22 May 2013

On Jane Austen Film Adaptations, Take 2

completely random pretty flower
I've been really busy waffling on about Austen over at quill and qwerty. Latest installation: a post on the Sense and Sensibility movies, which I watched the last couple of evenings. So I've kind of been too occupied to pop in over here and let loose with some of my usual ramblings.

But then it suddenly occurred to me: some time ago, I promised a post on Jane Austen heroines and the actresses who play them, one of them being the girlfriend of Blake Ritson (he who plays such an excellent Edmund Bertram in the 2007 Mansfield Park), so this would be a great time to redeem that promise. And when I looked up that old post, I found that it was written exactly a year and a day ago, May 21 of last year. What is it about May? Must be the season for watching Jane Austen movies. In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to love... (except I ain't all that young. And most definitely not a man.).

So, Blake's girlfriend. Yup. She's my favourite. Hattie Morahan, her name is, and she plays Elinor in the 2007 Sense and Sensibility. Fabulous casting, she's exactly my idea of the sensible Dashwood sister. Oh, but - in the 1995 version of the movie, Elinor is played by Emma Thompson. She's my favourite. Fabulous casting, exactly my idea of... Oh dear. You see my problem. They're all my favourites.

The two Sense and Sensibility movies are especially bad for that; I honestly can't make up my mind which I like better. The older version has a fantastic cast of seasoned actors, and that utterly amazing score by Patrick Doyle (the soundtrack for that movie is still on my wish list. Hard to get a hold of nowadays, though. I've never yet watched a movie with a Paddy Doyle soundtrack I didn't like. The "Non Nobis Domine" from Henry V, oh my goodness...). And there's the wit in Emma Thompson's screenplay and her acting, and Hugh Grant's typical bumbly-but-cute manner, and Kate Winslet just being Marianne and Greg Wise such an attractive Willoughby - I so enjoy that movie.

And then I pop in the disc of the new version, and there's that wonderful cast of actors who are, for the most part, actually about the age the characters are in the book (as opposed to the other movie where they're all ten to fifteen years older than their parts, except for Kate Winslet who is the right age and makes everyone else look old by contrast). They're so fresh, so real - so believable. And they've kept in some of the characters that are cut from the older version, Anne Steele and Lady Middleton, for example, and they act out some of the scenes that the other movie doesn't even mention (like the duel. And the oh-so-awkward dinner party at Mrs Ferrar's.). Such a wonderful movie.

And of course, there's Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, and Keira Knightley in the same ten years later. I do prefer the older movie, all told, but I like Keira's Elizabeth. She's got that spunky wit that Lizzie has in the book.

And then there's Anne Elliot, who is next to Elinor Dashwood my favourite Austen heroine, and so convincingly played by Amanda Root in the 1995 version of Persuasion (with Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth - ahh...).

You see what I mean? Too many favourites. But that's okay, I can just keep watching these movies over and over. One after the other. And enjoy them, every time.

Life, the Universe, and Austen Heroines. It is a truth universally acknowledged that movies don't get any better.


  1. Love, love, love Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds as Anne and Capt Wentworth. I've never seen any other actors come close to doing those characters justice.

    I hated Keira Knightley's Elizabeth. HATED. Her rudeness toward her parents (acceptable to a 21st century audience, perhaps, but to anyone who knows anything about the time period, horrible), her very modern attitude toward everything, her loudness and bluntness ... to me, she was Keira Knightley playing a role, not Elizabeth Bennet. Jennifer Ehle is still the best Lizzie to my mind.

    But isn't that the marvelous thing about so many different adaptations? Something to love about each of them, and such a wealth of material to pick and choose one's favorite!

    (Oh, and I will always love Emma Thompson's S&S for its acting, soundtrack, and wit, but yes, the new one is far closer to the book in almost every way. And with excellent acting there, to boot.)

    1. Funny, I never noticed Keira/Elizabeth's rudeness to her parents. Perhaps because I was taken up with some of the other anachronisms, like the cows by the back door. And the shouting match between Elizabeth and Darcy during the proposal scene. That movie is very much an *adaptation* for 21st-century audiences. When it first came out, I watched it with a friend and her 16yo daughter, and the girl said it made a lot more sense to her than the Colin-Firth version. But yes, for true Janeites, it's the older one, for sure.

      And the Persuasion, that's the comfort movie I reach for when I don't have five hours for P&P!