One of my tasks for the Everything Austen Challenge, has been rewatching Sense & Sensibility in the two adaptations I have in my DVD collection. I compared the two versions and found them different but equally beautiful, accurate and effective. The 1995 film starring Emma Thomson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Greg Wise and Alan Rickman was the first I saw and is the one I know best – I’ve seen it so many times! The more recent BBC 2008 three-part series has just renewed my appreciation of this great story with new awesome locations and very good actors: Hattie Morahan, Charity Wakefield, David Morrissey, Dominic Cooper, Dan Stevens, Mark Williams, Janet McTeer , Mark Gatiss.

My ideal cast

 I want to make it clear first, that I consider the actors I’m not going to mention - just for fun – all very good, I'm only trying to imagine what it would be like if I could have the ones I liked best from the two different casts:

I'd love to see Kate Winslet and Greg Wise as Elinor and Edward, as they would be too mature as Marianne and Willoughby now ; then Charity Wakefield and Dan Stevens as Marianne & Willoughby and, finally, David Morissey as Colonel Brandon . Just a game. Try to do the same. What would your ideal S&S cast be? You could put in new names , if you wish.

As I told you, it is not that I don’t like Hugh Grant ( I loved him in About a boy, Bridget Jones films, Notting Hill, etc.) but simply I didn’t like his Edward Ferrars. Too stiff and clumsy. As for Emma Thomson, she is such a talented actress! Only, maybe, she was … too old an Elinor? She didn’t just fit my ideal Elinor Dashwood? I don’t exactly know why, but I preferred Hattie Morahan as Elinor while re-watching them in these days. Ok. It’s just a game. Thomson’s , Rickman’s & Grant’s fans, please, don’t feel offended because I really “think highly” of them, I do appreciate their talent!

Some reflections on S&S

These are the notes I took while re-watching the two S&S and while leafing , once more, through my favourite parts of the book.

Comedy or tragedy?
- It is meant to be “comedy” with its irony and love stories but it opens rather tragically on the descent to poverty of the Dashwood sisters. Though narrated through JA ‘s light touch, what Elinor, Marianne, Margaret and their mother live, is a real shocking tragedy: Mr Dashwood, their father/husband is dying and he knows his patrimony is due to be inherited by his only son from a previous marriage, John. He knows life will be very hard for his second family, daughters and wife, if John doesn’t help them.

Due to John’s wife’s influence, he won’t help them as much as he could or had to. The girls lose their father and their welfare all at once. They have to live their home and move far in the countryside.

Conformist or rebellious?

Jane Austen is usually consider quite a conformist writer: she agrees with the code of good manners and propriety, she accepts social roles and respects rank . But I’m sure she, instead, couldn’t bear so many things of the society she belonged to and she would have protested, if she could, much more openly against all that. What do I mean? For instance, the laws regulating inheritance, which were terribly discriminating toward women. Daughters and wives were victims of social/economic discrimination, they had no rights. Estates were entailed on male heirs, patrimonies were inherited by sons; if a woman, anyhow, owned a patrimony her husband took it over once they got married. Women were forbidden to get a living from a profession: working was considered dishonourable if they were of a good family. I’m sure Jane didn’t easily accept such unequal rules. Can’t you feel her rage beyond her bitter irony?
Romance or social criticism?
While we live Elinor’s and Marianne’s tormented romances, while we sigh at Elinor’s silent sorrow at watching Edward keep his promise to Lucy Steele , while we deeply feel for Marianne’s sorrowful disappointment at being turned down by her beloved Willoughby, we learn a lot about the restrictive social conventions which certainly made Jane Austen angry and willing to satirize the country gentry and their stiff clich├ęs and good manners.

Willoughby, Brandon or Edward ?

 I love, really love… Willoughby. I had always imagined him just like Wickham in P&P 2005: long blond haired with blue eyes. But I went on loving him also when he got to have Greg Wise’s handsome face and wavy black hair in 1995 or Dominic Cooper’s fresh, saucy look in S&S 2008. Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon, though morally impeccable, are a bit … grey and flat characters if compared to John Willoughby’s vivacity, complexity and roundness. Are you sure JA meant to draw the stereotype of the unscrupulous libertine with him? I’m not that sure. I especially love the final scene in the book – included in 2008 TV series but not in 1995 film – in which Willoughby visits Elinor and tries to apologize, to make his reasons clear, to make her and her sister hate him less. I, just like Elinor, can’t avoid feeling sorry for him. I go on imagining him on his horse, watching down to Marianne’s life from a solitary hill, sad face, sad look, just like handsome Greg Wise at the end of 2005 movie. I know, most of you won’t agree with me but … you know, it’s fatal attraction, you must forgive me .

Marianne or Elinor?

As for the two sisters, they represent two completely attitudes to life, the two completely different outlooks on life at Jane’s time: classicism (Elinor) and romanticism (Marianne). Though Austen wants us to take Elinor as our model - sensible, reasonable, generous, self-controlled, balanced, great strength and unaltered will-power through hardship – I love, really love, Marianne. Mind you, I’ve never been like her. I’ve always been more like her elder sister , only… I strongly admire this 17-year-old girl’s temper. Austen’s message is an open condemnation of romantic ideals, Marianne is almost killed by her strong disillusionment. Despite all that, I’ve always envied her the beautiful romance she lives with Willoughby – I’m sure she’ll never forget him and will always think of him while devoutly looking after old Colonel Brandon . I’ve always thought Marianne as one of the best heroines I’ve ever met in novels: so full of impetuses , ideals and poetry and, at the same time, so contemptuous of those who can’t abandon themselves totally - like her- to their own feelings and emotions, so excessive both in her love and in her sorrow, so fragile and lively at the same time,


S&S greatest fan

To close in the right mood for a wonderful Saturday Night and an even more wonderful Sunday, I need a bit of fun and a bit of RA. You can find both in this hilarious clip.
Geraldine Granger, better known as the Vicar of Dibley, is one of S&S greatest fans! She's there just  re-watching the movie , when someone incredibly charming and very kind knocks at her door ...


Anonymous said...

Well, I agree about Huggo's Edward, but I agree to disagree about Alan Rickman: he IS the real Brandon. Period.
If you hadn't managed to put a smile on my face by posting the absolutely hilarious clip from the VoD, it would have been the end of a brief - but intense - friendship *broad grin*
Have a nice Sunday,
take care,
your ex friend KB ;-P

Maria Grazia said...

No, please, forgive me,KB!I'll try, like Marianne, to reconsider him and his high qualities and, maybe, in the end, I'll come to love him deeply! Though, I'd never marry him...
Your devoted friend

Table Talk said...

One of the things I find interesting about Austen adaptations is the way in which they always reflect the society that has adapted them. I had a syudent some years ago who compared two TV adaptations of 'Pride and Prejudice' and it was very apparent that they said more about the time in which they were adpated than they did about Austen.

Maria Grazia said...

@Table Talk
I've quickly read your post about The Comedy of Errors. I love it. Tv adaptations reflects more the time they are made ... You're right, Interesting point, Ann. Thanks for dropping by and contributing.Happy Sunday!Big Hug.

JaneGS said...

I am with you completely with regards to Willoughby. I find the scene in which he visits Cleveland to be wrenching, and Elinor becomes a great character in that scene by being compassionate to him. I have argued with many Janeite friends over the years with regards to Willoughby, but I will always believe that he loved Marianne and learned that actions have consequences too late. I've always said that if Elinor can forgive him, so can I.

Maria Grazia said...

@Jane GS
And if you and Elinor can, I CAN too!
I love Marianne and Willoughby's story so much. Thanks, Jane!

Mulubinba said...

I see I'm going to have to watch Sense and Sensibility! (BTW: I absolutely love the VoD scene with Geraldine and Harry!!).

Maria Grazia said...

I love it too! They're are a great pair in those episodes of VoD! I laugh a lot each time I see them! Have you never seen Sense & Sensibility? You must see it then! Thanks for commenting!

ibmiller said...

Lovely post! I myself prefer the 2008 film, and wouldn't recast any of them. But I do also enjoy the 1995 film.

Maria Grazia said...

You see, ibmiller, from the results of the polls we are minority but I don't mind. Thanks for passing by and contributing!

Luciana said...

I do prefer the 1995 movie, but for more that I like Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant I didn't like them as Elinor and Edward. About both Brandons: neither of them really catch my attention, I mean, I've imagined a Brandon very different from those two when I read the book and I don't know who actually could be MY Brandon. About Willoughby: I've mixed feelings about him, I need to re-read S&S to get him. But I understand what you mean about him, that happened to me with Henry Crawford. COME ON! Who cares for Edmund Bertram? HC totally rocks! He trully loved Fanny, he was just a little... It's his uncle's fault anyway... I adore VoD! And this scene is one of my favourites! The proposal where Geraldine does that awful noise is very funny too!

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit late in catching up with this posting, Maria, but really enjoyed reading it. I am very fond of both versions of S&S (and I also quite like the older BBC version with Tracey Childs as Marianne), but I think I still slightly prefer the Emma Thompson film. I love Thompson as Elinor and Hugh Grant as Edward - his awkwardness makes him all the better in the role for me - then again, he is one of my favourite actors, so no surprises there, really.:) Judy

Maria Grazia said...

I like Hugh Grant very much. I loved his performances in many of his movies. He is a brilliant actor, but I didn't manage to love nor like his Edward Ferrars. Can you forgive me? ;-)

Unknown said...

While I adore Emma Thompson, I thought she was too old to play Elinor too. I couldn't help it.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry, I know this post is already a few years old but I really need to comment on it! I love Willoughby, too!! And no janeite seemed to understand that ever, so I was really happy to read that you liked him as well! He is just the one for Marianne - they're both into poetry and they're both passionate. Colonel Brandon could never be like that, even if he reads to her nicely. And yes- he is too old for her! I also agree that Emma Thompson was already too old for that role, though she is one of the greatest actresses(I loved the noise she made when she found out about Edward not being married) by the way. But Kate Winslet is and will always be the perfect cast for Mariannne. Since I've seen that movie, I can always see her while reading about Marianne.
Thank you so much for all your posts, I love both your blogs!
Love, Eva (Germany)