Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Austen Week: Film Adaptations (Part Two)

To continue on from my last post, I have been going through Austen adaptations and sharing short reviews... Today's includes Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion and Mansfield Park.

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility (1981)

Sense and Sensibility is a story about the life and loves of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, as they struggle to find happiness, particularly after they, along with their mother and younger sister are forced to leave their home when their father dies and the estate is passed to their half brother John and his wife. The entire novel shows love, romance, heartbreak which is the focus of all the films.
This version is a BBC adaptation of the novel. It was before my time but my aunt gave me a copy a few years ago which allowed me to give it a chance. As it is an older tv serial, it is very dated and may not appeal to a younger audience. I am not familiar with the cast, with Irene Richard as Elinor and Tracey Childs as Marianne. While it does stick close to the novel, it is very sedate and feels more like a slow video I would have watched in English class. The photo on the right explains the mood.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

This film adaptation of the novel is my favourite of all. It received great international success and went on to win several awards. It was just simply brilliant. Directed by Ang Lee, it was packed with an all star cast that went on to become known for their roles in the film. Some of the popular cast members include Kate Winslet (Marianne), Emma Thompson (Elinor), Hugh Grant (Edward Ferrars), Alan Rickman (Col. Brandon) and Hugh Laurie (Mr Palmer). Some of the scenes have become particularly memorable and I just love when Col. Brandon is taking care of Marianne, even after all the drama and rejection. He may be creepy Snape in Harry Potter, but he 100% chivalrous and handsome in this film.

Where to buy: Available in-store or on Amazon.

Sense and Sensibility (2008)

This is a more recent BBC serial adaptation of the novel. While it doesn't have the big cast seen in the 1995 version, it still does have some recognisable names, such as Domic Cooper (Willoughby) and Daniel Stevens (Edward Ferrars) who you may recognise from Downton Abbey as Matthew Crawley. Reviews have been mixed as it was said to be more sexually charged in comparison to the novel. The one thing that is always difficult, is to follow up from another adaptation, which is why I was highly disappointed with the choice of actor for Col. Brandon after seeing the performance by Alan Rickman. Nevertheless, it is still a great version and would probably suit a younger audience who are just starting to read Austen's novels.

Where to buy: Available in-store on on Amazon.

Persuasion

Persuasion (1995)

Persuasion follows the story of Anne Elliot, who falls in love with a handsome and intelligent naval officer names Frederick Wentworth. Unfortunately as he is poor, her father (a wealthy baronet), sister and mentor Lady Russell persuade her to break off the match, leaving Anne alone for several years. The novel and films follow as Anne, several years later, re-encounters Wentworth, when her family vacates their estate and his sister and brother in law move in. Wentworth is now a wealthy captain, still holding a grudge against Anne for her rejection. It is honestly a brilliant story about the test of love and how a young woman persuaded by others is left to build the courage to live her own life for once.
To be honest I don't remember this adaptation clearly as I don't have a copy, but the one thing I did like about it was the casting of Ciarian Hinds as Captain Wentworth, who also plays Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre. He has a mysterious quality about him that intrigues me and seems to work well in the roles he plays. While the rest of the cast is not as well known, it received several awards and is known to be a brilliant portrayal of the novel.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Persuasion (2007)

A more current ITV adaptation of the novel. I thought it was brilliant. At first I thought Sally Hawkins portrayal as Anne was horrible, but then I realised she acted rather well considering Anne is a woman constantly persuaded by others to do things she doesn't want to. They couldn't have built a more perfect cast of actors. There was superb acting by Rupert Penry-Jones (Captain Wentworth) and Anthony Head (Sir Walter Elliot). It is very fast pace, entertaining and follows the novel well. There wasn't a single thing that disappointed me about it and I was very fond of the ending, which provides a perfect touch to Anne and Frederick's relationship.

Where to buy: Available in-store or on Amazon.

Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park (1983)

Mansfield Park is a novel about a young girl named Fanny Price. Fanny is from a poor family, sent away to be raised by her rich uncle and aunt, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, at Mansfield Park. Here she is raised with her cousins, Tom, Edmund, Maria and Julia. Unfortunately for Fanny, she is always seen as inferior by her cousins, apart from Edmund, who becomes a close friend and eventual love interest. She spends years trying to be accepted and when she finally does, she throws it all away to reject a handsome philanderer named Henry Crawford.
For an older adaptation, I actually enjoyed it and thought it was portrayed very well. While it is a bit dated and dry, it is still great to watch, as you are able to watch the relationship between Fanny and Edmund develop and blossom.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Mansfield Park (1999)

This novel has always been a more difficult one to pull off as Fanny is a hard character to play well. Fortunately, Frances O'Connor was a perfect choice for the role. Johnny Lee Miller also played a convincing role as Edmund and you really get a sense of the brother/sister relationship and how it develops into a romantic one.
The one thing that was thought negative at the time is the emphasis on the slave trade and how Sir Thomas made his wealth. This was not something that Austen would have gone indepth with, yet they chose to pursue it. Thankfully it did not completely ruin the story, it just gave us more of an insight into their lives, no matter how harsh it was. Definately one of the best adaptations.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Mansfield Park (2007)

It is always enjoyable to see BBC battle against ITV for an Austen adaptation. However, since this one is several years after the BBC version, it is difficult to compare. I was not too pleased with Billie Piper as Fanny as she is supposed to be quiet, delicate and appear hidden when among others. Billie Piper is quite the opposite. This version skips some important parts of the book, which I know was critisized when it come out.
On a different note, Joseph Morgan who plays Klaus in Vampire Diaries on ITV also plays Fanny's brother William in this version. Obviously he was in this first, but it is an interesting change in scene.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Part Three: Austen Inspired films

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