What is it about historical English novels and films that instantly cause American eyes to glaze over? Is it the surface stuffiness of cultures like the Victoria Era? Is it the stories of social climbing and forbidden love that cause kneejerk reactions of revulsion? Is this material simply too “British”? All of the above? I struggle with it myself as I, like many of you, have great difficulty giving stories of this nature a fair shake, whether in print or celluloid. I don’t know if that’s ever going to change in any significant way. I do know, however, that I’m personally going to keep trying to crack what is a pretty irrational bias. I mean, a good story is a good story regardless of setting, right?

Well, I have a decent amount of hope riding on the newly announced Middlemarch, a newly announced feature adaptation of the heralded Victorian novel by George Eliot. Sam Mendes is slated to direct, and it’s a very important, personal work for him. It’s not hard to see why. It examines 19th-century rural England with a scope and emotional depth much as HBO’s The Wire does for modern Baltimore. In fact, it’s so epic, I wonder if a single feature film – even a lengthy one – will be sufficient to do justice to the material. It’s been adapted twice previously, and both times it was done as a miniseries for television, which is much better suited for the laconic pacing and huge cast. Interestingly enough, Mendes is using the gent who adapted it for the 1994 BBC version, Andrew Davies, to do the script for this feature version. But first, Mendes has to finish
Revolutionary Road, his next film with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio starring, which is also based on a much-lauded novel.