We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

Film adaptation typology screwed up · 24 January 08

Dear fellow Jane-, or Austenite (Mr Miller?),

In reply,

I watched the first part of Andrew Davies’s adaptation of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. My first reaction is it screws my typology up. Hitherto my typology adequately described the three main types of film adaptation of high status novels, & could predict how people would react to any new ones (their reception).

According to my typology, Davies’s Sense and Sensibility is an apparently faithful adaptation: it keeps to central hinge-points (crucial events in the book), presents them dramatically in the same way, keeps all major characters and gives them the same acts (though it may give them more), and it includes famous lines and scenes. Davies’s adaptation does this but I doubt it is one which would be called faithful: the changes in scenery are such that the spirit of the original book is overwhelmed by recent romance (the scenery is not so much Bronte as modern film adaptations of Bronte and Daphne DuMaurier’s Jamaica Inn and Frenchman’s Creek), and the inward characters of the film changed sufficiently that the film is now about Colonel Brandon, who is differently conceived.

Instinct tells me my typology has stopped working. I predicted the new 2007 Persuasion and Mansfield Park would be decried as not faithful. The first has been, and like many analogous films, at the same time liked very much even more than usual by some. Both thus fit the typical reception of an analogous or intermediate film. I predicted Davies’ 2007 NA would be liked as faithful and it has been. And they have been aired in crudely and savagely cut forms.

But having watched the first episode of Davies’s S&S and read Judy’s two blogs (Living in the Past, Alice’s Journal, Episode 1, Episodes 2 & 3), the consensus of opinion will be (I submit) that Davies’s Sense and Sensibility is an analogous adaptation and Not Faithful. Yet it fits my criteria for apparent faithfulness :(

I have had this problem before: again it was Davies pushed the envelope. Everyone on the lists I’m on who has now seen the full 2007 NA by him pronounces it faithful (although not filmed in Bath), yet it has much much less of the original language of NA than Maggie Wadey’s gothic 1987 NA, declared by all to be appalling bad partly because it’s so very unfaithful (despite also having been filmed in Bath).

Here is the typology for your convenience and that of anyone else who comes to this blog:

Apparently faithful films: the film-makers have attempted to match the original story, and to reproduce most of the characters and central dramatic turning-points of the novel and famous lines, with some allowance for modernizing interpretations and necessary as well as advantageous alterations filmic media provides.

1971 BBC Persuasion (Mitchell, Baker);
2) 1972 BBC Emma (Cannadine, Glenister, Lisemore);
3) 1979-80 BBC Pride and Prejudice (Weldon, Coke, Powell);
4) 1981 BBC Sense and Sensibility (Cannadine, Bennett, Letts);
5) 1983 BBC Mansfield Park (Taylor, Foster, Willingale);
6) 1995 BBC/A&E Pride and Prejudice (Davies, Langton, Birtwistle & Conklin);
7) 1995 Miramax Sense and Sensibility (Thomson, Lee, Doran);
8) 1995 BBC Persuasion;
9) 1996 Meridian/A&E ITV Emma (Davies, Diarmid, Birtwistle & Conklin);
10) 2007 ITV (Granada in association with WBGH) Northanger Abbey (Davies, Jones, Flynn & Thomson).
11) 2007 ITV Sense and Sensibility (Davies, Alexander, de Sousa & Pivcevic).


2 faithful Persuasions
2 faithful Emmas
2 faithful Pride and Prejudices
3 faithful Sense and Sensibilities
1 faithful Mansfield Park
1 faithful Northanger Abbey

Analogous or intermediate critical faithful films: these intend considerable fidelity, but attempt this through departures from the original which often include altering central pivotal events (an event perceived as crucial) and the way in which the events are presented dramatically, in order to comment on, critique or alter Austen’s theme by making emphatic or highlighting specific aspects of her original novel:

1) 1940 MGM Pride and Prejudice (Huxley & Murfin, Leonard, Stromberg);
2) 1987 BBC Northanger Abbey (Wadey, Foster, Marks);
3) 1996 Miramax Emma (McGrath, Cassavetti & Haft);
4) 1999 Miramax Mansfield Park (Rozema, Curtis);
5) 2005 Universal Pride and Prejudice (Moggach, Wright, Bevan);
6) 2007 ITV (Company in association with WBGH) Mansfield Park (Wadey, MacDonald, Harrison);
7) 2007 ITV (Clerkenwell in association with WBGH) Persuasion (Burke, Shergold, Snodin);


2 analogous Pride and Prejudices
1 analogous Northanger Abbey
1 analogous Emma
2 analogous Mansfield Parks
1 analogous Persuasion

Free adaptations: These are films where the film-maker has abandoned historical costume drama, but reproduces enough recognizable idiosyncratic analogous hinge-points, individual characters, character functions from the source novel, and overt (unsubtle) thematic intersections between the movie and source novel to make the film manifestly intelligible as an adaptation; in addition, the source novel is often explicitly discussed by characters in the film … ”

1) 1980 James Ivory and Ismail Merchant Jane Austen in Manhattan (Sir Charles Grandison, a brief parodic play sometimes attributed to Jane Austen [Brian Southam’s attribution is disputed by Margaret Anne Doody], combined with lines from Samuel Richardon’s Sir Charles Grandison) (Jhabvala, Merchant & Ivory);
2) 1990 Westerly Metropolitan (Mansfield Park, with borrowing from Emma & allusions to Persuasion) (Stillman);
3) 1993 Republic Ruby in Paradise (Northanger Abbey) (Nunez, Lawerence, Croford):
4) 1995 Paramount Clueless (Emma) (Heckerling, Berg, Lawrence, Rudin)
5) 1998 Warner You’ve Got Mail (Pride and Prejudice) (Ephron, Donner);
6) 1998 Westerly Last Days of Disco (Emma & Sense and Sensibility) (Stillman)
7) 2000 Sri Surya Kandukondain Kandukondain or I have found it (Sense and Sensibility) (Menon, Thanu, Rathname)
8) 2001 Miramax Columbia Tristar Bridget Jones’s Diary (Pride and Prejudice) (Fielding & Davies, Macguire, Bevan, Fellner, Cavendish);
9) 2004 Excel Entertainment Pride and Prejudice (teenage movie set in contemporary Utah & Las Vegas by Mormon group) (Shanthakumar & Kynan Griffin, Alexander Vance);
10) 2004 Miramax Columbia Tristar Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (Pride and Prejudice, with borrowing from Emma, & allusions to Persuasion) (Fielding & Davies, Kidron, Bevan, Eric Fellner, Cavendish);
11) 2004 Pathe Bride and Prejudice (Pride and Prejudice). (Chadha & Nayar, Berges);
12) 2007 Entertain, BBC, Scion Becoming Jane (Pride and Prejudice). (Hood & Williams, Jarrod, Bernstein)
13) 2007 Mockingbird/John Calley The Jane Austen Book Club (All six, but emphasis on Emma, Persuasion, with Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility secondary. Northanger Abbey two scenes. Last scene Pride and Prejudice brought in) (Swicord & Lynn).


1 free Sir Charles Grandison
1 free Mansfield Park
1 free Northanger Abbey
1 free Emma
4 free Pride and Prejudices
2 free Sense and Sensibilities (one combines with Emma)
1 covering them all

All three types practice borrowing from other books by Austen and other films so I concede all along that whether apparently faithful, analogous, or free, the films regularly move outside the novel the film is adapting or modelled upon to borrow an incident from another novel by Austen, or romantic film whose book is associated with Austen’s through generic expectations. There are degrees and different kinds of faithfulness, and so it may be impossible to persuade enough people that by objective criteria one can say how many or what kinds of changes a film-maker has to make before a film should be categorized as faithful or analogous. Davies does imitate the 1995 Sense and Sensibility by Emma Thompson (poorly and awkwardly as he doesn’t want outright to plagiarize) but so does the 2000 I have Found It (beautifully, also highlighting the character of Brandon).

Still until this one my typology was fine and it described many other film adaptations of other high status books. It works for the Palliser films (analogously faithful and recognized to be so).


Posted by: Ellen

* * *


  1. Ooh, now I’m special! Though I am male, and therefore Mr, not Ms (but I prefer ibmiller). I self identify as a Gentle Janeite (a moralist, as defined by Natalie Tyler in The Friendly Jane Austen).

    Quick question – could your “typology” also be referred to as a “discourse” in lit and film theory?

    Interesting thoughts – I myself thought it was definitely in the faithful category. It has an agenda, but as you point out, so do all adaptations. As for the scenery, I’ve always thought S&S was actually a very dark and turbulent story, even before I saw any films of it, so the sea worked fairly well for me.

    I don’t see, however, exactly how the film is “about” Brandon – I thought Elinor’s character was the real focus of the film in both visual and dialogue standpoints. Furthermore, the portrayal of Elinor is the aspect which really won me over. For all her brilliance, I never really loved Emma Thompson’s Elinor – liked her, yes, but not love. Hattie Morahan has not only made me love Elinor and feel deeply her pain, dignity, love, joy, and relief, but increased and supported my understanding and enjoyment of the book.

    Davies has said (correctly) that his placement of Eliza’s seduction is chronologically accurate. As an expert in Austen chronology, what is your opinion of his addition?

    I’m not sure I’d say Davies's NA has been liked as faithful – it seems much more 50-50 split.

    I think occasionally Davies does adapt along parallel lines with Thompson, but I don’t necessarily think he’s imitating, nor that it’s less well done. Each of the parallel scenes has a Davies edge to it which gives a different interpretation than his predecessor. One person remarked that after Edward’s engagement is revealed there is a poor copy of the “what do you know of my heart” scene – but that line is not in the book at all, and Davies scene is actually a much closer precis of Austen’s scene in language and mood.

    I eagerly await you opinion on further episodes.
    ibmiller    Jan 24, 11:36pm    #
  2. In reply,

    I feel uncomfortable addressing someone who won’t use a conventional name, but will reply to your posting. I have in the past replied to people who leave comments on my blog by writing a new blog as a letter to them. This may not be common (though Bitch Ph.D does it), but I don't see why I shouldn't respect a commentator who has troubled him or herself to write something thoughtful. In other words, there's nothing special here.

    If I do write a book (which I may) my typology is central to it. If you are using the term "academic discourse" dismissively (a lot of people use the word "academic" pejoratively), well then it's no use to read my blog on Austen movies (or any books or essays I write) since what I will be doing first is to try to construct some objective criteria for understanding film adaptations: first it’s necessary to know what genre or category they belong to, what are the characteristics of this genre, and then look at the particular instance. Then out of this I will try to evaluate the movies -- and this is what I have done to the other film adaptations I have discussed on this blog.

    Having watched Episode 2 of Davies S&S, I now partly retract what I first thought: yes this movie belongs to the faithful type. In Episode 2 Davies has gone out of his way to repeat central pivotal scenes, and keeps enough of famous lines and dialogues that he won’t get overt carping. Those who want to argue he is not faithful to the book will have a hard time doing so because literally he has obeyed the conventions of the faithful type.

    Nonetheless, he goes very far to create a new vision of his own. If you’ve read Judy’s blog, I can skip a lot of comment I’d make for I agree with her just about on all points, but being less generous, inclined to be more sceptical or distrusting of Davies’ motives, I see all the horses, the zoom shots, and men doing superduper physical activity which is symbolically phallic (this time we get in part 2 Edward using an axe), as Davies’ way of trying to attract a mass audience. He did it in the 95 P&P so he does it here. And the last thing he'd want is to be seen as writing something feminine in its feel.

    The imitations of Thompson’s films do stop in Part 2, partly because he is intent on a different vision. For example, the actor chosen to play Edward looks like Grant, but he is not self-deprecating, shy, socially awkward, and uncomfortable with the social norms forced on him; Davies's Edward is supposed to be depresed so (as Davies often is not subtle) thrashes about and as Judy remarked of the dialogues in Part 1, actually comes out explicitly to tell us he is depressed. I agree with Judy this Willoughby is a “thuggish” charmer, and it seemed to me Davies longed to have Marianne go to bed with him but didn’t dare (as in the scene he says "let me, let me," and it's only a lock of hair he's after). And it’s yet more Brandon’s story. He does a lot more, is active in ways he is only at the close of Thompson’s movie, and of course broods away. That he’s there at the moment of Willouhby’s snubbing of Marianne is a central instance of this. A close reading of Austen’s S&S does suggest there is something unexplained in her book, perhaps part of some revision, and it makes sense that Willoughby and Brandon would know and dislike one another. So here (like Thompson) Davies is developing something left undeveloped in Austen’s book. Indeed the men dominate the movie. The 1981 movie has many scenes with just women (as in the book): the Bollywood has them assertively seeking careers and assuaging their grief and loss actively.

    I much prefer Thompson’s movie for its feminist or woman-centered vision; she doesn’t resort to coarse caricature (the fat little boy—har har; the overdone presentation of Fanny Dashwood). I prefer Emma Thompson for Elinor as Hattie Monahan does not seem as strong a woman nor suffering anywhere near as penetratingly. This Marianne is a thin version of Kate Winslett. The Marianne in the book presents a difficulty for film-makers Austen is actually very critical of her and pop audiences want to like the heroines: Thompson removed her unpleasantness mostly; the 1981 kept it in and made her petulant and overbearing; I see Davies is moderating her and thus also making her seem less there, less a strong presence. The mother is dull in comparison with Jemma Jones. I noted Davies did write more new scenes for the mother and daughters, not just insert silent ones between chapters. Again I feel these shore up a different vision.

    What is this? One which is not interested in some of the things that fuel Austen’s books (like her use of insensitivity as central to the pain of existence). He makes male sex and the pursuit of money the driving engines of his movies. When he has chaste moral heroines, he is deprived of women he admires: his Vanity Fair is his strongest movie because there he has a heroine he likes for her active pursuit of power, money, and material pleasure.

    I really don’t care how faithful the movie is to Austen; I compare the movie to the book in order to understand it and then look to the movie’s art and vision to evaluate it. In my comment on the reaction to NA I was speaking of what I saw on two lists (Austen-l and Janeites) and I’ll stick by my observation the people there took the movie as faithful and liked it (not because it was faithful necessarily since in fact it in a deep and literal sense too it is not) because they had nothing to carp at and it was a conventional sweet comic vision of gothic. Nothing to disquiet them. It was touching too: Henry was made into an emotional hero in the way Davies made Darcy.

    I don't know how I feel about this one beyond that I feel Davies (as Judy says) doesn't care about this book as much, hasn't worked as hard (it's jolty) and as of now I think I prefer both the Thompson version and I have found her. It's ironic the movie returns to melodrama by way of imitating movies on Wuthering Heights, for otherwise it is actually reminiscent of the 1981 movie which was melodramatic, using dark colors and a sombre vision (even if genteel in mise-en-scene). It too by-the-bye brought out Brandon far more than Austen does: the man of sensibility is what it's thought audiences for women's books adapted to films want.

    Elinor    Jan 25, 10:33pm    #
  3. I don’t mean to make anyone uncomfortable with my username – I suppose it’s habit to try to avoid spam and such – so Mr. Miller is certainly acceptable. Speaking of which, do you prefer Dr. Moody?

    As to my term query, it was not meant dismissively at all. I’m a college senior working on my undergraduate thesis, which happens to be a study of the 1940, 1980, 1995, 2003, and 2005 P&P films. Obviously, film adaptation (especially of Jane Austen) and the discourses surrounding it are very important to me, and my question was more directed to see if my understanding of the word “discourse” was accurate. My work has strong parallels with yours (though I’m looking at it from a reader-response viewpoint and trying to understand the purpose and reception of adaptations), which led me to read and comment on your extremely insightful writings. I hope my comments haven’t come across as insulting or dismissive – that was not at all the intent.

    I have indeed read and commented on Judy’s blog on the film (my LJ name is also ibmiller) – and enjoyed her thoughts a lot. I don’t get the feeling that Davies longed for sex between Willouhby and Marianne – he’s said elsewhere that he feels incredibly protective (and I believe sympathetic) towards Marianne.

    I’m not sure I got a sense of a male-dominated movie – I’d have to do a rewatch and count scenes and such to be sure, but it really seemed that the female viewpoint and characters were more central, even with the added scenes for the men. Perhaps the difference is felt because the proportionate time spent on each is changed – yet I think the majority of the film’s time and weight is spent with the women.

    Re: caricature – I find it fascinating that you found the new film to be charicatured, since I did the exact opposite, thinking the new film was subtler in characterization than Thompson’s. The son, certainly, is a broad stroke, but I think consistent with Austen’s portrayal of children in this work; Fanny I actually thought was extremely similar in the two films, both in look and portrayal; but the real distinction I see is in Mrs. Dashwood, Sir John, and Mrs. Jennings. In the 95 film, I found Mrs. Dashwood (Gemma Jones) flighty, and Sir John and Mrs Jennings (Robert Hardy and Elizabeth Spriggs) almost absurdly over-the-top and loud; in this version, Mrs. Dashwood (the tall and elegant Janet McTeer) is much stronger and quieter, Sir John (Mark Williams) voluable but matter of fact and friendly, and Mrs. Jennings warm and pleasant if gossipy.

    I think Hattie Morahan’s Elinor is very strong, but much more regulated than Emma Thompson. Thompson seems to be a bit more prone to breaking down or showing cracks in her self-command (her almost caustic remarks to Marianne, the three breakdowns – “what do you know of my heart,” Marianne ’s illness, and the proposal), while even at her most distressed, Morahan’s Elinor seems more determined to hold herself together.

    I don’t know about sex, but I thought money-chasing was a powerful theme of Austen’s, especially in this novel. I don’t think Davies really changed that. And interestingly, three of the most powerful characters in the novel are women with mercenary motives – Fanny Dashwood, Lucy Steele, and Mrs. Ferrars. (I say this not to vilify women at all, but as an observation that Jane Austen was aware that both men and women are fallible, sometimes greedy, and prone to abuse power.)

    I spoke of NA from my experience at Austenblog and Livejournal, so your report is quite valid, I’m sure.

    I think the third episode is the most powerful and interesting, and so look forward to your continued response. Thank you for your time and consideration!
    ibmiller    Jan 26, 12:20am    #
  4. Dear Mr Miller,

    I apologize because I see I have misunderstood your tone in the first two paragraphs. A long time on the Net (and running lists—my published book is 50% about the Net, Trollope on the Net) leads me to suspect the desire for anonymity may well be a desire for non-accountability. Also much hostility towards college teachers and scholars is often contained in the use of the word “academic,” especially when it is used to refer to general or explanatory language.

    I do think there’s an argument for revealing identity in this misunderstanding. Now that I understand you are a college senior I can see why you might prefer this latest film: they are as a group (the 2005 to 2007 films) responding to recent tastes and assumptions reinforced in all sorts of cultural marketplaces. I am 61 and first read Austen’s S&S when I was 14, and Emma Thompson corresponds perfectly to my picture of Austen’s Elinor and have heard the same thing said by other women close to my age. I don’t think faithfulness a criteria for evaluation (as it most of the time derives from a personal or subjective response to a book) or justification so I cannot say you are wrong for wanting a heroine who never comes near shattering altogether (some might think that’s what Austen meant and some might not). But I much prefer a character who reveals human vulnerability and the tragedy of existence, its aloneness, in the way Emma Thompson does in that scene where Marianne comes near death. The treatment of Marianne's illness is anticipated in the 1981 film which (like Davies) is strongly melodramatic (only the earlier film does not use modern tropes).

    Thompson’s film is much more comic than Davies; it is lighter. But it is not a mini-series. She has one hour less than Davies and it shows. In the 1981 film Cannadine (the writer of that script) actually has time to show Marianne only slowly learning to love Brandon.

    On Davies’ desire to have open sex in the film: go back and resee where the scene opens when Willoughby is saying “let me, let me.” A few seconds go by (a long time in a film) and then we see what he wants is a lock of hair. I cannot believe Davies was not titillating the audience, and go further suspecting he would have wanted them naked or half-naked with him asking for physical foreplay. Look how Davies opened the film.

    All the Austen films have a female center that is rare in most films, and this is no different. But I suggest you can see an analogous difference in the 1979 P&P and the 1995 P&P and this one and the two previous (plus the I have found It, which I really recommend if you have not seen it). One interest (since you are writing a thesis you may know of this already) is that while it’s rare for a film to have a female narrator, it’s not uncommon among these Austen films to have female voice-over turn into female narrator. It’s even common and used very well in the free adaptations.

    As to Brandon dominating, Judy made the point, and today in the TLS Kathryn Sutherland repeated it (Jan 18, 2008, p. 18). Sutherland suggest Davies achieved the feat of turning the book inside out so what was on the margins becomes the center and yet remaining faithful. I don’t see Davies as a writer of shall we say extreme integrity, so I think his holding to hinge-points (he would know this from McFarland’s Novel to Film, which I assume you know), main characters and famous speeches is calculating. He's not above writing pandering statements in newspapers.

    I admit I often don’t care for the underlying vision in Davies’ films. I use comparison betweeen film and book to understand the book, and there is nothing so revealing as the added line. Sutherland says in Part 3, we have the line (not in Austen) that Brandon is a “great tamer of horses” and yet ever so gentle. Yeah. Right. Or another on how it’s fine for men to regard women as “playthings.” I’ve not studied Davies patiently enough to pick up these lines myself.

    It’s quite true that the poisonous harridan (e.g, Mrs Norris, Lady Catherine, a woman in the juvenilia ) and other mercenary dense women (Lady Russell who means well) are often in Austen’s novels the people who nearly destroyed the heroine. This kind of women is found in novels of the era too (Sophie Cottin has women close in type and action to Austen’s). It’s they who women meet who enact the cruel injustices of society, but the really powerful figures are the men. Austen does not emphasize this except when she wants to make a parallel (as between Mrs Norris and Fanny Price). Women today are the ones who inflict FGM mutilation on others; Deborah Kaplan’s book insists on how class and privilege among some groups of women which allow or encourage them to prey on and use others must be taken into account in understanding Austen. I do.

    I’ve not yet watched Part 3. I will early next week. Then I’ll try to answer Judy’s blog. I’m not sure I will write a separate blog on this film; I feel Davies did not pour himself into it with his deeper self the way he did into Vanity Fair so I’m not inclined to focus particularly on it. I did so on the 1995 P&P because it was a sociological event and the attention paid to it by others necessitates paying attention to it by anyone seriously interested in the Austen films.

    The free adaptations of P&P seem to me less interesting because less free, less original as the novel is so well known fear of carping criticism limits them than some of the other free adaptations. But they do shed light on how film-makers think the larger audience (mass) sees this book—as sheer romance. I did like Bridget Jones’s Diary (book and film) because of this: it was ironic also you see.

    How lucky you are to be doing a thesis on the Austen films. A pleasant task I should think.


    P.S. Call me Ellen. Informality is the custom on the Net.
    Elinor    Jan 26, 6:21pm    #
  5. Dear Ellen,

    Well, I certainly don’t want to avoid accountability – I just don’t like to have 133.5 email messages from rather unpleasant sites in my inbox. As someone who wants to be an academic myself, I have my own criticisms of the academic system, but I certainly hope not to hate it as a whole.

    I do prefer the 2008 S&S, but I don’t prefer the 2007 MP or Persuasion (even the 1999 MP was better than the cutpurse 07 version) or the 2005 P&P. I plead as guilty as any of liking things from my own area of experience.

    I’m not sure I agree that faithfulness per se is bankrupt, but I do think it’s heavily based on subjectivity. I don’t think I prefer a heroine who never comes close to shattering, but I think Hattie Morahan comes very close without crossing the edge that Thompson did – two different interpretations, both of which I think are acceptable within the portrait Austen drew. Which we prefer is going to depend on our personal experience and tastes, I think.

    I don’t disagree that Davies wanted sex – I just don’t think he wanted it with anyone in the film. In the P&P95, he had sex with Wickham, but he never showed Darcy or Elizabeth or Bingley entangled. So, while I agree that often his motives are very pedestrian, I think he does have a foundational sensitivity to characters.

    I have skimmed McFarland, but haven’t given him a thorough reading yet – I shall attempt to do so (along with Fish, Bluestone, and myriad other commentators) as I continue writing. And I totally agree that he has created a pandering image in the press – but I don’t necessarily think he follows that stereotype in his adaptations themselves.

    I don’t think Davies intended Marianne’s line about men regarding women as playthings to be approving at all – rather, I thought it indicated that Brandon and Edward are different because of their respect and consideration for women.

    Davies doesn’t seem to love any of Austen’s novels as much as P&P, but for some reason, even when he doesn’t care quite as much, his work touches me (particularly in his female characters – I really enjoy his Emma, Catherine, and Elinor, as well as Elizabeth and Jane Bennet).

    Thank you again for your comments and encouragement.

    ibmiller    Jan 26, 7:07pm    #
  6. Thank you, again, for your reply, and I do wish you very well on your writing.

    I’ll just say I too have favorites among the heroes and heroines. Not Davies: he’s very cruel to Mary Bennet (how he hates reading women), and (you won’t agree) but his women are a man’s dream of women. I’m drawn very much to Elizabeth Garvey as Elizabeth (as perfect as Emma Thompson as Elinor), Carolyn Farina as Audrey Rouget, and moved by Sylvestre Le Tousel as Fanny and Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot (though too abject). Among the males John Carson as Mr Knightley is the idea I have of him from the book: he's a noble spirit; and I’m very attracted to Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon and Ciarhan Hinds as Captain Wentworth, and (among the free adaptations) Colin Firth as Mark Darcy and Christopher Eigeman (I forget the name of his character in Last Days of Disco). I’m fond of (in the recent movies) Ritson Blake as Edmund and J.J.Feilds as Tilney. Doran Goodwin is perfect as Emma, really dislikeable, though toned down from Emma in the book. A rare portrait done in the movies through irony.

    Among the secondary and minor roles, I’m moved by Susannah Harker as Jane Bennet, Samantha Morton as Harriet, Ania Martin as Jane Fairfax, and much amused by Fiona Walker as Mrs Elton (she’s brilliant). I'm moved by the conceptions of some of the minor women & men where the writer is much kinder than Austen was: Weldon’s Mary and Kitty Bennet, Anne de Bourgh. Tom Holland was the best Mr Collins thus far (not Austen’s conception, to me rather an improvement because more humane).

    Among the free adaptations I really like Ruby in Paradise.

    Elinor    Jan 26, 11:20pm    #
  7. As you’ve anticipated my response (and a discussion of male/female characterization drifts over deep and troubled waters), I’ll only say that Davies has Emma reading near the end of his film, when she’s quite clearly reforming. I never got the sense that he has an agenda against female reading, and in that instance he seems rather in favor of it.

    I liked both Ritson and Field, though I actually thought Johnny Lee Miller’s Edmund in Rozema’s MP was excellent.

    As for Emma, I suppose one half the readers of the world do not understand the pleasures of the other. I personally identify extremely powerfully with Emma (no reference to any portrayal), so I would never class her as “dislikeable” – a true clash in readers’ responses, I suppose.

    As I’ve remarked before, I love Jane Bennet, and Susannah Harker’s Jane was wonderful.

    I have enjoyed this exchange, and look forward to reading your future posts with pleasure.
    ibmiller    Jan 27, 12:38am    #
  8. I see in Davies’ portrait of Mary Bennet egregious cruelty: never once is the actress allowed to have anything but a sour expression. The idea behind it is the one which castigates and stigmatizes “blue stockings.” They can do without male sex and males, and without babies is what’s read in their independent behavior. This is not the only portrait in his gallery I find painful but it contains an essential core of the way he regards women. And it reinforces a whole group of cruel perspectives intended to repress women and force them to marry and have children whether they want to or not.

    I’ve written on my perception of Austen’s Jane Bennet and how I think Harker’s mostly silent performance captures that. She’s under much strain.

    As to Emma, I take Austen's comment she is someone no one but herself will much like seriously. She is Miss Bingley type seen from within -- enriched and with a complicated background that shows her to be under her father's thumb more than she realizes. She never does anything to retract the values which undergird her malice towards Harriet; by the end of the novel she is condescending just as much to her and she makes fun of Mr Martin's love. She fails utterly to see how awful she can be, and how much a parallel to Mrs Elton. And her blindness is taken on trust by many of Austen's readers; that is they view her as she sees herself. She has done nothing to be rewarded by Mr Knightley; but then he's partly besotted (as Austen shows). Like Austen's other novels, Emma has many painful scenes. Nor do I see her as powerful except in the limited manner of women of her rank and disposition towards those have to watch themselves in her presence (which has included Miss Taylor that was in her time -- now she has a more benign master as Mr Knightley says too). And it matters what power is used for.

    Yes we shall have to agree to differ on other things in these movies too.

    Elinor    Jan 27, 7:37am    #
  9. As I note people are coming over here to read this blog, I want to include some preliminary observations upon seeing the whole of Davies’s S&S and urge the reader to reread Living in the Past so you can see what I’m replying to:

    Dear Judy,

    I hesitate to write because I’m going on one viewing. I’ve learned that often from one viewing I can get a very mistaken view of a film; bell hooks says that what happens is since movies are made to appeal to a general cultural consensus, often that is what jumps out at the viewer and only later on if you go reel by reel do you see the important departures—and also how the film is put together since small moments count and the film moves very swiftly.

    I said I was won over the film in the third part, but I’m not sure I love it. I still had a strong feeling of joltiness and Davies not having worked as hard—especially in the dinner party incident which was clever of him to choose since neither of the previous films dramatized that encounter. My feeling is Davies really was going for a longer movie, and this needed to be four or five episodes for him fully to cover his matter. I saw some more imitations of Thompson at the end: Elinor running out crying; the whole of that scene with the women waiting for Edward; Marianne’s running through high hedges in the rain, and each time Ang Lee and Thompson had done it better. So much for what didn’t work for me.

    What did work and I felt was original and new: the sequences of blurred images where the music is poignant and we get scene dissolving into scene; the colors of the mise-en-scene turn a kind of antique coloration and the lines are lyrical. There were a couple of scenes like this in Episode 2 and more in Episode 3. These combined with images of the sea and sky at times.

    Hattie Monahan as Elinor came into her own finally. I was moved by her performance and especially in those places where Davies changed Austen’s wording; e.g., when Willoughby shows up after Marianne has weathered the crisis, and his speech is much more selfish and egoistic (“Pity me!”), she clearly feels only contempt for him, and dismisses him; her beautiful speech to Edward where she says she kept on loving him because he would not lie, would not deceive, was truthful to his feelings (not some social aggrandizement). At the heart of my love for Austen’s S&S is her conception of the character, Elinor and she emerged in the last part of this film as inflected by Davies’s modern point of view (though it must be said the emphasis on how she forgives him actually harks back to traditional romances, as in Lovers Vows where at the end the much-abused woman forgives her ex-lover). Monahan played the part very well too.

    Marianne was given a chance or time to fall in love with Brandon—which is actually a change from Austen who is concerned not to have a romantic ending for Marianne. I liked the change but recognize it’s another move away from Austen’s ironical point of view on first and only love.

    “I was stunned by a repeat of the point of view in the 2007 Persuasion. The man will provide; rest everything on him. Brandon sweeps Marianne into his house. Where was the blindfold? And the statement by Elinor about taming Marianne. On the other hand, Edward does not appear to be on his way to be the strong one in his relationship with Elinor. That last scene with her makes her the strong center of their home-to-be. He’s running around after chickens (another motif found in Davies’s films, e.g., the 96 Emma).

    Bringing in Eliza Williams was a contrast to the women who are cared for with their babies, but then she was forgotten. The Lee-Thompson version did consider bringing in Eliza and the sponge-house but thought the better of it. For me the chopping wood and duel were of a piece with Davies’ detemination to have phallic activity. It’s somehow trivializing since Brandon doesn’t kill Willoughby; in Clarissa Jack kills Lovelace. The act makes the duel serious, not a game to entertain us.

    On the actresses: I felt for Jean Marsh, now so old and reduced to Mrs Ferrars.

    I think I’m close to deciding that by my typology Davies is not faithful; that his is an analogous or intermediately faithful film too. And who knows his NA might have been had he been able to have the 4 to 5 episodes (it’s said that his script in a vault all these years was for a genuine mini-series film). I do have to rethink out this typology.

    I’ve not done justice to the film or answered yours, only hit some high points. I would need to watch the film a couple of times. I do think the cinematography and use of music brings in something new and beautiful to the group of film adaptations of S&S.

    Elinor    Jan 30, 11:58am    #

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