of the ‘Poor little rich girl’
By Harinda Vidanage
Mira Nair returns to silver screen with a creation
that matches her artistic capacities of film making bringing into
life one of the greatest classics of all times Vanity Fair.
Fair” captures the life of Rebecca “Becky” Sharp
(Reese Witherspoon), a young woman who sets her every ambition on
climbing the social ladder of London society circa 1820. No penny
to her name and merely the title of governess, she relies on her
sexual allure, guile and quick wit.
this glamorous cinematic experience, one of America’s most
popular stars, Reese Witherspoon, unites with one of the world’s
most acclaimed directors, Mira Nair, to bring to the screen one
of the greatest female characters ever created, Rebecca (Becky)
Sharp. The new film version of the classic novel by William Makepeace
Thackeray introduces a new audience to the beautiful, funny, passionate,
and calculating Becky.
daughter of a starving English artist and a French chorus girl,
Becky is orphaned at a young age. Even as a child, she yearns for
a more glamorous life than her birthright promises. As she leaves
Miss Pinkerton’s Academy at Chiswick, Becky resolves to conquer
English society by any means possible. She deploys all of her wit,
guile, and sexuality as she makes her way up into high society during
the first quarter of the 19th century.
ascension to the heights of society commences when she gains employment
as governess to the daughters of eccentric Sir Pitt Crawley (Bob
Hoskins). Becky wins over the children, and the Crawley family’s
rich spinster aunt Matilda (Eileen Atkins) as well.
Nair. She states, “The reasons I wanted to make Vanity Fair
are Thackeray’s essential, and in my view spiritual, questions
– which of us has dreams, and when we achieve them, are happy?
What is contentment? What is aspiration? What is the vanity of life?
In his novel, Thackeray created a cinema verité of its day.
It was completely accurate concerning what was happening and had
happened in England, yet the questions are timeless. The extraordinarily
rich characters have resonance for all of us today, and I think
Becky is literature’s greatest female character.”
Indian childhood complements Thackeray’s own (as the Englishman
had spent his early childhood in Calcutta). This fortuitous connection
is at once creative and highly personal, and the new film version
meditates on how much of domestic imperial England was informed
by the cultures across the sea. Vanity Fair is the first major adaptation
of the author’s work since Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 feature
Barry Lyndon. The two BBC TV serials, especially the 1998 version
starring Natasha Little (this film’s Lady Jane Sheepshanks),
might be more faithful, but they’re not as visually rich.
designer Maria Djurkovic adds that Nair’s influence certainly
informed the design of the film: “There’s a particular
sort of energy that comes with Mira’s approach which I think
we all successfully tapped into – doing something that’s
not at all like a traditional period movie in terms of the look
or the feel.” Djurkovic, also inspired by the colonial influence
of the era, notes that “the film spans the first quarter of
the 19th century, a time when Britain had colonies all over the
world. Influences and references that existed in Regency England
often came from the colonies – Indian, North African, Chinese.
Brighton Pavilion was built then.
from a brief location shoot in India, Vanity Fair was filmed in
the U.K. for eleven weeks in the spring and summer of 2003, all
around Southern England and briefly at Elstree Studios. Thus this
is a movie experience not to be missed for lovers of rich textured
glamorously knitted movies.