Monday, April 7, 2008

North and South (2004)

My obsession with period films lead me to find North and South as I was searching through to add to my extensive period drama collection. After waiting patiently for a few days, my package finally arrived with the movies I had ordered. It was then time to sit down with a big bowl of popcorn and enjoy the show!

The 2004 BBC miniseries adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskells beloved novel North and South proves to be a timeless classic. North and South is Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskells love story of a middle class southerner, Margaret Hale, who moves to the northern town of Milton because her nonconformist fathers who is a minister makes a haste decision to leave the Church of England and take up a job as a tutor. Upon entering the fictional town of Milton, Margaret realizes that the north is far more pretentious then the down to earth south. Margaret and her family struggle to adjust to the customs of the industrialized town, especially after coming into contact with the mill owners, whose proud attitudes take the Hales by surprise. One of Mr. Hales pupils is mill owner John Thornton who gets off to a rocky start with Margaret hale after she witnesses him beating up a worker for smoking in the mill. Margaret sympathizes with the local mill workers and forms an alliance as she speaks out against the mill owners and does her best to help those in need. Through her determination to help the mill workers, Margaret meets and forms a close friendship with the Higgins, who are a working class family struggling to survive in industrial England.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the film, but I will say this; the story takes on many twists and turns with the introduction of dynamic characters such as Mrs. Thornton who creates many hardships for Margaret and John throughout the film. Also, like any good film there is a great love story holding it together. Like Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, the love story between Margaret Hale and John Thornton is much the same. It starts out dry and ends up slowly but surely blossoming into a great ending full of passion and love.

What I liked most about Sandy Welch‘s adaptation of Gaskells novel is that it not only does it show a great love story, but more importantly it creates a realistic look into the harsh conditions in which working class people had to live in. The film is able to dig deep into the problems of everyday life and shows the real life issues between the mill owners and their workers. Most novelists of this time (excluding Dickens) fail to show the true conditions of the Victorian era, as they focus on creating an idealistic view of the Victorian life. Also, as the title suggests, North and South presents a contrast between the old agricultural lifestyle of the South of England and the new industrialists of the north. The film is also able to show the different mindsets people of that time had depending on whether they were from the south or the north. This adaptation of the film is able to get to the heart of the victorian problem and is able to communicate with viewers on not only the issues concerning the upper class people, but also those of the

On a final note. for those who are interested in learning more about the Victorian culture, then this movie is a great one to watch for a quick crash course in the middle class lifestyle. The movie adaptation is able to beautifully illustrate the Victorian lifestyle of the middle and lower class people of the time. Also, those who have also read Gaskells novel, will know that the film has done the book great justice and will be loved not only by myself, but by many Victoriana fans around the world. All I can do now is sing the movies praises and encourage everyone to check out this Victorian cool film!

Rating: 5 Stars *****

Victorian Cool: 10/10

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