George Sand in IMPROMPTU (Portrayals of Writers)

Actress Judy Davis, striding through the streets and countryside of 1830s France, brings writer George Sand to life in the 1991 film IMPROMPTU (rated PG-13).   Written by screenwriter Sarah Kernochan, the film is  loosely based on George Sand’s life (for example, Sand really did wear men’s clothing and smoke cigars).

The film succeeds in conveying the frustrations of being a woman and an artist in the 19th century.  Sand attempts to live as free as a man, but is faced with being treated as a possession by her ex-lovers.   And she has to deal with the disapproval of some about her being a woman writer (women often had to take a male pseudonym due to the societal disapproval of a woman writing).

While the relationship between Sand and Chopin is romanticized in the film, I found it uplifting to watch how Chopin comes to respect and treat Sand as an equal.  Their relationship becomes one of mutual support in their artistic endeavors.

It is also fun to watch Sand’s interactions with her editor/publisher, wheedling him for advance money.  And her determination to write every night (no matter what) results in her being treated as a hack by Alfred De Musset, who is suffering from writer’s block in the film.   Alfred’s jealousy and nastiness reminded me of a few writers with productivity problems who take their spite out on others.  Like Sand, it’s best to ignore the insults and just keep writing.

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