A new film about a 19th-century poet and early feminist demands to be filmed through a woman’s lens, but it is likely to be directed by a man because there is such a shortage of female directors, according to one of Britain’s greatest screenwriters. .
Paula Milne has written a feature film inspired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who campaigned against social injustice, including slavery and child labor, while living in fear of her own father. Milne believes that such a story, with its many contemporary parallels, should be filmed by a woman, due to the natural empathy women have for one another, but it is unlikely to happen.
“The problem is, everyone wants a director and the wait is long, very long,” Milne told Observer. The industry has finally woken up to long-standing criticism of its inability to promote women to top positions, but there is a limited pool, with investors – especially in feature films – unlikely to try. “Someone who has not been proven,” she said.
Milne believes that telling Browning’s story requires a woman’s sensitivity, to portray “a semi-incestuous thing going on with the father” and an opium addiction that made her all the more addicted to it. him.
While writing the screenplay she wanted to show how “even a talented and extremely intelligent woman can find herself trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship. Her iconic story reflects the reality of many women today victims of gas lighting and the insidious power of obsessive love.
Milne’s acclaimed dramas, which have received international accolades, include The politician’s wife, starring Juliet Stevenson as the aggrieved wife of an unfaithful MP, and The virgin queen, with Anne-Marie Duff as Elizabeth I.
“I’ve been writing since the late 1970s, and during that time I’ve worked with only three directors,” Milne said. Still, she argues that “women automatically understand other women, whereas that can be a leap for men”, in whose films “the perspective of the female character” can sometimes be “overlooked”.
The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media estimates that only 7% of directors, 13% of screenwriters and 20% of producers are women, resulting in “a struggle to defend female stories and voices.” Research by the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, based at San Diego State University, found that women made up just 16% of directors working on the 100 top-grossing films in 2020. , compared to 4% in 2018.
Browning, who died in 1861, at just 55, is best known for her love poems, Portuguese sonnets – which bears the famous phrase “How do I love you?” Let me count the ways “- and Aurora Leigh, now considered one of the first feminist texts. Many of Browning’s later works were inspired by politics, a subject Victorian readers considered inappropriate for women. The runaway slave at Pilgrim’s Point, published in London in 1849, was a protest against slavery in the United States.
She started dating her future husband, Robert Browning, after her writings inspired her to say, “As I say, I love these books with all my heart – and I love you too.
She had to keep their relationship a secret with her father, who has never forgiven her, and Milne describes him as a man obsessed with her. Using an artistic license – “remembering a hint Virginia Woolf made about her father’s coercive and possibly incestuous control” – Milne writes about the “predatory glare” of her eye in the hole. spy he pierced between their adjoining rooms: “At night… he would watch her… He would light her with gas, tell her… things that were partly true about Browning.” It became a kind of battle for his soul between these two men.
When Browning asks him, “Why is there a spy hole looking in my bedroom, Father?” he replies: “To watch you at night without disturbing you when you are in the grip of your miserable dream.”
Milne said: “Shortly after the abolition of slavery, [the film] Also depicts the moral hypocrisy of a family whose wealth is part of a culture based on racial exploitation – another theme all too relevant today.
Browning’s father owned plantations in Jamaica, she added, “He made his money from the slave trade. So it’s a house built with dirty money. Yet she was an abolitionist.
In the scenario, the father argues: “We gave our slaves their freedom 10 years ago. It is entirely their choice to continue working for me. Her daughter replies, “What kind of choice if starvation is the alternative?
Browning suffered a lifetime of ill health. In the script, his character says, “If you didn’t believe in curses before, believe it now… I come from a family of slave owners. We have blood on our hands. My ill health is atonement for it.
The scenario is called My father’s house, “to put the emphasis on his father, sort of nemesis,” Milne said.