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Desperate Romantics

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2-Disc Version

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Product Details

  • Actors: Aidan Turner, Rafe Spall, Tom Hollander, Samuel Barnett, Zoe Tapper
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: July 20, 2010
  • Run Time: 349 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0026P40NU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,233 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Desperate Romantics" on IMDb

Special Features

An Interview with Franny Moyle
Desperate Romantics--A Portrait: A behind-the-scenes featurette

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

With a glossy look and a driving contemporary soundtrack, Desperate Romantics is a character-driven romp through the alleyways, studios, brothels and chop-houses of 19th century London. In 1851, London is in the throes of the industrial revolution. But among the dirty red bricks and smoke stacks are four young, thrill-seeking artists - steadfast William Holman Hunt (Rafe Spall, Hot Fuzz, Bram Stoker’s Dracula), naive John Millais (Samuel Barnett, John Adams, The History Boys), mischievous Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Aidan Turner, Being Human) and budding journalist Fred Walters (Sam Crane, Midsomer Murders) - otherwise known as the Brotherhood. Their quest for artistic immortality takes them into some of the lewdest, darkest and funniest corners of the city. Joining them is sassy, sexy model Lizzie Siddal (Amy Manson, Being Human, Casualty). But is she risking it all with this dangerous bunch?


Can an art-school trio of mid-19th-century rounders make for sexy and compelling viewing? If the trio is the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of the smashing British series Desperate Romantics, the answer is a resounding yes. Desperate Romantics focuses on the real-life art students John Millais (Samuel Barnett), Dante Gabriel Rosetti (the charismatic British TV star Aidan Turner), and William Holman Hunt (Rafe Spall, son of the great actor Timothy Spall), who shocked the art world of 1840s London and the Royal Academy of Art by rejecting the staid style of the day and championing the Pre-Raphaelite style of realism and Christian symbolism in their painting. If to modern ears that doesn't sound particularly shocking, Desperate Romantics paints a compelling portrait of these artists as the rock 'n' rollers of their era, perhaps even the punk movement. They're insolent, self-absorbed, randy, and dismissive of the current Zeitgeist--though still insecure enough to want the blessing of influential critic John Ruskin (played by the splendid Tom Hollander) and annoyed by the judgmental tone taken by prominent novelist Charles Dickens (the equally splendid Mark Heap). The storytelling is based on enough fact to immerse the viewer into the world completely--yet takes enough license to spice up the tale with revenge, duels, and plenty of sex. To say that Desperate Romantics is "bawdy" doesn't explain the half of it; there's more nudity and sex in these six TV episodes than in most R-rated feature films. Yet the sex is part of the appeal of Desperate Romantics--the series is shot with sumptuous cinematography and suggests that the insatiable appetites of the three Pre-Raphaelite "brothers" went a long way toward shaping their radical, influential artistic view. "Where is the life?! The blood?!" shrieks Millais in the middle of a hushed art exhibition. Fans of British period dramas, art history, and bedroom farces will find plenty to keep them occupied in Desperate Romantics. The set also includes an interview with Franny Moyle, author of the historical fiction book upon which the series is based, and a short featurette on 19th-century England. --A.T. Hurley

Customer Reviews

The acting is superb, and the scenery and costumes beautiful and lavish.
And whilst on the subject -- why on earth would you have a script that went beyond the original PRB?
He was a most prolific painter, yet Millais and Hunt are shown painting more portraits.
C. Wood

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on July 24, 2009
Format: DVD
Notwithstanding the louche, proto-punk appeal of the leading actors, this is more than just a romp dealing with the "alpha-fops" who founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The name reflected their rejection of Raphael's "grand manner" as they championed a more realistic style combined with symbolism (mostly Christian and mythological).

Peter Bowker's well-judged script focuses on the professional and personal lives of the charismatic Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the urbane John Everett Millais, and the manic William Holman Hunt. The dialogue blends Victorian idiom with contemporary expressions and delivery. The lush production is based on Franny Moyle's Desperate Romantics: The Private Lives of the Pre-Raphaelites. A brash, fantastically comedic glam-rock score by Daniel Pemberton accompanies scenes of artistic creation, of sex, and of the Brotherhood swaggering abreast through London asserting their brilliance.

Using a fictional narrator (the diffident but awestruck diarist Fred Walters), the dramatisation remains historically faithful. Flame-haired hat-shop girl turned model/Muse Lizzie Siddal, models for Millais's iconic ''Ophelia'' in a full bath warmed by dozens of candles; Charles Dickens pours scorn on Millais's ''Christ in the House of His Parents,'' accusing it of blasphemy; the repressed influential critic John Ruskin (Tom Hollander - wonderful) is sexually repelled by his wife Effie, leaving the way open for her to fall in love with the engaging, affable Millais.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By C. Wood on July 5, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If you are a huge fan of the PRB, you'll find a number of flaws in Desperate Romantics -- enough that I had to summon Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief" in order to enjoy it -- which I actually did.


* The series never addresses Lizzie's pregnancies -- two of them -- that also helped push her to the edge of sanity. Lizzie was pregnant twice in actuality. The fetus died iwhen she was pregnant with the first child, and she was forced -- as often happened in that day -- to carry it to term, go into labor and give birth to a corpse. This took a terrible emotional toll on Lizzie. She was already suffering with Gabriel's incessant affairs, and she felt worthless. When she became pregnant again, and the affairs accelerated, she increased her laudanum intake and died of an overdose. While many believe she committed suicide and it was covered up in order that she would be buried in hallowed ground, I'm of the school that does not discount murder by one of Rossetti's crazed mistresses. Most likely candidate from where I sit would be Fannie Cornforth, who posed for Boca Baciata and who was mad about Gabriel. There are any number of candidates.

* The infamous disinterrment. The film shows Gabriel tossing his poetry in ON TOP of the closed coffin. This is inaccurate. Not only did he bury the poems in the coffin, but the legend grew up that when they disinterred her, her famed red hair had grown to the point that it filled the coffin. The poems were riddled by worms. Fitting, if nothing else.

* The number of paintings for which she posed. The film downplayed the scores of paintings for which Lizzie posed -- she was Gabriel's primary model.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A. E. Finn on January 17, 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is an incredibly bawdy show. I imagine it will be cut to pieces for the US tv market. If you can get hold of the uncut BBC version, go for it!
The series is a look at the life of the Pre Raphaelites and tries to show why they were do revolutionary. Today they have a very staid and boring reputation, but their art took the world by storm.
So, strap on your seatbelts and take a roller coaster ride through the lives of four young artists and their models as they drink, take drugs, whore and paint themselves into a frenzy. The device of a totally fictional "brother" as a narrator works beautifully.
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55 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Atheist1 on August 7, 2010
Format: DVD
I cannot believe anyone who cared for the Pre-Raphaelites had anything to do with this production. After the first two episodes, I considered it passable, though I thought John Ruskin was treated shabbily. After that, it all went downhill. I finally threw up my hands and howled at the protrayals of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones; it was evident that the script writer knew NOTHING about the two men, who were made to look like imbiciles, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum in matching purple waistcoats. William Morris was a true polymath: father of the arts and crafts movement, socialist, medievalist, calligraphist, printer, and early environmentalist, and to dismiss him, as this travesty does, as a loutish, stammering fool, is unforgivable.

Though some critics have praised the set design, no one has pointed out the ham-fisted attempts to reproduce some of the artists' paintings used in the production. You did not need a book to hand to see how wretched Rossetti's "Bocca Baciata" was rendered. And whilst on the subject -- why on earth would you have a script that went beyond the original PRB? Jane Morris was so striking as to be impossible to cast. Only a credulous fool could suspend disbelief long enough to credit that the actress playing the role could inspire the lust Rossetti feels when they first meet. She looks NOTHING like Jane Morris.

If anyone out there wants to know a little about Rossetti, Morris, Ruskin, and Burne-Jones, they ought to read:
Oswald Doughty's and Jan Marsh's biographies of Rossetti
Fiona MacCarthy's magisterial biography of William Morris
Tim Hilton's exhaustive biography of John Ruskin
Lady Burne-Jones's Memorials of her husband (and the forthcoming biography of Burne-Jones, by Fiona MacCarthy).

"Desperate Remedies" is a desperate, rubbish treatment of these four men, in particular.

Give this a miss.
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