Movies With Matvey Cherry


Illustration by Paco May

The directorial debut of actress Frances O’Connor, whom we remember from diligent adaptations of BBC classics like Madame Bovary, has reached the American box office. This Victorian drama of extremely creative characters unexpectedly reveals something in common with modern America.

Emily, as the name suggests, is the story of the short and extremely sad life of the writer Emily Brontё, whose contribution to eternity is limited to Wuthering Heights and passionate love poems. Emily was the middle child of the world-famous trio of sisters, as well as the most unhappy and the most talented. The details of her biography are almost unknown. The main part of the evidence of her life was left by the elder sister Charlotte, the author of Jane Eyre, a work of much more modest artistic merit than Wuthering Heights, and, judging by the general intonation of the film, director O’Connor does not trust her, suspecting, it seems, of the usual writer’s envy. One thing is for sure: Emily Brontё died suddenly at thirty from tuberculosis. How exactly did she spend the time given to her by God? Under the heel of a religious fanatic father who served as a pastor in the Yorkshire wilderness, where rains are replaced by fogs and depressions by hysterics. Whether she was in a hurry to live, whether she was in a hurry to feel, one can only guess. This is what O’Connor did.

Of all the scenario strategies, she chooses the most obvious one: to fill biographical gaps with novel twists and turns. Therefore, almost half of Emily’s screen adventures are borrowed from characters she invented: Heathcliff and Earnshaw. From a childish prank (nightly peeping at the measured life of decorous neighbors) to a forbidden passion in an abandoned gatehouse—a mortal sin that turned into deadly consequences. For the rest of the time, the characters, as is customary in the tradition of British costume cinema, loiter on wet heaths, drink fragrant tea, jingle painted porcelain, and also dream of something more than stolen kisses or stolen life. After all, too much in fate depends on our optics: bucolic pastoral or provincial vice, family nest or the dictate of the patriarchy, vocation or sentence, God or the devil.

Emma McKay, who plays Emily Brontё in about the same way Maeve Wiley does in Sex Education, repeatedly voices the main message of the film: don’t be afraid to be a fool, live. And it will be rewarded a hundredfold—whoever makes mistakes during his lifetime, will unmistakably recognize eternity. If Emily had not dared to contradict her older sister who had chosen the sad but honorable path of a teacher, had not gotten involved in extramarital relations with her father’s assistant, had not taken a sip from a bottle of opium, she would never have become the author of Wuthering Heights, published in London a year before her death and read and revered for almost two hundred years. Only here the trajectory of other characters who fell just as early and under the same pessimistic circumstances into the abyss, alas, without the right to posthumous fame, proves the opposite. Emily was taught the freedom to be a fool and live by her brother Branwell, who also aspired to be a writer. However, neither opium, extravagant sex with married ladies, nor studying at the Royal Academy of Arts brought him one iota closer to his goal. He was unquestionably incompetent. Her younger sister Ann also tried to find her way in art, and her lover, who composed his sermons with an eye to poetic laurels, also wanted to broaden his horizons. But this “stupidity” or “thirst for life” brought them nothing but fruitless suffering.

Unfortunately, the moral of Emily is not at all in the propaganda of freedom as the highest necessity. After viewing, completely different conclusions suggest themselves. In addition to freedom, you need to have talent—perhaps the most mysterious phenomenon of nature. For more than a thousand years of the history of human thought, no one has been able to convincingly explain why providence bestows talent on some individuals or entire nations while ignoring others. This does not mean that one should not try or hope one day to face the ghost of freedom nose to nose. This means that having met freedom, you need to have at least a couple of talented questions to ask.

Matvey Cherry


Paco May


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