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Book to Film: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen


By far the more stormy and bittersweet of Austen's books, Sense and Sensibility kept me torn between the two sisters' acute pain in their leap to romantic love among other things.

Bereft of Norland Park in the death of Mr. Dashwood, the second Mrs. Dashwood and her three unmarried daughters moved to a cottage in the far countryside. There they settled into spare comforts and little entertainment for company.

With their fall on the social ladder, the Dashwood sisters struggle to find acceptance and in their own ways reach out, though almost futile, to claim their happiness. I could not help but be drawn to the quiet steadfastness of Elinor but at the same time I am swept by the unreserved Marianne who goes after her passions.

There is much turmoil of emotions seeping in the story with its sense of realism among the characters, the plot and between the romances. It downplays the idealistic notions and felicity felt mostly in other Austen works. Not all love stories are quite perfect with an absolute happy endings and Sense and Sensibility shows that like a page taken out of real life.


Austen displays here the natural imperfections, and perhaps the inevitable responses, of people gripped by consequences of their own making. She did not romanticize their pain and their love but whipped it into a maelstrom of broken pieces and mended hearts.

The sisters are perhaps the strongest characters in the book, and dare I say even more than the men they professed to love. Fanny's edge (and Lucy Steele) could only be boiled down to their subtle manipulation. Edward, Willoughby and Cor. Brandon couldn't almost take a chance and pursue their own wants; they are either bound to duty or desperate need or old grief consecutively. John Dashwood, well, I'd say never you mind.


Marianne's character reluctantly tugged at me in that there's something wistful about her story. She is like a flame that burns so bright, the kind that exhausts itself until it burns out and if it ever lights back, it'd merely flicker. I've read the book twice now and I'm still aching for her, for the choices left to her and even then, I could only think that may hap it was for the best. And Willoughby's sentiments almost, almost made me a little sad.


The 1995 film adaptation by Emma Thompson and directed by Ang Lee brought out stellar actors and actresses to grace the beloved period drama. The men are very remarkable like straight out of the book; Grant with his natural stiffness as Edward, Wise and his gregarious attitude as Willoughby and Rickman with his tortured expressions as Cor. Brandon. I must commend Hugh Laurie with his brilliant satire acting that despite his short appearance, he made it all worthwhile.


I could overlook Emma Thompson playing a nineteen-year-old girl just by concentrating on her expressive face. At first a part of me finds Kate Winslet's spirited performance a bit too much (perhaps because I'm feeling a bit like Elinor that I'd like to reign her) but later on have become to understand that her impulses truly embodies Marianne. And while the rest are plain serene, Kate's liveliness stands out that I felt the fire winking out of her near the end in her weak voice and stolidness.

The film was exquisite and almost too perfect in its costumes, acting and scenery. Perhaps my only wayward remark is that I note a little dryness off it. It is supposed to move me but I'm only merely there. It is quiet in its poignancy.


In 2008, it was made into a 3-part mini-series written by Andrew Davies. It was quite an unraveling piece utilizing music, cinematography and the blustery sounds of a coastal cottage to convey the turbulence of feelings. Davies may go against the flow but I can't help but love his interpretation (like what he did with A Room with a View, 2007). He seems to like exploring the actions of his characters and pushing out the range as far as it could go (also he's not afraid to show some skin).

There is a burgeoning revelation on every episode and the rise and fall of music just heightens the dimension of the story. The stormy and windswept moodiness of the film lend affinity to the tone of the book.


Margaret is my favorite on this one. She is spunky and brightened a lot of scenes giving us more glimpse into her character and potentials. Here I could easily sense Elinor's strength in her demeanor. Hattie's strong voice also compliments that while Marianne is a notch down from the 1995 version though Charity and Dominic got the greater chemistry. The rest of the cast are either so amusing (Sir John Middleton, Miss Steele and Little Henry) or tentatively unlikable in a low degree (Fanny and Lucy Steele).


I thought it interesting to include Edward chopping wood to disclose his helpless despair and anguish on feeling torn and that early morning duel with Cor. Brandon challenging Willoughby in behalf of Marianne's honor. I think it gives Cor. Brandon's role more weight to deserve Marianne's hand in the end.


It didn't have a usual full-blown ending. Instead it showed us that like a flight of a bird there is much to hope for between Marianne and Cor. Brandon and that Elinor, after a long-drawn suffering, finally smiles.

Summary

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor's warning that her impulsive behavior leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

Title: Sense and Sensibility
Author: Jane Austen
Genre: Classic, Romance
Published: 2003 (first published in 1811)
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Rating: ♨♨♨ (4 cups - Unforgettable and piercing. The one Austen book with a deep lingering presence.)

Film Title: Sense and Sensibility
Director: Ang Lee
Screenplay: Emma Thompson
Cast: Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Greg Wise
Release Date: 1995
Rating: ♨♨♨ (4 cups - Quietly heartbreaking and almost too beautiful.)

TV Mini-Series Title: Sense and Sensibility
Director: John Alexander
Screenplay: Andrew Davies
Cast: Hattie Morahan, Charity Wakefield, David Morrisey, Dominic Cooper, Dan Stevens
Release Date: 2008
Rating: ♨♨♨ 1/2 (4 cups and half - Windswept and raw resonating the book's moods.)

{film stills: 1 // 2 // 3}

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