THE BLOG
08/09/2011 19:59 BST | Updated 08/11/2011 05:12 GMT

Beware the Bonnets: The Blighted Brontes are the Next Big Thing in Cinema

An alcoholic and opium addict, a social recluse and all dead by the age of 40. You get the feeling that the troubled Brontes should have lived in Albert Square. Yet there isn't a literary family anywhere to equal the combined genius of Charlotte, Emily and Anne...

An alcoholic and opium addict, a social recluse and all dead by the age of 40. You get the feeling that the troubled Brontes should have lived in Albert Square.

Yet there isn't a literary family anywhere to equal the combined genius of Charlotte, Emily and Anne, or even the squandered potential of the only boy, Branwell.

This year, after a decade of Jane Austen adaptations, cinema has turned to the Brontes. Both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are coming to the big screen.

There'll be no sparkling socials and bitchy asides over a turn around the rose garden. These Bronte girls do the suffocating misery of poverty and doomed love in a blasted landscape.

Austen was perfect for the world we inhabited before the word 'crisis' was inserted into nearly every news headline. Her heroines faced adversity in love, but it all works out in the end.

Elizabeth gets her Darcy (and his ten thousand a year) Emma her Mr Knightley and though Marianne Dashwood didn't get Willoughby, she got what was good for her.

The Brontes don't offer any such assurance that the world spins the right way. Yes, Jane Eyre marries Mr Rochester. But it's a blinded, broken man who becomes her husband. Cathy Earnshaw of Wuthering Heights only finds happiness buried six feet under - and Heathcliff with her.

Those watching Cary Fukunaga's faithful version of Jane Eyre will see cruelty, neglect and social exclusion.

In Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights - the first adaptation to cast a black Heathcliff - Top Withens is a world of racism and brutality.

Bronte heroines are dirty-fingernailed and as tough as the Yorkshire moors because life, as the sisters knew all too well, can be tragic and short.

A year after Wuthering Heights was published in 1847, Emily Bronte was dead. Anne, the author of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall died a year after. Charlotte, who wrote Jane Eyre, got to enjoy (or endure) her celebrity until she died in 1855 at the age of 39. She was pregnant at the time.

The Austen-lite adaptations we've seen have failed to pick up on her underlying grisly social point - without a man, you poor girls are doomed to ridicule and hard work. The Brontes spit the unfairness of it in our face - partly because all three of them, and Jane Eyre to boot- had to become governesses.

So aficionados of the 'bonnet and breeches' genre may not find these new films to their taste.

They don't offer what we want to hear.

They tell instead of a world where the good die young, lovers aren't necessarily reunited, and that there's always - always - a madwoman lurking in the bloody attic.