Fashionable Films: The Perfection of Period Pieces

I absolutely love period drama movies, not only for the costumes and interpretations of the era, but for the complete artistry of it all. There is something about period dramas– especially ones that take place in the 1700’s and 1800’s– that make me enthralled and fall for these films. Some of my favorite period drama movies are Bright Star (see photo 1), Marie Antoinette, Wuthering Heights (from 1939, specifically), The Artist, The King’s Speech, and The Duchess (see photo 5). Well, this year I have several period pieces to look forward to– Anna Karenina (November 9th), Great Expectations (November 20th in the United Kingdom; date TBD in North America), and Les Miserables (December 14th). Anna Karenina (see photo 2) takes place in 1800’s Russia and depicts the lives of various people in love and all the forms that love can take; Great Expectations takes place in 1800’s England and depicts the struggles of orphan Pip as he tries to become a gentleman in order to impress the wealthy Estella, who barely shows any positive emotions towards him; and Les Miserables (see photo 3) takes place in 1800’s France, immediately after the French Revolution and Napoleon’s reign, and depicts the lives and love of the poor denizens of Paris. Now, The Great Gatsby (see photo 4) was supposed to premiere on Christmas of this year, but has been moved (foolishly) to the Summer of 2013– but the film still looks amazing from its trailer. What all of these films have that separate them from their competitors in this genre is everything from the quality of the actors and costumes, to the writing and visuals. Such as, The Duchess takes place during the same time, and even has overladen characters in both films, as Marie Antoinette, but what separates these films is the writing and directing. While Marie Antoinette is visually stunning, the lines are less than ideal and the movie scrapes the depth of their main character’s life and real personality– essentially, Antoinette went for montages of shoes, dresses, and macaroons in beautiful colors instead of a look into their title character. Does that make Marie Antoinette, and other films like it (I am referring to you, The Other Boleyn Girl), a bad period drama? No, they are good and I do watch them on DVD once in a while, but they just aren’t as good as other films in the same genre.

Personally, I am the most impressed with the costumes from Anna Karenina. I have not been this impressed with a film’s costumes since Bright Star (see photo 1), which depicted the short life and intense love of poet John Keats. The costumes not only accurately depict the fashions of the era, but also aid in creating both the tone of the film and the characters themselves. Such as, Anna wears bold reds and blacks that separate her from the other female characters– specifically, Kitty, who serves as a foil character both in her personality and the fact all of her costumes are lace and white. I love a film’s costumes when they complete the film and the message of the whole thing. For example, all of Franncis’s costumes in Bright Star were designed and made by her, and this separated her from Keats in that she was creative but practical, while he was just creative. Whether Anna Karenina or Les Miserables or even Great Gatsby will do this is left to be determined, and we will have to wait atleast two more months to come to that conclusion. But, I am incredibly excited to see each of these films and determine whether they not only hold up against each other, but in their genre as well.

What do you think of period drama films? Do you have a favorite? Is there one that has the best costumes? And is there an upcoming film in this genre you are excited for?

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