Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sense and Sensibility - the new movie

I loved it last year when I watched it during the PBS orgy on Austen. I loved the cottage on the green hill and the crashing waves and darling Edward and handsome Brandon and thought Elinor and Marianne and the rest of the characters were played wonderfully.

I still think all that, but there are some things this time round that bug me that I glossed over last year in the rapture of a new good adaptation to watch. I don't care for the first meeting between Willoughby and Brandon--while it's obvious they know each other, they seem to hate each other (ala Wickham/Darcy) and I think this weakens the story because Brandon doesn't yet know that Willoughby has seduced his ward--at this point, they should just not care for each other, not actually hate each other.

The biggest part I don't care for, though, is the scene where Willoughby visits Cleveland while Marianne is ill. I know I am in the minority in feeling that Willoughby is pitiful in this scene and Elinor shows incredible compassion by pitying him and forgiving him. I wish Davies had used the dialogue that Austen created in S&S instead of rewriting it. It diminishes Elinor as a truly noble character in my opinion. Forgiveness is a rare virtue, and Davies robs Elinor of much of what Austen bestowed upon her.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the mini-series. Now I have to rewatch the Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet version.


  1. I have been re-watching both versions in recent weeks (with S&S1 somewhere in the house gathering dust in VHS purgatory) and I am torn. I like them both for different reasons.

    I prefer the actors in S&S2, but prefer the script in S&S3... but then, in some ways I felt that Davies drew on the Thompson script, so, that basically cancels out what I previously said. :-) Let me just say they each have their own merits.

    I did not like the Willoughby part in 3 at all, either. I especially did not care for Marianne appearing at the top of the stairs at that moment... she is supposed to be at death's door, but no, she just pops up out of bed.

  2. I totally agree, Theresa, with all your points. I think Davies really stole the Ang Lee Margaret--both versions had charming Margarets, especially she is almost a non-entity in the book.

    Greg Wise is still Willoughby, though, I did like David Morrissey better than Rickman as Brandon :)

  3. Two excellent points. I also thought that the seduction scene at the opening credits was pure sexploitation. But that's Davies.

    Thanks for the great post

  4. I have mixed feelings about that opening scene, LA. I think the gritty parts of Austen are all too easy to gloss over, leaving many readers with the impression that she lived a life sheltered from knowing, as Elinor and Brandon discuss with regards to Marianne, much about the "ways of the world." In the Davies interview included on the DVD, he defends this scene, and I think makes a good case (apart from appealing to a modern crowd).

  5. I much prefer the Ang Lee version. The seduction scene right at the beginning of this one was a little unnerving as I was watching it with my daughter, who was ten at the time, and didn't know how much sex Davies was going to put in this version (especially as it had a U rating). Having said that, yes, it's usually glossed-over in most Austen adaptations, and this is Andrew Davies, the man who put Darcy in a wet shirt! He has to try and go for a different angle, or it's not worth doing. But I think the Ang Lee version is the definitive one, much as the Andrew Davies version of Pride & Prejudice is the definitive one.
    I just wish Davies would do a version of Mansfield Park - it's my favourite Austen novel, and hasn't really had a really decent adaptation, yet.

  6. While I definitely see some of the problems explored here are legitimate, I personally dislike Wilhoughby so much that I enjoy Elinor's takedown of him in this version. Plus, in my reading, Davies really only restructures Austen's words, rather than adding anything. Perhaps my liking of the way the scene works in the series is based on my anger at a certain critics' rather disgusting opinion that Wilhoughby emotionally seduces Elinor in that scene, and her forgiveness isn't moral victory but moral turptitude. Which is, of course, the wrong way to take a scene, by letting a critic dictate it for me. But I've only reread the book once, after three false starts, and that was after the series came out and persuaded me that it was worth it again.