Jane Austen Marathon

My sister, Pilar, was in a mood yesterday — happy, but bored, floating around the house, poking me in the ribs, doing whatever she could to entertain herself.

This boredom led her to throw on Mansfield Park (from 1999), a movie she and I both love. Though the movie follows the plot of the book, one could argue that the additions and subtractions to the movie don’t necessarily follow the spirit of the book. The movie drops some of the propriety, revealing some playfulness, and slips in some commentary on the slave trade, which as I recall doesn’t exist in the book. I can see why these things might bother die hard Austen fans, but I enjoy the choice of actors in the movie and the style of cinematography, so I think the movie stands as a great movie on it’s own, as a story separate from the book.

Next up my sister threw Persuasion (2007) into the DVD player, because it’s her new favorite Austen movie and she insisted that I see it. I haven’t read the book, but I need to. The story is unusual, because the two main characters know each other already, because Anne Elliot was persuaded by family and friends to drop her engagement to Mr. Wentworth, who had little fortune at the time. Eight years later, their paths cross again, and there is a large share of hurt and awkwardness and cruelty between them. I love these kinds of stories, because there’s something so fascinating to me about existing intimacies, as opposed to new flirtations.

The style of the movie is great. Many scenes involve our heroine sitting with her back to a group of people talking. They speak, either not knowing she can hear or not realizing that their words affect her, but the angle of the camera draws us into her space as outsider, and it’s very moving. Also, the ending = love.

Since we were already on a role with the Jane Austen movies, we decided to keep it up. So we put in Sense and Sensibility, the BBC miniseries from 2008. My sister is still very much attached to the Kate Winslet/Emma Thompson version from 1995, which I also enjoy. But despite the shocking (and unnecessary) opening sequence, I ended up falling in love with this new miniseries. The actresses are younger, closer to the ages of the actual characters in the books. It’s kind of a quieter depiction, the acting more subtle, though it’s been ages since I’ve seen the 1995 version. This miniseries actually made me believe that Marianne Dashwood could fall for Colonel Brandon, something other versions couldn’t do. So, yeah, fantastic.

We intended to conclude the night with the 2005 movie version of Pride & Prejudice, with Keira Knightley and Mathew Macfayden (another one I love for being exactly what it is, even if it doesn’t follow the book exactly). However Sense and Sensibility was longer than I thought it would be and by then it had got too late in the evening.

It was a great night of Jane Austen movies, though, and my sister and I had a great time chatting about the books and movies. We have another night planned of watching first Becoming Jane, followed by Miss Austen Regrets. I’d also like to do a marathon of watching several versions of Pride and Prejudice in a row, though that would be an all day event if the miniseries is included.