Friday, June 18, 2010
The Real Anne Lister
How many times have you heard the words "laugh-out-loud funny" used to describe a documentary? As we watch the narrator (Sue Perkins) learn about the life of Anne Lister, a woman who lived as a defiantly open lesbian in rural west Yorkshire in the early 19th Century, we see Perkins at turns relate deeply to Lister and find her quite troubling. Last night, Frameline opened with a film dramatizing Lister's life (see The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister); this documentary sheds a bit of a different light on the life of a remarkable woman. The dramatization takes a few minor liberties with the story, chiefly in compressing the timeline, but it also makes her the protagonist. The documentary takes a more balanced look at some of her foibles and downright unpleasant characteristics, notably that she was arrogant and rather a snob. All the same, Anne Lister is most definitely not a character you would expect to meet in a Jane Austen novel, and we are fortunate that her diaries survived being examined and decoded on multiple occasions before the world was ready for her story.