Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Sensible Sense and Sensibility

By Miss DePoint, The Pleasant Times Movie Critic
Willoughby Begs a Lock of Marianne Dashwood's Hair
Willoughby Begs a Lock of Marianne Dashwood's Hair Giclee Print
Brock, C.e.
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I am going to say something that will sicken those who think that they have had quite enough of Jane Austen.

For those of you who have seen all the adaptations there can be of this movie, I give you permission to skip my rantings and ravings. 

I have viewed yet another adaptation of Sense and Sensibility: The 1981 BBC miniseries (Yes, I know, it is old; some of you weren't even born then!). It is not as good quality filming, true; and the colors are rather faded and there is no dramatic music; but I thought it was worth a look.

Now I will say something that will astonish my friends: I think it is the best one yet!

The BEST Marianne I have seen yet is in this 1981 adaptation. Sense and Sensibility fans need to watch this Marriane for themselves, and see if they come to the same conclusion. The actress gives us all the impressions of youth, of a head that is full of misguided poetical romantic notions, of childish prejudice, and she is a better at crying than the 2007 Marriane. But most of all (shock coming--) she's modest. And that makes more sense to me... if I were her mother, I wouldn't let her go out as uncovered as the 1995 Marriane was. 

This adaptation also made it clear that Elinor liked to draw and paint, and really showed the level-head and good sense of her character, coupled with the doubts and trials of her situation and her inexperience of youth. In many scenes she was too pale, I think, looking much like a wax doll. I think the film needs to be updated with some color enhancement. I liked this Elinor a lot, even though she couldn't cry very convincingly.

Even though the Edward in this version has gone out of style- they all look much more "dashing" these days- he was the best Edward portrayal I have seen yet. The filmmakers took the time to establish more of a relationship between he and Elinor, as they did in the '07 series, yet  I think this actor did a much better job of making his character count in the film. One gets the feeling that there may be some substance to this character, in the short amount of time we see him; and he seems quiet and sober, which suits Elinor. 

The mother happens to be the best portrayal of the mother I have seen, too. She isn't so depressed as the other Mrs. Dashwoods have been. She has a way of seeming cheerful under the circumstances that she has been put in. She seemed to be portrayed here as having sense, even though we are told in the book that she was not unlike Marriane. 

There were some liberties taken with the film; some details were changed or left out, for instance, and Margeret's character has been left out entirely. But that didn't really matter to me... she didn't figure too prominently in the book, and all the modern films have done is use her to show that somehow girls in Jane Austen's day were oppressed and didn't have a hope of growing up to be a sea captain or soldier. Leaving her out was probably cheaper for the producers, but it didn't seem to hurt the story to have her gone. 

The "fall" scene where Willoughby rescues Marriane left out the rain storm, but we can forgive that for the introduction of a really well done Willoughby. MUCH better than Mr. Frog from the '07 version, and younger than the 1995 Willoughby, though Greg Wise is hard to top in that role.

Colonel Brandon at first did not seem interesting, but stay with him during the story, and you will find that he is very kind and gentle.  He was a gentleman through and through. You may like him by the end, though he does seem too old for Marianne.

The other characters in the book show up here, as in the 2007 version-- Sir John and his wife Lady Middleton, Mrs. Jennings, and the Dashwood and Ferrars family, as well as the Miss Steeles. I was not impressed too much with the Miss Steeles. I would have to watch it again to see if they improve with time. Some may find the other characters disappointing or lacking humor. If you aren't familiar with the book or watching the film carefully, you may be confused by the introduction of all these people. 

I liked John and Fanny Dashwood better in this version, their characters seemed closer to the book. I did not like Fanny's hysterical screaming, but when one has read some of Jane Austen's juvenile works, one could see how she would laugh at the ridiculous over-the-top fainting and screaming.  

There isn't as much scenery as in other films, and not a great variety of costumes, but I did like some of the details of the dresses. 

This series takes some quiet and calm time to view. Put up your feet in the evening and get a cup of tea. Beyond Fanny's screaming, there isn't a lot of really highly noisy or stressful drama, and it takes more concentration to watch this series as it moves slower than a modern movie. 

Favorite Scenes: When Elinor dumps Marriane off the see-saw, it was rather amusing. I also liked the scenes with Elinor and Edward. 
Least Favorite Scenes: Fanny Screaming!
Who would I like to invite to Tea? Mrs. Dashwood. 
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