13 February 2015

My Top Eight Period Dramas!

Hey everyone,

Over the last week I’ve been watching a lot more movies than I’ve been reading books. In part this is because I’ve just got a Netflix accounts but also because I’ve been on way too many long haul flights.  There is only so many times a person is meant to cross the Atlantic Ocean in one month. Therefore rather than reviewing a book I thought it would be interesting to tell you about my favourite Period Dramas that feature a strong romantic element.

Since the popularity of Downtown Abbey the amount of people producing, writing and watching Period Dramas has increased and below is just a small selection of my favourite Period Drama movies with a strong romantic element. Also because I found it impossible to rate by favourite I decided to order them chronologically based on the time they are set, starting with the oldest.

Tristan & Isolde (2006)

Set in Britain and Ireland during the Dark Ages this movie is based on the medieval legend of Tristan & Isolde. In my opinion they are the original Romeo and Juliet as these star-crossed lovers are separated by feuding nations instead of feuding families. Tristan played by James Franco is a ‘British’ warrior who is extremely loyal to his Lord Marke, who is attempting to unify the various clans that rule Britain in this period.

Our heroine Princess Isolde is played by Sophia Myles. As the title Princess would suggest she is of royal descent and in fact her father is King of Ireland, someone who wants to keep Britain weak and divided as it benefits his leadership. Without ruining the plot the couple meet and fall in love in isolation from the world surrounding them. Unfortunately reality forces the two lovers to separate and keep them separate. Can be purchased on Amazon etc.

Lady Jane (1986)

Another Period Drama also set in Britain, but this time in the Medieval Period, Lady Jane, follows the rise and fall of Lady Jane Grey who was Queen of England for only nine days before being executed for treason. I’ll be honest the first time I watched this film it was mainly because it featured an early Helena Bonham Carter, who is one of my all time favourite actresses. Yet what made it one of my favourites was the beautiful love story between Lady Jane and Lord Guilford Dudley who are forced into an arranged marriage.

This is a slowly paced film and for long periods it focuses more on the political strife that the surrounded the country during this period than it does the growing relationship between Jane and Guilford. Yet in many ways this felt very reminiscent of historical romance that uses the arrange marriage trope or even the enemies to lovers trope. Well worth a watch and can be cheaply purchased on Amazon or viewed on Netflix (UK).

A Royal Affair (2012)

This is the only foreign film on my list and is set around the Danish Courts during the 1770s, where is follows the young queen and her love-affair with the King’s physician. Filmed almost entirely in Danish (with a few brief sentences in English at the start), this subtitled movie tells the true story of events that occurred at the Danish court during the period of enlightenment. Going in I wasn’t really sure what to expect and yet I was completely won over by the superb acting, beautiful cinematography and well-written script.

Yet as the above picture demonstrates this film is about so much more than the Queen’s affair and is in fact a touching and fascinating story about all three of main characters struggle to survive and thrive in an extremely repressive society. Don’t be put of the by subtitles this film is well-worth a watch. Available on Netflix etc.

Belle (2013)

When I first saw this film advertised I knew straight away that I wanted to see, mainly because I had actually studied the portrait this film was inspired by. This wonderful movie tells the dramatised story of Dido Belle, who was born in the West Indies and was the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of Mansfield's nephew. Raised alongside her cousin Elizabeth she is brought up by Lord and Lady Mansfield. The film focuses around the Zong  Massacre case and Dido’s relationship with an aspiring lawyer.

Brilliantly acted this film is both a wonderful romance, but also a superb look at the issues surrounding both race and gender in the late 1700s. Gugu Mbatha-Raw does an incredible job portraying Dido Belle in this film and I would highly recommend it too anyone.

Becoming Jane (2007)

So far the majority of films I’ve recommended as been fairly serious intone, and although they have a strong romantic element they also have fairly important political and social storylines running parallel. In contrast Becoming Jane is the fictionalised account of the early love life of Jane Austen. It explores her relationship with her first love and ultimately the beginnings of her writing career.

I don’t know how historically accurate this film is. All I know and honestly care about is the brilliant performances of Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy who play Jane and Tom Lefroy, the young Irish man Jane falls in love with. This is a great film with even a dash of humour in it (quite rare for a Period Drama I would argue).

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

This is probably controversial but I’ll admit it. I prefer the 2005 Keira Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice. I once watched this movie on repeat for a whole even, my housemates at university would tell you I would watch this whenever I was having a bad day. For some reason this film just works for me. I love the cinematography, the acting, the story (the book is one of my all time favourites) and the music.

But I won’t go about this film because its highly likely you’ve already seen it, or refuse to see it because you’re loyal to the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice. To be honest as long as you’ve seen and love one version of this book I think your doing just fine.

The Young Victoria (2009)

This film focuses on Queen Victoria early life, in particular her courtship and eventual marriage to her cousin Albert. Me and mum both love this film and Emily Blunt does a great job of portraying the young Queen.

I feel this film managed to show the more human side of Queen Victoria. Rather than reinforcing the old and depressed stereotype of Queen Victoria this film instead incapsulates the youthfulness and playfulness of Queen Victoria and Albert during the beginning of her reign. Again I have no idea how historically accurate this fictionalised account is but I still think its a great film.

North & South (2004)

Richard Armitage at his best (and most attractive). Based on the Elizabeth Gaskell novel of the same name this mini-TV series is simply fantastic. It follows the story of Margaret Hale who is forced to move from Southern rural England in the mid-nineteenth century to Urban Industrial North. The mini-series explores issues of class and gender through the differing opinions of Margaret and John Thornton the local Cotton Mill-owner.

What makes this series completely unforgettable, however, is the relationship between Margaret and John. They start out hating each other and struggle to get along but eventually they come to understand and appreciate each others viewpoints. I’ve actually read some Elizabeth Gaskell and if you can get past the Victorian prose style you should definitely read some of her books.

Happy watching everyone and see you next time!