Sunday, December 22, 2013

Desperate Romantics #TV #miniseries #reviews

I've meant to watch the six-part BBC series, Desperate Romantics, one for a while now since the Pre-Raphaelite and the related Arts and Crafts movement numbered among my most inspirational when I was studying art. A little background about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB). The ringleaders were Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, but there were other notables associated with and influenced by the movement. 

In essence, the Pre-Raphaelites rejected the artistic style of the time, which was heavily influenced by the classic artists Michaelangelo and Raphael et al, and sought to create art that was expressive, sensual, emotive and colour-filled as opposed to the oppressively dark and heavy painting styles of the time. Subject matter also changed, often harking toward the medieval and heavily influenced by nature.

Perhaps two of my favourite Pre-Raphaelite works of art feature the luminous muse Elizabeth Siddal. The first is Ophelia by John Everett Millais which depicts the doomed Ophelia floating downriver before she drowns. The second is the Beata Beatrix which was painted by Gabriel Dante Rossetti after the death of his wife, Elizabeth Siddal. 

As for the series, it was entirely delightful, starring the rather lush Aidan Turner (Rossetti), Rafe Spall (Holman Hunt), Samuel Barnett (Millais), Sam Crane (Fred Walters), and the rather captivating Amy Manson (Elizabeth Siddal), among others. Granted, I don't know all *that* much about the actual history related to the PRB's personal lives, so I vaguely knew "this won't end well" when I went into it.

Plus points subtle touches of humour, some wonderfully witty dialogue and beautiful styling if you're interested Victorian-era drama. This mini-series serves to remind exactly how steeped in custom the Victorians were. Reputation was everything, and if wanted to cock a snook at society, your path was fraught with difficulty. As an introduction to the world of the PRB I think this is a good departure point, but I do feel that they took more than quite a few liberties with actual history. 

Nevertheless, Desperate Romantics was eminently watchable, and has left me with a number of TBR titles on my book list. It's light, witty but has an undercurrent of tragedy. There are times when I'd really like to kick Rossetti hard – really, really hard – but his passion for creative expression is inspiring. 

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