Effie, a film based on the relationship between Victorian poet and artist, John Ruskin and his unfortunate wife Effie Gray will go into production next month. The film is written by Emma Thompson who will also play Lady Eastlake, and the Oscar-nominated Carey Mulligan will be in the starring role of Gray.
Richard Laxton is directing and Thompson’s husband, Greg Wise, is to produce the film and play the part of Ruskin. According to thefancarpet he and Thompson asked Mulligan to take the part before her success in An Education:
“Carey has a rare quality of being open and unfettered. At the time Effie said she would have borne anything, had Ruskin just been kind. But I can’t play him as an ogre because the audience need to understand why she married this man.”
Ruskin and Gray’s unconsummated love affair will be central to the plot of the film. United on his wedding night in April 1848 with Effie Gray, the girl who had been the object of some of his most beautiful writing during their courtship, Ruskin suddenly realises he has made a mistake and postpones the consummation.
Thompson has already revealed that in the screenplay, the wedding night is a key plot point:
“We will show that night at the start, but it doesn’t play itself out until the very end. I have talked to many different Ruskinians and they all have a slightly different take on it.”
It seems, however that Wise and Thompson have already chosen to use Gray’s take on the situation, with both her letters and Ruskin’s own statement at the annulment proceedings confirming that he had “found her person repugnant” on the night of their wedding.
For Wise, the Ruskins’ wedding night is telling of the growing western preoccupation with the ideal female image and its adversities from reality:
“In the same way now that men are bombarded with images of what is supposed to be the ideal woman, after the Pre-Raphaelite ideal anything is going to be a let down. Real life is wrinkles and smells.”
Although it will heavily involve Ruskin, Thompson seems to be following in the line of Jane Campion with Effie taking the spotlight much like Fanny Brawne did in Bright Star. The critical success of Campion’s film has shown that films such as this need not be strictly biopic in order to tell a story worthy of attention.
This could make for a great original and controversial film that will certainly give Mulligan another opportunity to extend her already present abilities. Depending on how Ruskin’s character is played out in Thompson’s script, the points this film could make on how the female body is perceived could be very interesting to say the least. This will be a film that won’t have a quiet run when it enters the theatres.
Wise and Thompson hope to start shooting next month in Venice and Scotland.
Would you want to see Effie?
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