Saturday, April 16, 2011

Blockbuster potential

The French poster for Agora. Note how it
gives the movie a revolutionary emphasis.
A week ago I confessed my secret: that I desire the story of Mary Wollstonecraft to be told in the biggest way possible, namely as a full-on feature film.  Week by week I will reveal my dream of Mary: the Movie. Today I discuss the excellence of all its component parts, and thus its potential appeal. Forgive the exclamation marks, but for this post, nothing else will do...

What elements of a Hollywood blockbuster does Mary Wollstonecraft's life lack? None!

Sex! Violence! Insanity! Fame and infamy! Terror! Love! Special effects! Costumes! Locations! Celebrity!

Let's go through these in some detail...

  • Physical beauty! Graceful young women! (Lots!) Handsome charming young men! Powerful persuasive older men!
  • Love and romance! Passionate friendships! Lesbian lust! Menage a trois! Cheating boyfriend! Heartbreak! Premarital hetero-sex! (Lots!) Bastard baby! Shotgun marriage!
  • Fabulous settings! Lisbon & Paris! An Irish castle! The sublime splendours of Yorkshire & the wilderness of Scandinavia! Stormy ocean voyages! The white cliffs of Dover! And, bits of London that are actually possible to film!
  • Furies at the guillotine: revolutionary
    women stir up the populace
  • Violence! The bright hopes of the French Revolution turn to the Terror! Mob rule! Heads literally rolling off the guillotine! Blood in the Parisian gutters! Also, alcoholic wife-beating!
  • Death! French corpses everywhere! Bloody regicide! Women dying in childbirth! An old man, peacefully, with time for wise words & weeping at bedside!
  • Pain! Mental anguish! Spiritual turmoil! Suicide attempts! Rescue!
  • Religion! Politics! Conflict! Controversy! Civilised discussion of historically crucial Enlightenment ideas! Dinner parties that shaped Civilisation As We Know It! Shouting matches of sexual jealousy and spurned love!
  • Onwards & upwards! Overcoming a horrible childhood! Years of struggle against poverty! Standing up to society's expectations! Triumphing against the odds!
  • Amazing coincidences! E.g. travel two weeks to aid pregnant ill friend, and arrive to find her in labour! Friend dies in childbirth, thus presaging the heroine's fate! Couldn't make up this dramatic foreshadowing!

    Let's get financially astute (aka corporately cynical). Ways to attract financing:
  • Bodice ripping! Flattering feminine costumes! Lots of lace can be arranged! And disarranged! And the men: powdered wigs & frock coats!
  • In-jokes and references to other films! E.g. wet-shirted young man in Yorkshire (Pride & Prejudice), women knitting at the guillotine (Les Miserables).
  • Grotesque elements of times gone by! Poor people starving! Hogarth's Gin Lane! A dying woman's breasts turgid with milk being relieved by puppies' suckling! Or, can expurgate if too distasteful for modern audience, as just titillating detail and not really relevant to our plot!
  • Famous people!  Second president of the United States John Adams and wife Abigail; Ben Franklin too; radical pamphleteer Tom Paine; lexicographer Samuel Johnson; Louis XVI on his way to the gallows!
  • A black actor with a speaking part! (Another American angle.) Mary hung out with Abolitionists; call such a character a likely construct, a poetic licence.
  • Gothic horror! (If requested.) Easy tie-ins to Frankenstein. Ghosts, if wished.
  • Or would potential backers prefer pirates? Mary sailed the seas, on a detective quest for a missing treasure ship, at a time when Barbary pirates were a real risk.

    Her legacy, our slogan: Learn, earn, read, write; teach, travel, live, love!
    Images all from Wikimedia Commons, except for Agora movie poster: 
    Cow and calf rocks in Yorkshire, TJBlackwell at en.wikipedia, 
    [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (];
    Revolutionary women, drawing by H. Baron and engraving by L. Massard, public domain; Toilette,by Michel Garnier, public domain.


  1. Well, the way you put it, I must admit it's really tempting!
    Any actress in mind for the lead role?

  2. I'd love Oscar winner Rachel Weisz, star of Agora, a film about a female philosopher who lived in revolutionary times. (The poster at the top shows her to advantage, and I'll write more about Agora another time.) But Mary: the Movie needs a lead actress who can play our heroine aged 25-38, and Weisz is already past 40. Suggestions?

  3. This reminds me that I am still to watch Agora!
    You know what might be nice? One of those BBC mini-series, in 8 episodes or so!

  4. I'm not sure who would make a good Mary - somehow all the good actresses seem too old... But could we have Brad Pitt as Imlay?

  5. Come to think of it, I would suggest Anna Paquin or Emily Deschanel.

  6. Well, your interest has determined the subject of this Saturday's Mary: the Movie posting. I shall address the list of characters, and you can all chip in with actors' names.