Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Original title: Les Soeurs Bronte
France, 1979. Action Films, Gaumont, France 3. Scenario and dialogue by Pascal Bonitzer, Andre Techine, with the participation of Jean Gruault. Cinematography by Bruno Nuytten. Produced by Yves Gasser, Klaus Hellwig, Yves Peyrot. Production Design by Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko. Costume Design by Christian Gasc. Film Editing by Claudine Merlin. Cannes Film Festival 1979.
An exquisite period piece whose every shot looks like a darkly beautiful period painting, and whose performances highlight an intelligent script and studied, intense pace. The passions of three sisters are held back by a strict religious upbringing and the privations of early nineteenth-century English country life as intelligent but careful Charlotte (Marie-France Pisier), wildly passionate Emily (Isabelle Adjani) and young, dutiful Anne (Isabelle Huppert) try to make futures out of virtually nothing. Meanwhile, their brother Branwell (Pascal Greggory) is their father’s future hope but is taken to emotional extremes by a lack of direct ambition and a propensity for hopeless love affairs. Eventually the three female children of the dour Patrick Bronte would become among the most famous literary figures of all time, but what this superb film by Andre Techine captures is the moment when an artist chooses to reveal themselves: their being writers is a fundamental element of their being, not just an activity, but the decision to put pen to paper, and then later to do so under their own names, is an undertaking that challenges their souls, each in their own way. An unforgettable masterpiece whose power and exceptional attention to detail have not aged a bit.