Pic, tomes rethink relationship

For a good chunk of the 20th century, Sylvia Plath’s suicide in 1963 was attributed to Ted Hughes, who, it was said, drove his wife to depression, and was having an affair to boot.

In short order Hughes became a villain, Plath an icon. Her autobiographical novel “The Bell Jar,” about a young woman’s mental breakdown, further pegged Plath as a tortured genius.

The equation shifted somewhat in 1998 with the publication of “Birthday Letters,” a collection of Hughes’ poems that finally broke his silence on Plath.

Now, with the help of Hollywood — which until now has shown its own reticence on the subject of the tragic poets — Hughes’ (posthumous) reputation is getting some fresh varnish.

Next month Focus Features will distrib BBC Films’ “Sylvia,” starring Gwyneth Paltrow as the melancholy poet and Daniel Craig as “that big, dark, hunky boy” (in Plath’s estimation) Hughes.

Although the pic’s title suggests another Sympathetic Sylvia, a BBC Films spokesman insists the film doesn’t say who was responsible for Plath’s death. “It doesn’t take sides either way,” he says. “It’s a balanced look.”

The arrival of “Sylvia” also coincides with more Hughes revisionist history. Also in October, “Her Husband: Hughes and Plath, Portrait of a Marriage,” by Diane Middlebrook, will be published by Viking Press.

While Hughes is not entirely exonerated, a Viking spokeswoman says the book pins Plath’s suicide on depression.

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