Sense and Sensibility 1995 – Revisited

Sense and Sensibility (1995) DVDNominated for seven Academy Awards®, the 1995 movie Sense and Sensibility remains one of my most cherished interpretations of a Jane Austen novel. Everything about this film project seems to be touched with gold; from the award winning screenplay by actress Emma Thompson; to the incredible depth of British acting talent: Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Gemma Jones, Harriet Walter, Greg Wise, Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson; stunning film locations in Devonshire; and the fine brush-work of the Taiwanese director Any Lee. The movie touched many and introduced Jane Austen’s classic story of two divergent sisters searching for happiness and love to millions. I never tire of viewing it, basking in its beautiful cinematography, enjoying its thoughtful performances and marveling at its exquisitely crafted screenplay – both reverent to Austen’s intentions and engaging to modern audiences.

There has been so much discussed online already about this movie that I doubt I can add any new insights. I can however share with you what I find so moving about it: the performances, the music, the language and the filming locations. I feel that the movie can say it so much more than I, so here are a few video excerpts for your enjoyment.

The trailer

Edward Ferrars and Elinor listen to Marianne play the pianoforte

Mrs. Jennings tries to winkle information out of the young Miss Dashwood’s and Col. Brandon meets Marianne.

Mr. Palmer is quite rude today!

Good God Willoughby!

Elinor, where is your heart?

Miss Lucy Steele calls on Elinor – and so does Edward Ferrars!

Marianne goes in search of Combe Magna in the rain

All’s well that ends with a wedding!

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my sixth selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one DVD copy of Sense and Sensibility 1995 by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, July 6, 2011 stating who your favorite character is in the 1995 movie or what intrigues you about a movie adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Winners will be announced on Thursday, July 7, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

Sense and Sensibility 1995
Sony Pictures (1995)
DVD Region 1 (2h 16m)
UPC: 043396115996

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway Winner Announced for The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries, by Emma Thompson & Lindsay Doran (2007)45 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a paperback copy of The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries, by Emma Thompson. The winner drawn at random is CJ who left a comment on May 2nd.

Congratulations CJ! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by May 18th, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and for all those participating in The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011. We are reading many Sense and Sensibility inspired novels, watching movie adaptations and delving into Jane Austen’s classic novel this year in honor of the bicentenary of its publication in 1811.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries, by Emma Thompson – A Review

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries, by Emma Thompson (1995)Nominated for seven Academy Awards®, the 1995 movie Sense and Sensibility remains one of my most cherished interpretations of a Jane Austen novel. Everything about this film project seems to be touched with gold; from the award winning screenplay by actress Emma Thompson; to the incredible depth of British acting talent: Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Gemma Jones, Harriet Walter, Greg Wise, Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson; stunning film locations in Devonshire; and the fine brush-work of the Taiwanese director Any Lee. The movie touched many and introduced Jane Austen’s classic story of two divergent sisters searching for happiness and love to millions. I never tire of viewing it, basking in its beautiful cinematography, enjoying its thoughtful performances and marveling at its exquisitely crafted screenplay – both reverent to Austen’s intensions and engaging to modern audiences.

Reading The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries written by Emma Thompson and introduced by the movie producer Lindsay Doran was such a pleasure. What a labor of love this movie was for both actress/writer Thompson and producer Doran who spent fifteen years to bring it to the screen. This highly acclaimed film won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar and Golden Globe in 1996 for Thompson and the praise of hundreds of film critics and fans. Her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes was so witty and Austen-like that the film clip is a perennial favorite on Youtube. This book contains the complete screenplay, over fifty photos of the actors and scenes from the film and Thompson’s candid and often hilarious daily entries of what it was like to be involved in this incredible project. Here is a great excerpt:

Tuesday 11 April: No one can sleep for excitement. Costume designers John Bright and Jenny Beavan wish they had three more weeks but have done truly great work. The shapes and colours and inimitable. Lindsay’s already in Plymouth frantically trying to cut the script. It’s still too long. The art department object to us bathing Margaret in the parlour. Apparently they always used a kitchen or bedroom in the nineteenth century. Perhaps the Dashwoods are different, I suggest, unhelpfully.

“Thompson’s rare and personal perspective makes The Sense and Sensibility: The Screenplay and Diaries an irresistible book for students of film and Austen devotees, as well as for everyone who loved this extraordinary movie.” This is a must read for Jane Austen and period movie fans, and I highly recommend it.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my fourth selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries, by Emma Thompson by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, May 11, 2011 stating who your favorite character is in the 1995 movie or what intrigues you about a movie adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Winners will be announced on Thursday, May 12, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries, by Emma Thompson
Newmarket Press (2007) reprint of 1995 edition
Trade paperback (288) pages
ISBN: 978-1557047823

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Sense and Sensibility 1981 – A Review

Sense and Sensibility (1981) DVD coverThis is my second review for the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011. *throws confetti* It is my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility.

This 1981 BBC seven-part miniseries of Sense and Sensibility is a solid but flawed adaptation of Jane Austen’s masterpiece. In my mind, the character of Marianne Dashwood is always the benchmark for a superior adaptation. She is a complicated creature driven by emotion and racked with vulnerability, and if the actress portraying Jane Austen’s most melodramatic character can play her as intended, the whole production can rest on her shoulders. Tracey Childs as Marianne Dashwood exuded all the frantic emotion and romantic “sensibilities” that Marianne should at all the right moments, and Irene Richards as her sister Elinor was equally convincing, and at times touching, as her stoic, stable and guarded counterpart. However, my disappointment in the male characters: Edward Ferrars, John Willoughby and Colonel Brandon, pushed this production below my expectations. Part of this can be attributed to the loose adaptation of dialogue by screenwriter Alexander Baron and partly to Austen herself, who chose to craft male roles that are weaker than the two female ones. Yes. Not everything in Sense and Sensibility is balanced, and that was Austen’s point. Even though this imperfection is one of its charms, it can be unsatisfying. Here is the description of the production by the distributor.

Offering equal measures of humor and drama, this magnificent remastered  BBC production is an utterly charming version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

This delightful story tells of two sisters attempting to find happiness in the tightly structured society of 18th century England. Elinor, disciplined, restrained and very conscious of the manners of the day, represents sense. Outspoken, impetuous, emotional Marianne represents sensibility. Attracted to a man already promised to another, Elinor suffers silently to keep scandal away from her family. Marianne enjoys a flirtation with a handsome scoundrel that could lead to her downfall. Through their experiences with men and their relationship with each other, they learn that neither sense nor sensibility alone is enough, but that one must strive for a balance of the two.

The “magnificent remastered” boast makes one wonder what they had to start with? Considering that this was originally videotaped instead of today’s standard of digital film, we must allowances, but it is still blurry and faded in comparison. The film locations are mediocre too. I have been truly spoiled by the 1995 Ang Lee and the 2008 John Alexander productions magnificent locations. The costumes exhibited the oddest colors and most unflattering of Regency styles in *gasp* polyester fabrics, and the screenwriter Alexander Baron chose to eliminate little sister Margaret entirely! (For shame) What saves this 3 hour adaptation is the acting. Irene Richards, who you might recognize from her portrayal as Charlotte Lucas in the 1980 BBC Pride and Prejudice, is a solid oak who bends with the wind of change and shades her sister and mother from her own romantic pain. Her scene where Colonel Brandon asks her to inform Edward Ferrars of this offer of a church living was really moving. Tracey Child as Marianne happily did not play the melodrama over the top like Ciaran Madden did in the earlier 1971 production. I was amazed at the similarity of her interpretation to that of Kate Winslet’s 1995 version. Minor roles of note were Julia Chambers who plays cunning vixen Lucy Steele to a tea, and Amanda Boxer as stingy Fanny Dashwood. The scene where Fanny discovers that Lucy Steele and her brother Edward have been secretly engaged might be one of the best screaming scenes on film! Overall, an enjoyable but flawed production that could have benefited from more of Jane Austen’s beautiful language.

Elinor Dashwood – Irene Richards
Marianne Dashwood – Tracey Childs
Mrs. Dashwood – Diana Fairfax
Edward Ferrars – Bosco Hogan
Colonel Brandon – Robert Swann
John Willoughby – Peter Woodward
John Dashwood – Peter Gale
Fanny Dashwood – Amanda Boxer
Mrs. Jennings – Annie Leon
Sir John Middleton – Donald Douglas
Lady Middleton – Marjorie Bland
Lucy Steele – Julia Chambers
Ann Steele – Pippa Sparkes
Robert Ferrars – Philip Bowen
Charlotte Palmer – Hetty Baynes
Screenplay – Alexander Baron
Directed by – Rodney Bennet

Film locations:

Norland – Babington House, Babington, Somerset, England, UK
Barton Cottage – C ame Cottage, Dorchester, Dorset, England, UK
Barton Park – Came House, Dorchester, Dorset, England, UK
Mrs. Jennings House in London – Cowcombe Court, Crowcombe, Somerset, England, UK
Cleveland – Hatch Court, Taunton, Somerset, England, UK

A Grand Giveaway

Win one copy of the BBC Sense and Sensibility 1981 by leaving a comment by midnight PT March 2, 2011 stating what intrigues you about this adaptation of Sense and Sensibility or who your favorite character was. Winners will be announced on Thursday, March 3, 2011. Shipment to US addresses only.

Sense and Sensibility 1981
BBC Warner Video
DVD (174) minutes
UPC: 794051168320

DVD cover image courtesy © BBC Warner Video

Austen Film Locations: Barton Cottage – Sense and Sensibility 1995

Guest blog by Helen Wilkinson of P and P Tours

Actress Emma Thompson recalls her time filming Sense & Sensibility for the 1995 movie directed by Ang Lee,

The house representing Barton Cottage is one of the most beautiful spots we’ve ever seen. It took the curse off a six-day week.

The film location researchers knew they had found a world-beating location when they stumbled on the glorious eighteenth century stone cottage on the private Flete Estate in south Devon. It is not only near the Plymouth mentioned in Austen’s novel, but also close to the small town of Newton Ferrers which many believe was an inspiration to Jane for her hero’s surname of Edward Ferrars. Jane and her contemporaries would have passed signs to the small town on the old coaching route between London and the south-west.

Many key scenes in the movie were filmed at Barton; Willoughby carrying Marianne, driving the custom-built yellow curricle, Edward proposing to Elinor, and a piano being delivered to Marianne from Col. Brandon. Director Ang Lee raved about the location, although he found the estuary swans a little too ‘romantic’ and often asked for them to be excluded from shot.

The researchers had stuck closely to Jane Austen’s description of the cottage in chapter 6.

A view of Barton Valley, as they (Mrs Dashwood and the girls) entered it, gave them cheerfulness. It was a pleasant, fertile spot, well wooded, and rich in pasture.  A small green court was the whole of its demesne in front; and a neat wicket-gate admitted them into it.  As a house, Barton Cottage, though small, was comfortable and compact; but as a cottage it was defective, for the building was regular, the roof was tiled, the window shutters were not painted green, nor were the walls covered with honeysuckles. A narrow passage led directly through the house into the garden behind. On each side of the entrance was a sitting room, about sixteen feet square. Four bed-rooms and two garrets formed the rest of the house.

I am fascinated to see how closely the Flete Estate cottage matches Jane’s description. It too is a perfectly proportioned Georgian house, in a wooded valley exactly as the novel describes, with the wicket- gate and the small green patch in front, almost as if Jane was describing it from life.

In contrast, the later 2007 BBC/PBS Andrew Davies production of Sense & Sensibility used a shepherd’s cottage in wild Hartland, Devon – not the sort of place a genteel widow and her daughter would have settled. It is the kind of property the Georgians would have described as a ‘hovel’ and is only picturesque to a 21st-century audience. The 1995 Barton is well-proportioned, neat and – in comparison to the glories of Norland – a very modest property.

In 2010 we were thrilled to be able to include Barton in our S&S May tour. It was such an enormous hit with the clients – none of them could bear to leave – that we’ll be including it in several of our future trips. There are no cars, and no sounds except the estuary birds which beset the film crew until Ang Lee demanded could someone shut up the geese! The geese won of course!

Helen Wilkinson, P and P Tours

P and P Tours accommodate up to 10 clients at Barton Cottage in Devon as part of their tours. Visit the P and P Tours website for further information and booking details.