Jane Austen ’s Pride and Prejudice gets transported to the American South in “Before the Fall,” a modern, gay-themed “reimagining” of the literary classic.
HuffPost got an exclusive first look at the film, which hits iTunes, Amazon and other streaming services May 30, via the featurette above. Written and directed by Byrum Geisler, “Before the Fall” follows Ben Bennett (Ethan Sharrett), an attorney in Virginia whose genteel world is turned upside down when rough-talking factory worker Lee Darcy (Chase Conner) comes to town. The men despise one another at first sight, and their mutual animosity deepens after Lee is wrongfully charged with domestic abuse. As anyone familiar with Austen’s original knows, however, Ben’s feelings toward Lee begin to shift dramatically, and he soon finds himself unexpectedly in love.
Geisler told HuffPost that he felt compelled to put a queer spin on Pride and Prejudice after witnessing the success of 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain.” Though “Brokeback” was a box office hit, many critics felt Ang Lee’s film failed to usher layered queer narratives into the Hollywood mainstream. Hence, Geiser wanted his debut feature to emphasis “love, not sexuality” and be “traditional and romantic” in a similar vein.
Calling Pride and Prejudice “the quintessential masterpiece about love,” Geisler said he wanted to see how far he could take Austen’s story, which was published in 1813, and “put it in a completely modern context.” Ultimately, he feels he was successful. “It’s astounding how timeless the novel is. It turned out to be the perfect vehicle,” he said. “Jane Austen was an absolute genius. I believe her work will be relevant forever.”
Even before Geiser began writing “Before the Fall,” he knew he wanted his film to stand apart from other queer-themed movies by taking place outside of a U.S. city with a well-established LGBTQ community like New York or San Francisco. “Appalachia is consistently depicted on film as homophobic and violent [but] the real world is much more complex than these stereotypes,” he said.
Ultimately, Geiser hopes viewers will be reminded that “the basic human need to experience life with the person you love is the same basic need for both straight and gay people” after viewing his film, which premiered at Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ International Film Festival in September.
“I feel a huge responsibility as a filmmaker to present gay characters who generate a strong, emotional connection with the audience,” he said, “and who provide the audience with an opportunity to abandon prejudices.”
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