Nothing But Film: Keira Knightley’s best period dramas.

In new movie Colette, Unconventional country girl Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette has married a charismatic egomaniacal man of letters, 14 years her senior, known by the single name, Willy.  Through his auspices, Colette is introduced into the fecund world of the artistic demimonde in Paris where her creative appetite is sparked. Ever quick to capitalise on talent, Willy permits Colette to write her novels only if she does so in his name. The phenomenal success of her Claudine series makes Willy a famous writer and Colette and Willy the first modern celebrity couple. Although they are the toast of the town, lack of recognition for her work begins to gnaw on Colette. Their marriage starts to internally combust - but emotionally and artistically, she cannot break free of him. On a downward slide, Willy resorts to increasingly desperate measures to pay his debts and sabotage his wife but Colette is developing resources of her own.

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 Set at the dawn of the modern age, COLETTE is the story of a woman who has been denied her voice by an overbearing man, and who goes to extraordinary lengths to find it; a battle of the sexes at the very beginning of the modern age, when seismic shifts were taking place in the roles of men and women. More than a century after the publication of her first novel, Colette is still one of the best-selling, and beloved, French authors.

Keira Knightley and period dramas are words that go hand in hand. With her latest film, Colette, set to come out in January, we took a look back at some of her most iconic roles...

 

The Duchess (2008)

The period: 1770s

The drama: It’s the story of a woman repressed by marriage, and betrayed by her friend, who begins having an affair with her husband. Knightley plays the Duchess of Devonshire, whose husband, played by Ralph Fiennes, feels she has failed him by not producing a male heir. Knightley’s performance received widely positive reviews, with her also being nominated for various awards. Directed by Saul Dibb, this film became well-known for its feminist storyline.

 

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

The period: 1813

The drama: Joe Wright’s iconic adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel was a huge success. Knightley received an Oscar nomination for her role as Elizabeth Bennet in this romantic drama. She played a young but determined woman facing mounting pressure to marry. When introduced to the handsome Mr Darcy, played by Matthew Macfadyen, outspoken Elizabeth is taken aback by his arrogance and at first averse to the idea of marriage with him. A tale of unlikely love in the English countryside.

 

Anna Karenina (2012)

The period: 1874

The drama: Knightley plays the title role, the wife of a Russian imperial minister who creates a high-society scandal by having an affair with Count Vronsky, a dashing cavalry officer in 19th-century St. Petersburg. Anna's husband, Alexei, offers her a difficult choice: Go into exile with Vronsky but never see her young son again, or remain with her family and abide by the rules of discretion. Though the film only received mild praise, Knightley was commended for her “superb” depiction of her character.

 

A Dangerous Method (2011)

The period: 1904

The drama: Knightley plays a woman suffering from hysteria and begins a course of treatment with the young Carl Jung. When the doctors recognize her intellect, she’s allowed to assist them in their forays into psychoanalysis. The film, which was directed by David Cronenberg, explores the relationship between Freud and Jung – it made many critics’ top ten lists of 2011, making it one of Knightley’s most celebrated performances.

 

Atonement (2007)

The period: 1935 onwards

The drama: Set across six decades, this film follows a crime and its consequences. Knightley plays Cecilia, an aristocratic girl who falls for the housekeeper’s son (James McAvoy) who’s then falsely accused of raping her by her younger sister Briony (Saoirse Ronan). After many years, the truth finally comes to light – but but Robbie and Cecilia are never reunited. Reteaming Knightley with director Joe Wright, this is another of her best loved period dramas.

 

Colette (2019)

The period: 1890s

The drama: Knightley’s latest offering to the period drama world is Colette, directed by Wash Westmoreland. Set at the dawn of the modern age, Colette is the story of a woman who has been denied her voice by an overbearing man, and who goes to extraordinary lengths to find it; a battle of the sexes at the very beginning of the modern age, when seismic shifts were taking place in the roles of men and women. More than a century after the publication of her first novel, Colette is still one of the best-selling, and beloved, French authors.

 

Colette is out in UK cinemas on 9 January.