Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Austen Week: Film Adaptations (Part One)

With every great Jane Austen novel, there is a film or tv serial adaptation. I thought I would take a look at various film adaptations and some Austen inspired films. Keep in mind, this is not the complete list, it is only the more recent ones and those which I have seen.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice (1940) B&W

This film is by far the oldest adaptation I have seen. It follows Jane Austen's novel closely, however the difference being, the period of the film is set at a later date, with gorgeous large gowns and elaborate costumes. The film is relatively spot on, however you may notice one minor change towards to end of the film, which I would prefer not to spoil.
The characters are well played and I am particularly fond of Laurence Olivier's portrayal of Mr Darcy. Similar to Colin Firth in the 1995 film, he has a certain charm about him, although since this is set at a later date, he seems a little bit odd and eccentric.

Where to buy: various regions on Amazon.

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

By far the most famous adaptation of the novel, as a BBC production. This version is very long, which allows for the film to stay faithful to the original story without skipping important scenes and plays host to a brilliant cast, with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet.
One of the most famous scenes from this verson is the lake scene, where Darcy emerges wet and not properly attired. It became one of the most unforgettable moments that can also be seen in modern Austen inspired films such as Lost in Austen. This was not written in Austen's novel, however it made for great entertainment. I am not sure what Jane Austen would have thought though.

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

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

The most recent film, I have heard mixed reviews. Mostly positive, however the odd few who arent too fond of Matthew Macfayden's portrayal as Mr Darcy as they are stuck on Colin Firth. Nevertheless, if you put personal opinions of actors aside, for a big time film adaptation, it was fantastic. The one thing that disappoints me is the different endings in the US versus the UK. It ends abruptly in the UK version, where as the US have a sweet ending between Darcy and Elizabeth, which ofcourse was not included in the book. If however you buy the DVD, some UK editions have the US ending in the bonus features so you will not miss out. The film features an all star cast of popular actors such as Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfayden (Spooks), Talulah Riley (St Trinians), Judi Dench and Donald Sutherland.

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

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey (1986)

Northanger Abbey is an early work of Austen's. It is oddly one of my favourite as I love Henry Tilney. It tells the story of Catherine Morland, a 17 year old girl obsessed with Gothic novels. Her life tends to revolve around the books she reads as she has a wild imagination. Catherine is taken to Bath with family friends where she meets new friends, attends balls, is persued by men and falls in love. Henry Tilney is a rich young man and the love interest in this novel. Catherine finds him extremely fascinating and the adventures all start when she reaches Northanger Abbey, the Tilney estate which is wrought with a sadness. Catherine takes her knowledge of Gothic tales and expects the estate to be full of the same horrors and mysteries of the books.
This adaptation of Northanger Abbey, while close to the book is rather slow. As it is dated, it is hard to judge it as I would only be comparing it to the more recent version. Henry Tilney is not as attractive in this version and Catherine isn't as youthful as expected. The cast is not as well known, with the exception of a young Peter Firth (Spooks) as Henry Tilney.

Where to buy: Amazon

Northanger Abbey (2007)

This is my favourite version of Northanger Abbey. As it is a new adaptation, the cast are young, the music is more suited to the film and we get a better sense of Catherine's understanding of Gothic novels and how she connects them with her version of reality. Throughout the film, we are given short scenes from the gothic stories Catherine is reading, making the setting more intense. Felecity Jones plays the part of Catherine Morland extremely well as we can tell she is naive, yet desperate to understand life and love. JJ Feild also makes a fantastic appearance as Henry Tilney. He makes more sense for the character as he is young and intelligent and it is easy to understand why Catherine is so intrigued by him.

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


Emma (1996)

Emma is a story about Emma Woodhouse, a rich, smart, yet naive young lady who has the goal to create romantic matches in her community. While her heart is in the right place, she can only seem to make one decent match, followed by numerous failed attempts. Thankfully, with fate in the cards, most of Emma's friend make a great match and Emma finds herself in love. The film is perfect in my opinion and I was very pleased that they cast Jeremy Northam as Mr Knightley. He always does a superb performance in period films and this simply shows why is he always cast for such a role. Gwyneth Paltrow is cast well as Emma and they are joined with an outstanding cast including Toni Collette (an Australian actress who was ironically born in my neighbourhood), Alan Cumming and Ewan McGregor. Even though this is from the 90's, It is enjoyable to watch over and over again.

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

Emma (1996)

Released the same year as the Gwyneth Paltrow film, this version is a television adaptation. With a strong cast, including Kate Beckinsale as Emma and Mark Strong as Mr Knightley. This was a decent version, however if you watch Emma with Gwynth Paltrow, this may be a slight let down. Both 1996 versions are similar, with a few changes and varied scenes. The interesting this about this is that Emma is a brunette, where as she is a blonde in the other. It probably doesnt make a big difference but it did for me.

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

Emma (2009)

This is a more recent BBC adaptation of Emma. Unlike the others, I do not stock this in my collection as it was not a favourite, although I have seen it on television. While it did pack an all star cast, it didn't seem to go down well with audiences. In a way, it was like a copy of the 1996 film. Cast included Romola Garai as Emma, Jonny Lee Miller (Eli Stone) as Mr Knightley and Michael Gambon (Dumbledore-Harry Potter). After the performance by Jeremy Northam in 1996, Miller simply failed to match up, lacking in the same charisma, charm and wisdom that Mr Knightley is meant to have.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Part Two is next... including Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park.


  1. Great post! I love Pride and Prejudice!

    Megan @ Storybook Love Affair


  2. I have a confession to make. I watched the Pride and Prejudice(2005) movie first before I read the book. I absolutely love the movie that I was very much enticed to read Pride and Prejudice. I enjoyed it a lot and now considers it as one of my best reads. And I agree about the US version, it was really sweet. I haven't watch Colin Firth's version yet but I surely will soon. Great post!

    Sarah @ Smitten over Books