castle (another lovely place to visit!) for many of the interior shots.


So, which adaptation did I like better? The 2011 adaptation will always be my favorite, but the 2006 TV movie is quite good in its own right. Excellent performances from Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson, and a teleplay by Sandy Welch that is mostly true to the original. Welch departs from the book by presenting Rochester as a naturalist, and by introducing house party discussions of the scientific study of twins (???), as well as musings on the paranormal. There’s even a scene with a table transformed into a talking board. (Why add a talking board when you already have gypsy readings?)

The 2011 theatrical version is stripped-down, but effectively so. I like the Rivers family as a frame, and I do prefer Fassbender’s darker Rochester–he has a bit more menace to him and doesn’t babble so much as the original. Mia Wasikowska truly does seem little and plain(ish) in this adaptation, but also strong-willed. I think the scene that really seals the 2011 version as my favorite is when Rochester begs Jane to stay after the revelation of his dark secret. “I cannot get at you, and it is your soul that I want!” (Watch the scene–you know you want to!) I also love the ending–very compressed from the original, but somehow more satisfying to me.


I’ve probably mentioned my Haddon Hall china from Minton before. I first saw the pattern at the Haddon Hall gift shop, but it just wasn’t feasible to ship a set back to the U.S. Fortunately, I later found pieces from various sets at Replacements.com. They don’t match perfectly, but I think that makes the collection all the more charming. And, of course, the Haddon Hall china seemed perfect for a Jane Eyre tea!

For my tea treat, I made parkin, a spicy oat cake from the north of England, particularly popular in Yorkshire (home to the Brontës).

[Parkin] is eaten in an area where oats rather than wheat was the staple grain for the poor. It is closely related to tharf cakes – an unsweeted cake cooked on a griddle rather than baked.[7] The traditional time of the year for tharf cakes to be made was directly after the oat harvest in the first week in November. For festive occasions, the cake would be sweetened with honey. In the seventeenth century (about 1650) sugar started to be imported from Barbados[b]- and molasses was a by-product of the refining process. Molasses was first used by apothecaries to make a medicine theriaca, from which name the word treacle is derived.[8] As molasses became plentiful, or treacle as it became called at that time, it was substituted for honey in the preparation of tharf cakes. (From wikipedia)

After a disastrous attempt with a different recipe, I had success with this: Parkin–a Guy Fawkes Night Tradition. The recipe is accompanied by a helpful explanation of Parkin’s connection to the 5th of November, and it uses U.S. measurements and ordinary ingredients. (I happened to have golden syrup on hand, but according to the recipe corn syrup will suffice.)


It looked a bit like a pan of brownies when it came out of the oven, but oh, the glorious spicy smell!


This parkin was very moist and filling. If Jane Eyre had tucked some of this in her pocket, she might not have suffered so much on the moors before the Rivers family took her in! For tea I needed something strong to match the spice of the bread, so I chose the Irish Breakfast from David’s Tea in honor of Charlotte Brontë’s Irish heritage through her father, Patrick Brontë (originally Brunty or Prunty from County Down, Ireland).

Some related links for your edification and amusement:

The Best Yorkshire Recipes (some nice options for sweet treats here)
–A Jane Eyre tea blend from Adagio
Every Meal in Jane Eyre, Ranked in Order of Severity, from The Toast
–A Tea with Jane Eyre necklace at Etsy
Jane Eyre Tea Cozy patterns for knitters!
Walnut Tea Sandwiches inspired by Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre, the Fragrance, from Ravenscourt Apothecary (this is a NEAT site!)
–And finally, this long-time favorite: Dude Watchin’ with the Brontës from Hark, a Vagrant.

Also, some of my previous Jane Eyre-related blog posts:
Brontës on the Brain (Nov 2013)
The Problem of Kissing in Jane Eyre ’11 (Aug 2011)
Derbyshire Top Ten, including photos of Haddon Hall (July 2011)
I saw Jane Eyre yesterday (April 2011)

March Tea and a Movie and a Book!


My dear friend Michelle visited earlier this month–it’s an annual thing for us. We shop, have tea, see movies at the theater, watch tv and movies at home, and, of course, we talk, talk, talk. I look forward to it every year, and it’s always hard to say goodbye at the end.

This visit I asked Michelle if she would watch Bright Star (2009) with me. I’d seen it twice already, and I wanted to share it with her. And you know what? I think I loved it even more the third time!


As you may already know, Bright Star is the story of the ill-fated romance between John Keats and Fanny Brawne (played respectively by Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish). The film was written and directed by Jane Campion, who also wrote/directed one of my all-time favorite films, The Piano.

I adore the look of this film–it balances the ordinary and extraordinary with an exquisite attention to detail. We see that the feelings shared by Keats and Brawne are powerful and transformative. At the same time, Campion honestly depicts the melodrama of youthful passion (Fanny was only 18 when they met), as well as the ways in which each might have been in love with the idea of love.


As a companion to the film, Campion published Keats’ letters to Brawne, along with a selection of his poems. The passion in his letters is, at times, breathtaking:

I cannot exist without you. I am forgetful of everything but seeing you again — my Life seems to stop there — I see no further. You have absorb’d me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving — I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. I should be afraid to separate myself far from you. My sweet Fanny, will your heart never change? My love, will it? I have no limit now to my love. (13 Oct 1819)

I wish Fanny’s letters weren’t lost to us. Apparently the letters she sent to Keats in Italy were buried with him unopened. Fanny mourned him very publicly for years. She did eventually marry, but not until twelve years after Keats’ death. Her letters from him were not released until many years after her husband’s death, and they created quite an uproar when published. Many thought Fanny was vain and shallow, certainly not worthy of Keats’ love. (argh!) However, the 20th century publication of Fanny’s letters to Keats’ sister offered a different perspective on Miss Brawne–one that apparently inspired director Jane Campion’s depiction of her as steadfast and kind.


For my “Bright Star” tea, I chose Brigadoon Breakfast from Adagio, perhaps in memory of Keats’ faithful, if infuriating, friend, Mr. Brown. (Contrary to the film, Charles Armitage Brown was not Scottish, or at least wasn’t born there, but he and Keats long had a dream of traveling to Scotland together.) Brigadoon Breakfast is a very special Scottish Breakfast blend that only makes an appearance every four years. (It is out of stock until Feb 29 2020!) The official description: “Celebrate Leap Day with this Scottish Breakfast Blend of Assam and Keemun teas. We’ve added a touch of Silver Needle and blue cornflowers to evoke the blue and white of the Scottish flag that Brigadoon would fly.”


To go along with the tea I made scones using this easy-peasy lemonade scone recipe. The funny thing is that Michelle and I tried to make these scones while she was here, but they didn’t turn out very well, possibly because I didn’t have self-rising flour and instead had to make my own with [possibly outdated] baking powder. (Or did I use baking soda???) Whatever the error, the resulting scones were flat and strange-tasting. My second attempt yielded much better results, though I think they needed to bake a little longer, and I would urge you to use a well-floured biscuit cutter.


I whipped my own cream (not as thick and wonderful as true clotted cream, but still quite nice) and used Crofter’s Organic Strawberry Spread. I prefer the Devonshire style of putting cream first and topping with jam. (See this article for more context.) Very tasty!

Movie Monday (a day late): Crimson Peak

My friend Kim Harrington brought something very interesting to my attention: a Victorian haunted house movie directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska!

Check out the trailer:


(Obviously the film stars many famous/amazing people in addition to Hiddleston and Wasikowska, but LOKI and JANE EYRE in a ghost movie??? Seriously, what could be better?)

The trailer certainly is gorgeous and creepy. It also seems a bit “over-the-top” in some places. I loved Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, but I think del Toro can get carried away sometimes (e.g. Pacific Rim).

In many ways the trailer reminds me of those old Ken Russell movies like Gothic or Lair of the White Worm. It also brings Gormenghast to mind. These associations leave me feeling a little nostalgic and a lot apprehensive. I just don’t want the style of the film to overwhelm the story and characterization.

Steve has already told me he won’t see it, and I know it’s a bit too dark and sexy for certain friends. So looks like I’ll be cowering in a theater all by lonesome in mid October! Will YOU be seeing it?

P.S. Supernatural fans will be pleased to learn that Jim Beaver is part of the cast!

Movie Monday: PADDINGTON


Yesterday we saw Paddington.

Steve grew up with the books and cherished his very own stuffed Paddington bear. I, on the other hand, hardly knew anything about this world-traveling, marmalade-loving creature. But after seeing a few positive reviews of the film, I decided we needed a little whimsey from the big screen this weekend.

Turns out it was one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time!

The script is clever and funny — appealing both to kids and adults — and the performances are top notch. Ben Whishaw does amazing work as the voice of Paddington (so glad he stepped in when Colin Firth didn’t work out), and I could go on and on about the high quality CGI and cinematography, as well as the delightful set design of the Browns’ house. There’s so much to gush about! But why don’t I link you to some professional reviewers who had high praise for the film:

The New Yorker — “Perfectly Captures a Particular English Sensibility”
The Telegraph — “A total delight”
Entertainment Weekly — “fast-paced yet unhurried, serving up surprisingly subtle ideas on melting-pot urban diversity”

The official trailer wasn’t nearly as charming as the film, so I’ll include this clip of the Brown family’s first encounter with our bear from darkest Peru:

Please go see it, and take the kiddos!

Friday Favorites: It started with a photograph

A couple of things to share today, and though it may seem like a stretch, they actually are related.

Favorite thing #1. More than thirty years after first seeing it, I re-watched Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966), starring the late David Hemmings.


I first saw this film as a child during a weekend visit at my dad’s house. Dad had that wonderful new invention called “Cable TV” and through its magic I was introduced to all sorts of interesting movies, current and classic. Unfortunately I didn’t catch Blow-Up from the very beginning, but I managed to tune in at a critical moment — Hemmings’ character, an arrogant and affected photographer (parodied delightfully in Austin Powers years later) wanders London with his camera and ends up taking photos of a couple embracing in a park. The woman approaches him, agitated, and asks for the film back. But when she comes to his flat later, he gives her the wrong film. He then develops the actual roll from the shoot, and through a series of blow-ups, discovers that something sinister may have happened at the park.

The scene depicting his discovery is so beautifully shot and compelling, but the resolution (or lack thereof) was incredibly frustrating to me as a kid. I thought maybe I’d missed something at the beginning of the film, and I’ve been wondering for decades what it all meant. Well, in re-watching it this past weekend, I realized the film really isn’t about the mystery of a possible murder. Rather, it is a fascinating character study. Roger Ebert described it best:

The film is about a character mired in ennui and distaste, who is roused by his photographs into something approaching passion. As Thomas moves between his darkroom and the blowups, we recognize the bliss of an artist lost in what behaviorists call the Process; he is not thinking now about money, ambition or his own nasty personality defects, but is lost in his craft. His mind, hands and imagination work in rhythmic sync. He is happy. (See the entire review here.)

As a kid (who really wasn’t old enough for the film anyway) I wanted the story to be about the mystery, and I desperately wanted that mystery to be solved. 30+ years later I appreciate the film for its ambiguity.

Favorite thing #2, in which we come to the related topic (yes, really!) of Ghostlight and the fact that ARCs are out in the world!


First of all, Weeeeeee!

Now to the connection . . . we have a film for adults (considered nearly pornographic in its day — take it from me, those scenes are the least compelling element) and a book for middle grade readers (& up). What could these two things possibly have in common? Well, somewhat like in Blow-Up, the mystery in Ghostlight starts with a photograph. This photograph features something it logically shouldn’t, which leads to a project, a betrayal, and, ultimately, an investigation. Though this “clue in a photograph” idea is not particularly unique, I know the seed for it was planted in my brain all those years ago when I watched Blow-Up and really wanted that mystery to be solved. Also, strangely enough, I think one of the characters in Ghostlight was probably, subconsciously, inspired by the main character in Blow-Up. Julian Wayne isn’t quite as reprehensible as Thomas (though he was darker in earlier incarnations of the story). He is similar, however, in that he’s arrogant and obsessive and grows pretty impatient with people who don’t appreciate his passion for filmmaking.

And look here — we have official flap copy!


Isn’t that creepy image of the window SO COOL? Please allow me to type out the plot blurb, in case you can’t quite read it in the image:

Nothing ever happens on Avery’s grandmother’s sprawling farm, where she and her brother spend the summers. That is, until Avery meets Julian, a city boy with a famous dad, whose family is renting a nearby cottage. When Julian announces his plan to film a ghost story, Avery jumps at the chance to join him.

Unfortunately, Julian wants to film at Hilliard House, a looming, empty mansion that Grandma has absolutely forbidden her to enter. As terrified as Avery is of Grandma’s wrath, she finds the allure of filmmaking impossible to resist.

When the kids explore the secrets of Hilliard House, eerie things being to happen, and the “imaginary” dangers in their movie threaten to become very real. Have Avery and Julian awakened a menacing presence? Can they turn back before they go too far?

 

So there you have it! I no longer have to ramble nonsensically about the premise of this book, for that sums it up pretty nicely. Perhaps I’ll give one of these ARCs away before too long? Stay tuned! And HAPPY FRIDAY!!!