Period films may be an acquired taste, but those who love historical films will have plenty to enjoy when it comes to the Victorian era. Queen Victoria of Great Britain enjoyed a long reign during the nineteenth century and her influence on the culture was profound. The following films cover a wide range of aspects about Victorian life.
The Way We Live Now is a wonderful BBC adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s novel of the same name. Directed by David Yates, it stars David Suchet, Matthew MacFadyen, Paloma Baeza, Rob Brydon, Cheryl Campbell, Shirley Henderson and Mirando Otto. This entertaining film revolves around themes of class, family life and love,
but it takes an interesting angle by covering the Victorian business world and showcases the corruption that thrived there. Filled with memorable characters, it pits true morality against the conventions of the day.
Angels and Insects is a film based on the novella Morpho Eugenia by A.S. Byatt. Starring Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patsy Kensit, Jeremy Kemp and Douglas Henshall, it looks at the dark side of Victorian life. A biologist returns from the Amazon and marries into a wealthy aristocratic family with some profound secrets. Befriended by the governess, he makes some shocking discoveries about the human species. Erotic scenes accompany this well-acted and beautifully shot film.
Wives and Daughters, also a BBC release, portrays Victorian country life as it existed for aristocratic families. Based on the Elizabeth Gaskell novel of the same name, this adaptation stars Francesca Annis, Ian Carmichael, Deborah Findlay, Barbara Flynn, Michael Gambon, Iain Glen and Keeley Hawes. When a country doctor remarries a frivolous woman, his daughter suffers most but is befriended by the neighborhood as well as her new stepsister who has a story of her own. Riveting subplots abound in this finely-crafted tale that rivals some of the best period pieces.
Also based on an Elizabeth Gaskell novel, North and South is an excellent film that raises serious issues. While a love story is at the core of the film, it takes a serious look at conditions faced by employer and employee during the Victorian era. Industrialization had a huge impact on the world of Victoria and this film brings the surrounding issues to life. When a young privileged girl moves from the south countryside to a northern mill town, she is unprepared for what is in store for her. Directed by Brian Percival, the film stars Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage.
Victorian era lovers will not be able to pull away from the Forsyte Saga, nor its sequel. Perhaps more melodramatic than the other movies listed here, it will become your guilty pleasure. Love, betrayal, family honor—these films capture many aspects of the Victorian world as experienced by the members of one family. Some of the core cast members include Gina McKee, Damian Lewis, Rupert Graves and Corin Redgrave. An altogether delight to watch, set aside a whole weekend to indulge in Victorian decadence and romance.
Other fine movies showcasing the Victorians are The Woodlanders, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda. The rigid class structure and conventions of society set up many conflicts that are brilliantly portrayed in these films about life under Victoria.