“I think if a good fairy were to offer me the choice of a gift, I would say—grant me the power to walk invisible.” ~ Charlotte Brontë
Four children – three sisters and a brother – run around their little house, fiery halos of imagination hovering over their heads. They gather around a box of toy soldiers come alive, telling each other stories about the tiny men. They are full of inspiration and hope.
This is how the latest PBS Masterpiece, To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters, begins. Coming to DVD and Blu-Ray April 11, 2017, this two-part film explores a three-year time period in the lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë, telling the story of how they became published under male pseudonyms, writing some of the most popular works of their time, books that continue as classics today.
I imagine many of you are familiar with the heart wrenching romance of Jane Eyre and the tragedy of Wuthering Heights and maybe even Agnes Grey; perhaps you’ve always wondered about the sister authors who developed such powerful narratives. The Brontë sisters lived short, sorrowful, isolated lives, yet they created some of our favorite stories: tales of lost love and madness and loneliness, stories that reflected the world as seen by these sisters from Northern England.
To Walk Invisible reveals how Charlotte, Emily, and Anne always made up stories together for fun, but as they got older, they realized that publishing might be their only chance to provide for themselves (as unmarried women) in case their elderly father died. “This is what we’ve done all our lives – we’ve lived in our heads,” says Anne. The sisters are shown as writing almost constantly, often together at a table. Their silence as they write hides the passion of their words. As Anne says, “I’m never more alive than when I write.”
This contrast of exterior peace and internal turmoil is a strong theme throughout the film. The sisters lead quiet lives, but we see how angry and sorrowful they feel as they recall the death of two other sisters and as they worry over their brother Branwell. A poet himself, Branwell never seemd to find his place in the world. The film provides some explanation for this (growing up with too many expectations and losing a woman he loved), letting Branwell be the voice of passion that perhaps his sisters feel and express only in their work. He rants and raves around the house in frustration, eventually succumbing to alcohol and drug addiction, growing deathly ill. His narrative works as a mirror or contrast to that of his sisters. They feel frustrated with him, but ultimately love and want to take care of him as all of the siblings have grown up together with the same trials and loss.
The Brontë sisters are not only struggling with a broken family, but also against the social hindrances toward women of the time. They come up with ambiguous pseudonyms (Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell) in order to overcome male bias in the publishing industry. Even when they do get published, they must keep their identities secret or risk their reputations. What they see as presenting the truth of reality in their novels, the world sees as vulgar or unfeminine. A satisfying moment comes when the publisher finally meets them, completely surprised at their gender and genius. As Emily puts it, “When a man writes something, it’s what he’s written that’s judged. When a woman writes something, it’s her who’s judged.”
One of my favorite aspects of the film is the scenery from Yorkshire. The film was created in their own countryside, and many shots scan over the gorgeous gold and green landscape. As I was watching, I kept thinking about the windswept moors from Wuthering Heights.
I won’t spoil the ending for you all, but I will suggest having the tissues close to hand! The Brontës didn’t have easy, carefree lives, but they did their best to share their view of the world through their writing in a time when many women’s voices went unheard. As the passionate Emily Brontë wrote: “No coward soul is mine.”
And now… what you’ve all been waiting for… it’s giveaway time! PBS Distribution has graciously given us one DVD copy of To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters! And if you aren’t the lucky winner this time around, the DVD and Blu-ray will be available for purchase on April 11 at www.shoppbs.org
To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below (be sure to link contact information or include some way for me to reach you in case you win! It’s easier if you sign in with Twitter or Facebook.) and/or post on Twitter using the hashtag #brontegiveaway and @roseofthewest. By leaving a comment on this post or on Twitter, you are agreeing to the following rules:
- No purchase necessary
- One entry per person. An entry is a comment on this post. An additional entry is granted by posting a comment on Twitter with the hashtag #brontegiveaway and @roseofthewest
- Entrants must be 18 years old or older and residents of the U.S.
- Giveaway entries will be accepted from Sunday, April 2, 2017 until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, April 16, 2017.
- 1 randomly selected winner will win the DVD version of To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters. The run time of this program is approximately 120 minutes on 1 disc. The DVD SRP is $29.99.
- 1 winner will be selected at random from the comment section on this post and the comments on Twitter. Only comments received before 11:59 p.m. Sunday, April 16, 2017 will be entered. Winners will be announced Monday, April 17, 2017. Winners will have one week to claim prize.
- Prizes can only be shipped to addresses in the U.S.
- The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning
- By entering giveaway, you are submitting the right to access your name for the winning entries as well as for use in a post revealing winners
- If potential winner forfeits or does not claim prize, prize will be re-awarded in Sponsor’s sole discretion
- Neither Rose West nor PBS Distribution is liable for any negative impacts as a result of the prize or giveaway
- Prize is provided by PBS Distribution
- Giveaway is regulated in the state of Michigan
- Void where prohibited by law
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