Sense and Sensibility: Insight Edition

This is one of my reviews for the ‘Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011’ hosted by Laurel Ann of Austenprose. (Here is my introductory post: ‘By a Lady’.)

This is a review of the annotated Insight Edition of Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility.

We do not have the living dead to offer in our annotated look at Sense and Sensibility [a reference to P&P&Z and S&S&SM 1]. Nor do we threaten her with dull, scholarly analysis. Rather, we leave Jane’s classic story untouched and focus on providing notes, facts, and thoughts in the margins that we hope will help you understand the story a little better, see the characters in a new light, or simply make you smile.

No PhD Austen scholars have joined our editorial team since [our annotation of Pride and Prejudice]. Through our research, we feel we know her life and work better, but we’re still just devoted fans. We reread her works, enjoy the same spinoff books you do, and argue over the same filmed versions. And because we work at Bethany House, we enjoy highlighting the quiet notes of faith that shine in her characters’ actions and words. (from the Editors’ Note, p. 7 2)

Some of the notes in this edition were interesting. The historical asides were sometimes handy when they defined words and the notes on Jane Austen’s life were also interesting on occasion. Very few of the other notes seemed worthwhile — informing us of such things as that Hugh Grant looked like his neck was in a brace in the 1995 movie and that Dad Stevens was too handsome for the part of Edward (p. 20). I was hoping that the “themes of faith” notes would be more thought-provoking than they turned out to be.

The notes were divided into seven categories: 1) “Historical and cultural details and definitions from England in the early 1800s”, 2) “Facts and tidbits from Austen’s life that parallel or illuminate the novel”, 3) “References to S&S in today’s culture, particularly in film”, 4) “Unscientific ranking of the novel’s most frustrating characters”, 5) “Themes of faith drawn from the novel or Austen’s life”, 6) “Comments and asides on the book’s characters and plot”, and 7) “The parts of the novel that just make us smile” (p. 8).

Probably the most helpful of the notes were the “Historical and cultural” notes. They give the definitions of such words as “superannuated”, “demesne”, and “jointure”, as well as commenting on Cowper, carriages, places such as Devon and Sussex, life expectancy, &c. Most of these notes are only a few words long, but a few have more to them. An example is the note to Edward Ferrar’s listing of his career options, “I was therefore entered at Oxford and have been properly idle ever since.” The editors noted, “The careers Edward lists are the only options socially acceptable to the gentry and aristocracy. In some ways, men were almost as trapped by societal constraints as women.” (p. 100).

The “Facts and tidbits from Austen’s life” were sometimes interesting. To the line from the novel “What brother on earth would do half so much for his sisters, even if really his sisters!” the tidbit is offered, “Jane’s brother, Edward, offered Chawton Cottage to his mother, Jane, and Cassandra — four years after their father died.” (p. 15). To Marianne’s comment that “A woman of seven and twenty … can never hope to feel or inspire affection again”, the notes observe that “Jane was 19 when she began S&S and 36 when she published it.” (p. 42).

Very few of the “References to S&S in today’s culture” were particularly interesting. They inform the reader of such things as “In Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Colonel Brandon receives a summons to Sub-station Beta, a domed, undersea city” (p. 66) instead of the telegram that breaks up the party to Whitwell. Or, “It must be stated that the hairstyles of the Colonel, Sir John, and John Dashwood in the 1971 miniseries seems to have been stolen from the 1968 classic Planet of the Apes. And not from the humans …” There are also listings of the editors’ favorite Brandons, Mariannes, and Elinors from the various movie renditions. These would probably have been more interesting if they had stated why they were their favorites.

The “rankings of the novel’s most frustrating characters” are just that — lists of unlikable characters, headed by whichever happens to be the most annoying or despicable at the moment.

The “Themes of faith” were not very deep, but there were a few that were interesting. When Willoughby tells Elinor, “I have, by raising myself to affluence, lost everything that could make it a blessing”, the editors comment, “This rare bit of perception on Willoughby’s part brings to mind the words of Christ in the Gospels, ‘For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?'” (p. 286). There were excerpts from prayers that Jane Austen wrote, jotted in at appropriate passages. However, many of the notes were no more than observing that “Out of sacrificial love, Elinor looks first to the needs of others” (p. 28), when she allows her mother to move farther from Norland than she wished to do.

A number of the “Comments and asides on the book’s characters and plot” were thought-provoking. One question that gets several notes is the “question of when self-control becomes denial or emotional dishonesty” (p. 101). Quite a few of them, however, were nothing more than, “That was a 110-word sentence” (p. 121) or, to Willoughby’s cutting a lock of Marianne’s hair, “This is an old-fashioned romantic gesture that weirds us out a little” (p. 62).

“The parts of the novel that just make us smile” notes are little asides on the humorous side of the novel. To Marianne being “reasonable enough to allow that a man of five and thirty might well have outlived all acuteness of feeling and every exquisite power of enjoyment” and being “perfectly disposed to make every allowance for the colonel’s advanced state of life which humanity required”, the editors comment that “Those of us over 35 would take offense, but we’ve outlived the ability to be annoyed.” (p. 39). That comment did make me smile!

There is a list of twelve “Questions for Conversation” in the back of the book — “perfect for book discussion groups”, according to the back cover. One of the questions is one that is considered several times in the notes: “Was Elinor right in holding her secret about Edward from her mother and Marianne? Is there a difference between being emotionally composed and lying about your feelings?” (p. 340). One of the questions focuses on Marianne’s worldview: “Do you believe ‘true love’ means loving only one person in a lifetime?” (p. 340). Another of the questions is “Which of the many aggravating characters did you like the least?” (p. 341).

I do not agree with the editors’ interpretations of everything. For example, the editors suggest that Edward kept his engagement to Lucy Steele partly to avoid “a costly lawsuit” (p. 235). Jane Austen, however, writes that Edward had always believed Lucy “to be a well-disposed, good-hearted girl, and thoroughly attached to himself. Nothing but such a persuasion could have prevented his putting an end to [their] engagement” (Ch. 49, p. 327). I also found many of the notes dull. This edition is a light look at Sense and Sensibility — it really did not add much to my reading experience. However, for those who just want a little unobtrusive insight while they read, this is a fine choice.

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1 That is, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (by Seth Grahame-Smith) and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (by Ben H. Winters): “Since our annotation of Pride and Prejudice was published, a bright spotlight has shone on Jane Austen’s world and her novels. Anne Hathaway portrayed her on the big screen, new interpretations of her novels were shown on PBS and the BBC, and her most beloved characters were attacked by zombies and giant lobsters.” (from the Editors’ Note, p. 7).

2 All quotes with their page numbers are taken from Sense and Sensbility (Insight Edition), by Jane Austen, notes prepared by Jeff Braun, Carra Carr, Ellen Chalifoux, Amanda Hall, Julie Klassen, David Long, Sarah Long, Charlene Patterson, Carly Rygwalski, Raela Schoenherr, Karen Schurrer, and Sarah Young (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-7642-0740-2).

Sense and Sensibility: 2008 Movie Adaptation

This is one of my reviews for the ‘Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011’ hosted by Laurel Ann of Austenprose. (Here is my introductory post: ‘By a Lady’.)

To begin on a positive note, there were several aspects that I liked about the 2008 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Both Elinor and Marianne seemed pretty close to the right age for their parts. The character Anne Steele made it in and was delightfully funny. There was some very pretty scenery and the music (by Martin Phipps) was beautiful.

The acting was good in this miniseries, though not excellent. Marianne acts like the fifteen or sixteen year old girl that she is, and Charity Wakefield does a good job of portraying her vulnerability, as well as her irritability and enthusiasm. She has at times, however, an artificial quality to her voice that is annoying, and her crying when she receives Willoughby’s letter (wasn’t it nice of him to send all of those lovely flower petals with his letter?) seems fake. She lacks the refinement, the elegance, the charm that Marianne had. Hattie Morahan plays a sensible Elinor, though with a little more of a matter-of-fact, no-nonsense manner than I imagined Elinor having. I can’t think of anything in particular that she did wrong, but somehow I found her characterization of Elinor to be rather uninspiring. There were a number of good scenes with her, however.

Dan Stevens played an Edward who was at times exuberant and confident, and at other times brooding and almost morose. He was handsome and dashing, but he wasn’t from the book. Dominic Cooper, on the other hand, played a rather non-dashing Willoughby. He seemed more of a spoiled kid than a romantic hero. He portrayed Willoughby’s impetuousness and selfishness and his love for Marianne well, though. David Morrissey as Colonel Brandon was interesting, although he brooded too much. His character was given several distasteful things to do, and I had to get over seeing him as Bradley Headstone (a part he acted in 1998 ‘Our Mutual Friend’), but other than that he was fine.

None of the comic characters besides Anne Steele were as funny as they ought to have been, though at times Sir John was quite amusing. Mrs. Jennings and the Palmers were very disappointing in the comedy department. None of John and Fanny Dashwood’s doings came across as amusing.

One of the advantages to this movie is that it is a mini-series and able to include a great deal of the book that the 1995 version was obliged to leave out. Here we are treated to views of a suitably apathetic Lady Middleton and her (albeit very tame) children, young Harry Dashwood (if you can call it a treat in this version), and a properly stiff and rude Mrs. Ferrars. We get to see Willoughby offer Marianne a horse, and take her around Allenham. We get to see Anne Steele spill the beans about Edward and Lucy in a delightfully funny scene. Even the duel is included!

What I thought strangest about this version were the number of elements that it shares with the 1995 version but that are not in the novel. The conversation between John and Fanny Dashwood about what to do for his step-mother and sisters takes place in a carriage on their way to Norland, instead of after she joins him at Norland. Margaret is made into a bit of a tomboy. Elinor explains to Margaret that houses go from father to son, that men inherit, not women — an oversimplification, as I discussed in my review of the 1995 version. Marianne’s hair is curly, while Elinor’s is not, and Fanny has little curls plastered around her forehead. There is a scene in the Norland library that involves Edward, Fanny, Margaret, and Elinor. Edward hits it off with Margaret (riding his horse with her in this version, sword fighting with her in the 1995 version, &c.). Edward gives Elinor a gift (his handkerchief, a book), and later Elinor sits (or stands) brooding by herself over this item. Edward actually seeks a private interview with Elinor before she leaves Norland, instead of avoiding being alone with her as he does in the book, and in both versions it is made to sound at first as if he is going to propose to her. Margaret does not want to go on the walk with Marianne that ends with Marianne spraining her ankle in the rain. Edward does not immediately notice Lucy when he comes to visit Elinor and Marianne in London. Marianne takes a walk in the rain at Cleveland and is rescued by Colonel Brandon. When Margaret announces that Edward is coming, in a scene near the end of the movie, everyone hurries out of aprons, &c. and rushes to the parlour to meet him. Since none of these elements are in the book, it looks as if in many ways the 2008 version was just copying the 1995 adaptation.

There were quite a few other bizarre facets to this version, as well. Marianne calls her sister-in-law “Aunt Fanny”, Fanny addresses her mother-in-law as “Mary”, and John Dashwood refers to Edward as Elinor’s “cousin”. Colonel Brandon seems to know something against Willoughby right from the beginning, and later asks him what his intentions towards Marianne are (to which Willoughby very reasonably replies, “What right have you to ask me?”). The single word “Willoughby” is enough to explain why a young woman is acting distressed. Fanny refers to Marianne as possibly being “damaged goods”. Marianne has time to fall in love with and get engaged to Colonel Brandon before Lucy marries Robert, thereby releasing Edward. (One wonders where they’ve been all this time.) Willoughby and Colonel Brandon are both given to acting like medical men — with Willoughby’s “I have experience in these things” and assurances to Mrs. Dashwood that Marianne’s is only a minor sprain and giving her the number of days it will take to heal and Brandon’s advice on how to take care of Marianne at Cleveland: “I’ve seen this too many times”. Mrs. Ferrars eats what appears to be gold-plated food.

The scene at the beginning of this mini-series was unnecessary and inappropriate. (It is a scene of Willoughby seducing Eliza.) Also inappropriate was having Colonel Brandon beginning to unfasten Marianne’s clothes when she is ill at Cleveland. He stops quickly, and leaves her to her sister, but it’s still repulsive. Also unpalatable was the whole Colonel Brandon taming Marianne theme at the end, where she is compared to a wild horse that will follow him because of his kindness and to a hawk that comes when he bids.

Besides the seduction scene at the beginning, other bad content includes some low cut dresses and a bit of swearing. There is also mention of a young girl having a child out of wedlock, mention of a young woman being “damaged goods”, and that sort of thing.

All-in-all, I was disappointed in this version. Though interesting to watch a few times, for me it is not a definitive version. It doesn’t even come close, and there are some aspects of it that really detract from its enjoyableness, as far as I’m concerned.

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This is a review of Sense and Sensibility 2008 – movie version, adapted by Andrew Davies.

Screencap of Marianne’s letters from angelfish_icons. Publicity shots from Period Films.

Sense and Sensibility: 1995 Movie Adaptation

This is one of my reviews for the ‘Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011’ hosted by Laurel Ann of Austenprose. (Here is my introductory post: ‘By a Lady’.)

The 1995 movie version of Sense and Sensibility is an enjoyable film. It manages to be quite good, despite several odd elements.

In the movie, Elinor tells Margaret that “houses go from father to son … not from father to daughter”. The only reason that Norland went to their brother John is because their uncle entailed it to him. Otherwise Henry Dashwood would have been able to leave it to his wife and daughters, which he probably would have done since his son John already had a fortune left to him by his mother. There are plenty of women with property in the book. Mrs. Ferrars’s fortune is completely at her disposal, and she was able easily to cut Edward out of her will. She could have just as easily cut Robert out as well and left everything to Fanny (as Elinor suspected she might do after Robert married against Mrs. Ferrars’s wishes). Mrs. Smith (called Lady Allen in the movie) owns Allenham, which she plans on leaving to Willoughby. When he displeases her, however, she disinherits him. Even Mrs. Jennings has some money left her by her husband, and the elder Eliza Williams had such a large fortune that her guardian coerced her into marrying his elder son to get possession of it. The conversation between Elinor and Edward in the film, where she tells him that he will inherit his fortune, while she can’t even earn hers, is something of a continuation of this theme. Of course, Edward’s mother ends up disinheriting him (he does have two thousand pounds of his own, however), while, in the book at least, Elinor has a fortune of one thousand pounds from her uncle.

The other big oddity I noticed, was how poor the Dashwoods are made. In the movie they can’t afford beef or sugar. In the book they were poor, but not paupers. They couldn’t afford to keep a horse (with the subsequent expenses of another servant, a horse for the servant, &c.) and Mrs. Dashwood sold her carriage. However, in the book she actually considered building on to their cottage! If they were starving, or even having to go without beef and sugar, she would never have even thought about such an expense as building.

Another strange change that was made was dropping Willoughby’s visit to Cleveland to explain himself. This in itself isn’t so strange, as what they chose to put in instead. In the movie Colonel Brandon tells Elinor that he has learned from Lady Allen (i.e. Mrs. Smith) that Willoughby did mean to propose to Marianne. This is rather odd, as, in the first place, Willoughby never told Lady Allen that he was planning on proposing to Marianne. In the second place, if Lady Allen had known about Willoughby’s behaviour to Marianne, she would probably have let him marry her (in the book she forgives him and reinstates him as her heir because of his marriage to a woman of character). And, finally, what was Lady Allen doing telling Colonel Brandon about all of this anyway?

There are other changes. Marianne’s illness is made much more serious in the film than it was in the book — probably for dramatic effect. In the book, the doctor never thinks that Marianne is in any danger of dying. In a dramatic addition, Colonel Brandon is shown carrying an almost unconscious Marianne in the rain over a great distance into the house at Cleveland. Artistic license, I guess. Another interesting addition in this movie is a scene where Edward attempts to tell Elinor about his engagement — a scene which never takes place in the book. As is common in adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels, scenes have been added in an attempt to bring the heroes more to the front.

Of course, there are many deletions from the novel, to fit the movie into such a short time slot. A number of characters are dropped. Young Harry Dashwood, Lady Middleton and her children, and Anne Steele are all excluded, as is any reference to Colonel Brandon’s older brother. (That latter deletion changes Colonel Brandon’s back story a great deal as Eliza is made penniless to explain why he could not marry her.)

Quite a few scenes from the book are also edited, or simply dropped. Some of the ruder doings of Willoughby and Marianne, for example, are dropped (e.g. going to visit Allenham alone with Mrs. Smith/Lady Allen in the house). They are made self-absorbed enough, however, that those particular deletions are hardly noticeable.

On the positive side, this is a beautiful movie with some great acting. All of the actors were superb. As has been stated many times, Emma Thompson was much too old to play the part of nineteen year old Elinor Dashwood, but she does such a good job acting her, that it is not difficult to overlook this. Kate Winslet completely epitomized Marianne Dashwood. She is beautiful, charming, sweet, passionate, inconsiderate, honest, impulsive, pathetic, and everything else that Marianne is. The comic characters (e.g. Sir John Middleton, Mrs. Jennings, and Mr. and Mrs. Palmer) were fantastic. The men (Edward Ferrars, Colonel Brandon, and John Willoughby) were good, especially Greg Wise as Willoughby. Imogen Stubbs as Lucy Steele was perfect. I can’t think of a single character who was miscast. There have been complaints about Hugh Grant as Edward Ferrars, but I thought he did a fine job. Edward is supposed to be an awkward, reticent man.

The “chapter 2” scenes at the beginning, where Fanny Dashwood talks her husband out of helping his sisters, were done brilliantly. Mr. Palmer was wonderfully droll in his scenes. This movie is funny, as Jane Austen meant the story to be.

In The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries (New York: Newmarket Press, 1996), Emma Thompson, who wrote the screenplay of the film, stated, “In nearly all the weepy scenes I’ve tried to get one good joke. Less indulgent.” (p. 266). This is quite effective, balancing humour and pathos beautifully. An example of this is the scene where a heartbroken Marianne reads Willoughby’s letter to Elinor. Mrs. Jennings comes in and suggests olives as something that might cheer her up. Mrs. Jennings’s bumbling good-nature keeps the scene from wallowing in tears too much, without lessening the effectiveness of Marianne’s sorrow.

This movie is visually very beautiful. The costumes, the houses, the scenery — all are lovely. Several of the costumes are very pretty indeed, and the scenery in particular is gorgeous.

Bad content is minimal in this film. There are several low cut gowns, a mention of a young woman being “passed from man to man”, and of another young woman having a child out of wedlock. Marianne’s illness may be frightening for small children. A woman pinches another woman’s nose and chases her from the house, and Sir John calls a pointer bitch, a pointer bitch.

I probably spent as much time on the points I disliked in this film as on the parts that I approved, but taking everything into account, I do like this movie — and it is the only version of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ that I have seen that I can say that about.

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This is a review of Sense and Sensibility, 1995 movie version, adapted by Emma Thompson.

Sense and Sensibility: Marvel Illustrated

This is one of my reviews for the ‘Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011’ hosted by Laurel Ann of Austenprose. (Here is my introductory post: ‘By a Lady’.)

A review of Sense & Sensibility (Marvel Illustrated), adapted by Nancy Butler, illustrated by Sonny Liew.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I borrowed this book, as I have never read any comic books of this kind before. I was very pleasantly surprised, as it follows the novel much more closely than any other rewrite or film adaption I have ever read or viewed. A great deal of the dialogue is simply lifted from the novel! The rest follows the book very closely, and, though somewhat simplified or condensed, it is done quite tastefully. Where more dialogue was needed, it was often taken directly from the narration in Sense and Sensibility. There were a few odd changes. Instead of speaking of the poet Cowper, Marianne is portrayed as admiring Byron, a poet not even mentioned in the novel. Besides minor changes like that, however, it was very accurate. It’s mostly Sense and Sensibility — what more can I say?

The illustrations were okay. Some of the pictures were pretty, but I am not in general a fan of comic style drawings. For their style, however, I thought that they were fairly good. My biggest complaint is that for some reason they made Elinor bald in front. However, they were pretty enough. They were playful and portrayed the personalities of the characters well. They also seemed to portray the period suitably. I’m not a historian, but nothing struck me as particularly out of place.

Overall, I was quite impressed with this work.

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Sense and Sensibility, adapted from the novel by Jane Austen. Written by Nancy Butler, and illustrated by Sonny Liew. Contains material originally published in magazine form as SENSE & SENSIBILITY #1-5. ISBN-13:  978-0-7851-4819-7. Published by MARVEL WORLDWIDE, INC., a subsidiary of MARVEL ENTERTAINMENT, LLC. OFFICE OF PUBLICATION: 417 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10016. Copyright © 2010 Marvel Characters, Inc.

Sense and Sensibility: Screenplay & Diaries

This is one of my reviews for the ‘Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011’ hosted by Laurel Ann of Austenprose. (Here is my introductory post: ‘By a Lady’.)

This is a review of The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries by Emma Thompson (New York: Newmarket Press, 1996). Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for the 1995 movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility. She also acted the part of Elinor Dashwood in the movie. While filming the movie, Emma Thompson kept a diary of her experiences. This diary, along with the screenplay of the movie, make up the basis of this book. Also included in the book are an introduction by the movie’s producer Lindsay Doran, Emma Thompson’s speech upon accepting her award for best screenplay at the annual Golden Globe Awards on January 21, 1996, a prize-winning letter written in character by Imogen Stubbs (the actress who played Lucy Steele), and a list of the filming locations and the full cast and crew. This book is liberally illustrated with 91 photos, 36 of which are in full color — mostly stills from the film, along with a few “behind the scenes” photos.

The introduction by Lindsay Doran was engaging. She wrote of her introduction to Jane Austen, and her long-standing desire to make a film of her favorite of the novels, Sense and Sensibility. Emma Thompson’s humorous acceptance speech was written from Jane Austen’s point of view — “how she would react to an evening like this.” (p. 1). It ends,

P.S. Managed to avoid the hoyden Emily Tomkins who has purloined my creation and added things of her own. Nefarious creature.

“With gratitude and apologies to Miss Austen, thank you.”

The letter written by Imogen Stubbs was one of the best parts of this book. It was hilarious! Imogen Stubbs captured Lucy’s personality magnificently. “We’re asked to do homework for Ang,” Emma Thompson wrote. “This is also unusual. He wants character studies and sets a list of questions, mostly addressing background and ‘inner life’. Inner life is very important to him. Some actors react well to this, some don’t. But we all do it. Imogen Stubbs (Lucy Steele) wins prize for best effort in the form of a letter to Elinor from Lucy some years after their respective marriages.” (pp. 211-212). Imogen Stubbs’s letter certainly deserved the prize it got.

I enjoyed reading what the screenplay was before filming. It was interesting to notice how some parts ended being left out, while other bits were added in. There were some parts that I was glad they left out, such as the conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dashwood at the beginning:

MR DASHWOOD

Elinor will try to look after you all, but make sure she finds a good husband. The men are such noodles hereabouts, little wonder none has pleased her.

They smile at each other. MRS DASHWOOD is just managing to conceal her fear and grief.

MRS DASHWOOD

But Marianne is sure to find her storybook hero. ….

MR DASHWOOD

Margaret will go to sea and become a pirate so we need not concern ourselves with her. (pp. 27, 29)

It was too neat an introduction to the sisters right at the beginning. Another omission I approved is that of most of baby Thomas Palmer’s crying. His crying is amusing in the movie, but there is much more of it in the screenplay. Also, though it would have been amusing to watch, I think it was a good idea for them to delete this part of the last scene (Colonel Brandon and Marianne’s wedding): “According to the custom of the time, BRANDON throws a large handful of sixpences into the crowd …. One hits FANNY in the eye. She reels and falls over backwards into a gorse bush.” (p. 202). Yes, that was actually in the script!

There were some things in the screenplay that I wish they’d left in. They ended up leaving out quite a few of Mrs. Palmer’s lines.

[After Willoughby arrives at Barton Park for the picnic] CHARLOTTE nudges ELINOR. “I know Mr Willoughby extremely well — not that I ever spoke to him but I have seen him for ever in town. Your sister is monstrous lucky to get him. Mamma says Colonel Brandon is in love with her as well, which is a very great compliment for he hardly ever falls in love with anyone.” (p. 109)

Some of that can be heard in the background, but is not distinct. Also:

130 EXT. CLEVELAND. DRIVE. AFTERNOON.

The carriage stands outside the PALMER residence, a resplendent affair with a great deal of land. BRANDON is helping MARIANNE and ELINOR out of the carriage.

CHARLOTTE (V/O)

I am resolved never to mention Mr Willoughby’s name again, and furthermore I shall tell everyone I meet what a good-for-nothing he is. (p. 173)

I’ve very much enjoyed Imelda Staunton’s acting (she was also in 1996 ‘Twelfth Night’ as Maria, 1999 ‘David Copperfield’ as Mrs. Micawber, and 2007-2009 ‘Cranford’ as Miss Octavia Pole) and I would have loved to see her say some of these lines. They are actually from the book, too!

There is a funny scene that ended up being edited. After Lucy tells Fanny Dashwood about her engagement to Edward, there is a scene where “FANNY is trying to drag LUCY out of the house. ROBERT and JOHN are trying to reason with her. FANNY loses her grip and falls backwards. LUCY flings herself into ROBERT‘s arms. ROBERT falls over.” (p. 164). That would have been fun to watch!

I thought that Kate Winslet did an excellent job of portraying Marianne in the movie, and I think that she could have done justice to this scene, much of which was taken right from the book:

MARIANNE

If his [Willoughby’s] present regrets are half as painful as mine, he will suffer enough.

ELINOR

Do you compare your conduct with his?

MARIANNE

No. I compare it with what it ought to have been. I compare it with yours.

ELINOR

Our situations were very different.

MARIANNE

My illness has made me consider the past. I saw in my own behaviour nothing but imprudence — and worse. I was insolent and unjust to everyone —

ELINOR tries to stem the flow but MARIANNE continues.

MARIANNE

— but you — you I wronged above all. Only I knew your heart and its sorrows but even then I was never a grain more compassionate. I brought my illness upon myself — I wanted to destroy myself. And had I succeeded, what misery should I have caused you?

ELINOR embraces her. They stand with their arms round one another in silence for a moment. Then MARIANNE breaks away and speaks with great good humour and energy.

MARIANNE

I shall mend my ways! I shall no longer worry others nor torture myself. I am determined to enter on a course of serious study — Colonel Brandon has promised me the run of his library and I shall read at least six hours a day. By the end of the year I expect to have improved my learning a very great deal. (pp. 189-190)

There were other deletions. For example, When Colonel Brandon tells Elinor about how Willoughby seduced and abandoned his ward, there is mention of the duel (p. 155). There were also a series of scenes showing Colonel Brandon seeking and finding young Eliza (p. 115), sandwiched between the scene where Willoughby asks Marianne for a private interview on the morrow, and the scene where Margaret speculates in church whether or not he will kneel down when he proposes. Then there were additional scenes of Marianne pining for Willoughby after he leaves her at Barton — staring into space, spouting poetry, &c.

I also noticed that some conversation was added. For example, Willoughby and Marianne’s exchange, “I’m honoured that so fair and virtuous a lady should compromise her honour by seeing me to the gate unaccompanied.” “That is exactly what Elinor would say.” “And she would be right.” — is not in the screenplay.

Emma Thompson’s diaries were an interesting look at the process of making the film. However, they were pretty liberally sprinkled with vulgarity, along with plenty of bad language. Emma Thompson is not much like Elinor Dashwood — she lacks her refinement and delicacy. Besides those two things, however, there was much to interest. Emma Thompson wrote, “As each role gets cast, the fact of the shoot becomes increasingly concrete. I rewrite scenes with the actors in my head. At the end of March I go away for two weeks, try to forget about the script and think about Elinor. This diary begins on the first day of rehearsals.” (p. 211). It spans the time from Friday 7 April to Sunday 9 July.

The diary includes intriguing vignettes of Emma Thompson’s fellow actors and of the film crew. She wrote of the actor who played Sir John Middleton, “Robert Hardy brings the nineteenth century with him, he’s born out of his time. Courteous, intelligent and witty in tweed.” (pp. 240-241). Of the actor who plays Colonel Brandon, she wrote, “Sometimes Alan reminds me of the owl in Beatrix Potter’s Squirrel Nutkin. If you took too many liberties with him I’m sure he’d have your tail off in a trice.” (p. 241).

Then there were accounts of many amusing episodes along the way.

Wild a.m. trying to work out the blocking. Kate [Marianne] and Greg [Willoughby] sopping wet and brave. Set up a shot that was designed only to go to a certain point in the scene but as Ang [the director] didn’t cut we just carried on. At the end of the scene Phil said the lens was too pushed to contain anything but Ang said he’d just been watching the story — and he hadn’t cut simply because he’d been enjoying himself. ‘Try not to get into the habit,’ said Linds, worrying about film stock and costs. (pp. 236-237)

And then:

Greg has to drive in a carriage with two horses, make them stop on a pre-arranged mark, hold them steady while acting and getting Kate into her seat and then move them off as if he did such things every day of his life. …. Greg and Kate in the high-flyer were a wonderful sight — genuinely transported with excitement. Probably because it’s quite dangerous. (p. 238)

The director, Ang Lee, sent notes to the actors on their performances: “Kate tells me her first note from Ang was, ‘You’ll get better.’ I shrieked.” (p. 238). During one shoot, “I [Emma Thompson] played the scene tired and out of it. Ang likes it.” (p. 238). In getting ready to film one scene, the crew had flattened down the grass. It had to be fluffed up before they could shoot (p. 238). Of another occasion, Emma Thompson records, “The lawn is covered in daisies, which indicate the wrong season. Chris Newman asks all the members of the public who are watching to pick them off. Wonderful image as they all kneel obligingly and get to work.” (p. 255). Another interesting episode:

We’re working on the second scene between Willoughby and Marianne where they read the sonnet together. Difficult to give poetry reading a sexy hue in this day and age but what else can he do? Give her a massage? Must avoid twee. Oh, please don’t let any of it be twee, I’ll die. I’ll be assassinated by the Jane Austen Society (who rang James’s company in New York to complain about the casting of Hugh Grant as Edward — too good-looking apparently). (p. 244)

I think they managed to make it romantic enough. Emma Thompson wrote about why they had to change some things from the way they were written in the screenplay.

9.30 a.m. Still not shooting. Late start again. They [those in charge of Montacute, the house where they filmed the Cleveland scenes] refused to let us use the breakfast room yesterday so we re-set the scene of waiting for Dr Harris’s diagnosis in a great hall, which changed the nature of the scene entirely. Quite good really, because it’s tenser. It’s perhaps better for suspense that the Palmers are more nervous than I’ve suggested in the script. (p. 252)

The director was really into symbolism (see p. 208). Here is an example of what he liked:

Ang is thrilled with all of the topiary in the gardens [at Montacute, the location for Cleveland]. He had Marianne walking by this extraordinary wiggly hedge. Apparently it snowed one year and the snow froze the hedge. When the thaw came, they cut away the dead bits and continued to grow the hedge — in the shape of a wild snowdrift. It looks like a brain. ‘Sensibility,’ said Ang, pointing to it triumphantly. ‘And sense,’ he continued, pointing in the other direction towards a very neat line of carefully trimmed flowerpot-shaped bushes. (p. 253)

I found it interesting that Emma Thompson was worried about the wedding at the end appearing to be a double wedding.

Finished wedding. Happiness. Two cameras, ours and a steadicam (which is strapped to the body of the operator and offers more mobility), to cover the procession — much like a pantomime walk-down, actually — of Marianne and Brandon out of the church, followed by Mrs Dashwood, Margaret, Elinor and Edward (who are supposed to be already married but I can’t help feeling that it will look like a double wedding. Depressing thought — too neat) . . . Mrs Jennings and Sir John, the Palmers, John and Fanny. It’s Alan’s first day and his last appearance in the movie. Rather confusing. (pp. 230-231)

When I first watched the movie as a child, I thought that it was indeed a double wedding. It wasn’t until I was older and had read the book, that I realized that that probably wasn’t how it was intended to look.

The second to last entry, Friday 7 July, pp. 279-280:

Last day of shoot. ….

I just grinned from ear to ear all evening. All within Elinor’s breast was strong, silent satisfaction (it’s in the book).

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Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries by Emma Thompson (New York: Newmarket Press, 1996).

Sense and Sensibility: Colonel Brandon’s Diary

This is one of my reviews for the ‘Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011’ hosted by Laurel Ann of Austenprose. (Here is my introductory post: ‘By a Lady’.)

Colonel Brandon’s Diary by Amanda Grange is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility from Colonel Brandon’s point of view. His diary begins shortly before his father forces his ward, Eliza Williams, an heiress, to marry his eldest son — Colonel Brandon’s elder brother. James Brandon, as Amanda Grange names the Colonel, has been in love with Eliza ever since he can remember, and she with him. James Brandon has just arrived at Delaford from Oxford for his holidays. Ten days later he is banished to the home of his Aunt Isabella after attempting to elope with Eliza. James’s father intends her — or her fortune — for his elder son, and, until he gains his point, James is banished and Eliza is shut up. It only takes a month of unkindness and seclusion to break Eliza down and she is married to Henry. After such treatment, James is determined not to live off his father’s money, so he leaves Oxford and purchases a commission in the army, and, less than a year later, he finds himself “on a ship bound for the Indies”1. Soon after, James’s father dies. In India, James attempts to forget his tragedies. A letter from his sister, however, informing him that their brother has divorced Eliza2 brings it all before him again. December 9, 1782, he is again in England—“at last able to take some leave”3 —and devotes himself to finding Eliza. He finally finds her4 dying of consumption in a debtors’ prison. He pays her debts and cares for her until her death,5 and then takes guardianship of her only child, a little girl also named Eliza Williams. July 9, 1792, James is informed of the death of his elder brother, and leaves India for England for good. There he meets Marianne Dashwood and her family.6

Colonel Brandon’s back story is told in one chapter (S&S, Ch. 31) of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. In Colonel Brandon’s Diary, his back story is fleshed out to fill nearly half (about 3/7ths) of the book. On December 21, 1782, in the midst of his search for Eliza, Brandon is introduced to Sir John Middleton.7 In his August 26, 1796 entry is the first mention of the Dashwoods,8 who, at that point, have yet to arrive at Barton.

Much of the dialogue is, of course, simply lifted from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Some of her narration, including descriptions of places, is also lifted and presented as coming from Colonel Brandon. There are a few errors that come up in the transition. For example, when Edward Ferrars becomes engaged to Elinor Dashwood, Mrs. Jennings claims that she never connected his name with Margaret’s claim that her sister’s beau’s name began with an “F”. In Sense and Sensibility, on the other hand, it is stated, “With the assistance of his mother-in-law, Sir John was not long in discovering that the name of Ferrars began with an F. and this prepared a future mine of raillery against the devoted Elinor, which nothing but the newness of their acquaintance with Edward could have prevented from being immediately sprung.” (S&S, Ch. 18) After Edward’s visit, however “they had never dined together without his drinking to her best affections with so much significancy and so many nods and winks, as to excite general attention. The letter F—had been likewise invariably brought forward, and found productive of such countless jokes, that its character as the wittiest letter in the alphabet had been long established with Elinor.” (S&S, Ch. 21)

This is the second time that I have read Colonel Brandon’s Diary, and I actually enjoyed it a little more this time (in general, I do not particularly enjoy “fanfic”). It is not Jane Austen, but rather “fanfic”, however, as such, it is fairly good. It does not attempt too much, and is not overly dramatic or sentimental, but suitably restrained, as a man’s diary ought to be. Naturally, Amanda Grange gives Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood rather more conversation than Sense and Sensibility implies that they have. She also has Marianne fall in love with Colonel Brandon before he proposes to her. One thing, though, that I thought was odd was that Amanda Grange has Colonel Brandon propose to Marianne on September 11, 1797 (the same day that that she has Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars marry) but does not have them marry until October 7, 1798 — over a year later. To appropriate a “silent ejaculation” of Mrs. Jennings’: “This is very strange!—sure he need not wait to be older.” (S&S, Ch. 39)

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Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from Colonel Brandon’s Diary by Amanda Grange (Thorndike Press, 2008), printed in the United States of America, Large Print edition.

1 March 24, 1779, p. 82.

2 May 24, 1781, p. 93.

3 December 9, 1782, p. 96.

4 June 27, 1783, p. 114.

5 August 15, 1783, p. 120.

6 September 9, 1796, pp. 158-162.

7 December 21, 1782, p. 109.

8 August 26, 1796, p. 151.

Sense and Sensibility: Real Reads

This is my second review for the ‘Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011’ hosted by Laurel Ann of Austenprose. (Here is my introductory post: ‘By a Lady’.)

I must admit that I enter this bewildering adult world with some trepidation. After two years of watching the confusion, intrigues, and intense emotions of my sisters’ paths to true love, I cannot help but feel apprehensive about what the next few years might hold in store for me.

Two months ago, when all the heartbreak ended and my second happily married sister left home, I wasn’t sure how to fill my time. Now, however, I have decided upon a project. I am going to write it all down, just as I saw it unfold.” (pp. 7-8)

This Real Read version of Sense and Sensibility is a retelling of Jane Austen’s novel for children. It is retold by Gill Tavner and illustrated by Ann Kronheimer. The story is told from the point of view of fifteen year old Margaret Dashwood, written after her sisters are married. Since this retelling is for children, I thought that it was a clever idea to make Margaret the narrator. It does, however, necessitate her overhearing and knowing things that she is unaware of in the novel. Notably, she overhears Lucy telling Elinor about her engagement to Edward, and she accompanies Mrs. Jennings to London along with her sisters. Amazon recommends this book for ages 9-12. I think that it would be rather below the reading level of most twelve year olds that I know, so I’d recommend it more for the younger end of that range. A twelve year old would still probably enjoy it, it just wouldn’t challenge them.

Told by Margaret, the story portrays her as initially more in tune with her romantic sister Marianne. When leaving Norland, the two of them are shown hugging trees together. “We pressed our cheeks against their trunks, the rain running down then mingling with our tears.” (p. 8) Elinor exhorts them, “Marianne, Margaret, we must control our emotions for Mama’s sake.” (p. 9) Marianne replies, “Oh, unfeeling Elinor … you have not our strength of feeling, or you could not be so calm.” (p. 9) Throughout the story, Margaret comes to understand and admire Elinor’s courage and self-control, observing how Marianne’s self-absorbed grief keeps her from noticing the sorrow of others. “I was gradually learning that it is sometimes necessary to control our emotions for the sake of others.” (p. 34)

I like how the characters and choices of the persons in the story are the focus of this retelling. It would be easy to simplify the story into just a love story, but the novel is so much more. (Not that I want to downplay the romance.) Naturally, much of the original events have been abbreviated, condensed, and combined to fit the shorter format. As a result, the story becomes very fast paced. (The book is only 64 pages long, and only pages 7-54 of those are the actual story, large print and generously illustrated.) Some things are just left out. Though she does fall down on a hill, there is no mention of Marianne’s ankle being sprained, and we never learn why Willoughby left Marianne, though Margaret surmises, “Even if this dissipated, selfish man had truly loved Marianne, he had always intended to marry for money rather than for love” (p. 44).

Some interesting choices were made. For example, instead of cutting Lucy Steele’s sister Anne out of the story, she was combined with Lucy, making her both conniving and vulgar. It works well, however, keeping Lucy’s meanness without sacrificing the humor provided by Anne. Colonel Brandon’s story is much curtailed. His ward, Eliza, was “the daughter of a dear friend” (p. 43). Her story is reduced to Colonel Brandon telling Elinor, “I found Eliza in great distress. Her innocence had been seduced, false promises made, a child born, and she completely abandoned and disgraced.” (p. 44) All in all, I think that the condensing was done tastefully, though I was bothered by one departure from a character’s personality. To condense Marianne’s writing to Willoughby, she is presented as lying about who she is writing to, telling her sisters, “I must write to Mama” (p. 35). This, I thought, was grossly out of character. In general, however, I thought the characters, though simplified, were much the same. Elinor is self-controlled, Marianne is passionate, Edward is gentle, Willoughby is enthusiastic, Colonel Brandon is grave, and Sir John and Mrs. Jennings are cheerful match-makers.

Some of the language in the story seemed odd and out of place, even laughable. Such as when Marianne learns of Edward’s engagement and  marriage (she learns of his marriage and his engagement at the same time in this book) to Lucy. Marianne asks Elinor, “You mean you have known for four months? … How have you coped?” (p. 45) When Edward tells the Dashwoods that Lucy married his brother Robert, “Elinor squeaked, ran from the room, and burst into tears. Edward followed her.” (p. 50) Squeaked‽ [Edit: ‘Squeaked’ is actually a printer’s error.*] Some of it was quite funny and clever, though. For example, the account of Lucy’s marriage to Robert: “When news of their [Edward and Lucy’s] secret engagement had finally reached his mother’s ears, she was furious. She immediately cut him out of her will, leaving him nothing. She would now leave all her money to Edward’s younger brother, Robert, who had always been her favorite. Being wealthy, he soon became Lucy’s favorite too.” (p. 52)

I was pleased, too, with how many of the phrases used reflected Jane Austen’s original, and how little details from the novel, like Margaret losing her dinner, were incorporated. Compare these quotes, one from the novel and the other from the retelling:

This only need be said;—that when they all sat down to table at four o’clock, about three hours after his arrival, he had secured his lady, engaged her mother’s consent, and was not only in the rapturous profession of the lover, but, in the reality of reason and truth, one of the happiest of men. (Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 49)

When we all sat down to a very pleasant afternoon tea only three hours after Edward’s arrival, he had secured his lady, engaged Mama’s consent, and declared himself the happiest of men. (p.51)

And when telling of Marianne and Colonel Brandon’s engagement, Margaret writes, “Unable to do anything by halves, she has grown to love passionately a man on the wrong side of thirty-five who occasionally wears a flannel waistcoat.” (p. 53)

The ending is cute (spoiler ahead): “Now they [Edward & Elinor and Colonel Brandon & Marianne] all live close together, a short distance from Barton. As I said at the beginning, we spend a great deal of time there. We will be traveling again tomorrow. Before that, tonight, Sir John Middleton is throwing a party. He is eager to introduce me to a distant cousin of his. Mrs. Jennings is sure that I’ll like him.” (p. 54)

The illustrations are cartoon style, which is not my favorite. They are pretty, however. Despite the picture on the cover resembling the 1995 movie version of Sense and Sensibility, the illustrations inside are in no way copies of the movie. I was particularly amused by the depiction of Miss Grey (pp. 38-39) and of Marianne’s sorrow after receiving Willoughby’s letter (p. 40). I don’t think that Marianne was being so melodramatic at that point, but the illustration is cute.

In the back of the book, there is a section “For Further Information”. (It includes information about the original novel, background information about Jane Austen’s times and the subjects she was writing about, a list of “Food for thought” with “Critical thinking questions”, “Themes”, and “Style”, as well as a recommended reading list.) It details most of the changes made from the original story, giving details from the novel. “The loss of so many of Jane Austen’s original words is a sad but necessary part of the shortening process. We have had to make some difficult decisions, omitting subplots and details, some important, some less so, but all interesting. … The points below will fill in some of the gaps, but nothing can beat the original.” Of course I whole-heartedly agree, but this book does a good job of what it sets out to do.

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All quotes with their page numbers are taken from Sense and Sensibility (Real Reads), retold by Gill Tavner, illustrated by Ann Kronheimer (New York: Windmill Books, 2009. ISBN: 1607541432).

*The author, Gill Tavner, has informed me that ‘squeaked’ is a printer’s error. The word should be ‘squealed’.