The Bronte Sisters Techine

The lives of the Brontës were marked by ambition, transgression, and tragedy, but André Téchiné’s 1979 The Brontë Sisters is all the more haunting for being stylized and elliptical. The script by Pascal Bonitzer draws on primary sources, and Téchiné elicits restrained but electric performances from Marie-France Pisier (Charlotte), Isabelle Adjani (Emily), Isabelle Huppert (Anne), and Pascal Greggory as the sisters’ beloved, doomed brother Branwell. While the astringent formalism echoes the family’s austere circumstances, the characters’ vivid interior lives emerge through language and gesture. In an illuminating documentary included on the disk, Téchiné describes the film as “like a vampire story,” and indeed, the visuals convey both a sense of unearthliness and a believably enclosed world (windows are a recurring motif), with the moor a brooding presence. Roland Barthes channels Thackeray at the eerie conclusion of this portrait of three literary ghosts and the brother who slipped into oblivion just as their stars began to ascend.