Thursday, July 10, 2008

VIEWING: Sense and Sensibility (BBC, 2008)

My love of Jane Austen's works didn't begin until a certain day in 1995 when I blithely entered a movie theater to see Sense and Sensibility starring Emma Thompson. I don't have any recollection of what I expected on that fateful day but it certainly wasn't to fall in love. But fall in love I did. With the works of plucky Miss Jane Austen.

I returned to the theater several times to watch that film again and again. Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet seemed to me to be the worlds' best actresses and I wanted to see everything they'd ever been in after viewing this movie. And Jane Austen was a revelation.

I went out and bought the soundtrack to that movie. I played the soundtrack endlessly ("My Father's Favourite" is haunting to me still). The DVD of this movie was the first DVD I ever owned.

And I bought the book and read it. Suddenly, this phenomenon that is Jane Austen was awakened in me.

Emma Thompson as Elinor was my absolute favorite part of this movie. She is so refined, so circumspect, so restrained. All qualities that I desire and all qualities that elude me. That absolutely incredible last scene where Edward comes to the cottage to see Elinor after Lucy has left him and he is finally, finally, finally free. And Elinor's quiet restraint departs her completely. Has there ever been a better scene? More said with so few words? I still watch it at least twice a year just because I can laugh and cry at the exact same moment.

Let's not forget her sister either. Kate Winslet as Marianne is sublime. I got this character on a deeply cellular level: emotional, heedless, soaked in romance and, yes, even fantasy. And (here comes my own wild, fantastical claim) I could have done that part with my eyes closed at that age. Kate Winslet and I were one body and one mind as far as her Marianne goes. I've felt a strange sort of kinship with Ms. Winslet ever since.

All of that is just to say that I finally saw the three-hour BBC version of Sense and Sensibility that was released this year. And (prepare for a shocker here) I LOVE IT. It is quiet and funny and serene and tempestuous all at the same time. The screenplay is a lovely, faithful adaptation to the book and there are several scenes dramatized in this movie that are only reported on in the book, such as the duel between Willoughby and Colonel Brandon and the seduction of little Miss Eliza.

Also, I was particularly thrilled to see the inclusion of several minor characters that were missed in the 1995 version, including Anne Steele, Lucy's obnoxious older sister, as well as Lady Middleton the very shy and easygoing wife of Sir John Middleton, and Colonel Brandon's ward, Eliza. All of them add depth and texture to the film.

To check out clips, behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with some of the cast, see this page on Masterpiece Theater's website.

You can also purchase the DVD on Amazon. Also, I would watch this clip on the Amazon page. The producers are talking about why they did this particular adaption of the novel and then it shows the library scene where Edward speaks to Elinor before he leaves Norland. It is all politeness and formality with a fabulous tension running underneath the surface because these two people have fallen in love and yet they can't profess that love. It is one of my favorite scenes from this movie.

Edward is particularly gorgeous in this film (i.e. the wood chopping scene in the rain) and Willoughby is even naughtier than in any other adaptation I've seen. And I like Colonel Brandon so much better than poor Alan Rickman's version. Marianne is played beautifully by a young actress who barely seems 17 herself, and the little sister, Margaret, is played by the same girl who was young Beatrix in Miss Potter.

But once again, my favorite character is Elinor--subdued, restrained, pragmatic and secretly heartbroken Elinor. She is simply lovely. I think because of the three-hour length of the film there are several more scenes where you see the particular torture that Elinor had to endure at the hands of Lucy Steele as she pressed continuously her hidden engagement to Edward. And you see even more clearly what it costs Elinor to keep this secret with all of its attendant ramifications to her very own happiness.

So, to any of you Austen fans out there (and some of their husbands), I'd love to hear your reactions to this latest installment to the Austen media library. For me, it is a keeper.


Christine said...

Okay, so when can I borrow either of the movies? I just recently got into Pride and Prejudice and am very excited about the play at Scera.

Eden said...

Christine--You may borrow them from me, of course! I have the old one right now and plan on getting the new one within the month. I also checked out the Orem Library and they are both there.

Did you see the photos on Jenny's brother's site of play practice for Pride and Prejudice? Go to and check them out.

The Puffer Family said...


I love of the way you write. I love how descriptive and passionate your writing is (something I lack - especially when writing). My question is: So when are you going to write a book? Because I would sure love to buy it whatever the subject!

L&H&Q&E said...

Marvelous. Both. I agree that Elinor is every bit the lady, with substance and elegance and decorum. Just the sort of person to name a daughter after... :)

Cissy said...

I just finished re-reading S & S after watching both versions. You know how I feel...beautiful story and I absolutely love the latest version. I'm so glad I discovered Jane Austen (though not until I was about 23!); someday I think I'll write an essay about it.

Eden said...

Cissy--You could write it now! It could be your inaugural post on your blog. :)

Yes, I'm glad you love it too because it certainly provides excellent fodder for great conversations.


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