Q & A with Jane Austen Made Me Do It Authors: Question 8

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress (2011)As my interview of my twenty-four JAMMDI author continues, I open up the floor to one of my favorite topics: Jane Austen at the movies.

Darcy, Darcy, Darcy. Is that what people remember most about Jane Austen movie adaptations? I have enjoyed almost all of the movies, and was very curious what my authors thought of the numerous film adaptation and spinoffs. Their responses were as varied as reader’s reactions to Jane Austen’s characters.

There are many movie and stage adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. Do you think her stories transfer well to other mediums? Which of the film adaptations do you think captures the spirit of her stories and the nuances of her characters best, and why?

  • I think Austen transfers to film well only when the screenplay is faithful to the original novel and long enough to do justice to the story. Two hour adaptations are usually disasters. The BBC production of Pride and Prejudice of 1995 and Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility are outstanding examples. – Pamela Aidan
  • I do think Jane Austen’s work transfers well to other mediums and I appreciate adaptations and updates to the storylines and characters when they are done justice.  These really help to emphasize the timelessness and universality of Austen’s themes, character development and humor.  I especially love the cross-cultural adaptations, like Clueless, the modern version of Emma and Bride & Prejudice, where Jane Austen’s chef d’oeuvre is given a Bollywood treatment, complete with Indian Elizabeth and a big-business but culturally insensitive Darcy.  My favorite “true to the work” adaptation is the 1995 BBC/A&E production of Pride and Prejudice.  In my opinion, it exemplifies the characters (especially Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy) as they were described in the novel.   In addition, the adaptation goes a step further to add some scenes that were not originally in the novel to give us some clues to the characters’ inner feelings and motivations.  It showcased the novel so well without smothering it with heavy-handed exaggerations and broad strokes of characterization.  It allowed Austen’s subtlety to show through in the finished product. – Brenna Aubrey
  •  I’ve enjoyed many of the productions, but my hands-down favorites are the 1996 A&E Pride & Prejudice and the BBC’s 1995 Persuasion, with Ciaran Hinds.  In the former, Colin Firth brought an essential ruthlessness to the character of Fitzwilliam Darcy that is always implied in the novel, by his power over the people around him, but rarely conveyed in performance; it’s the steel beneath Darcy’s flawless tailoring that brings us to our knees.  The latter production is a haunting mood-piece filmed in rain, gradually giving way to sun, that perfectly captures the transformation in Anne Elliot’s soul. – Stephanie Barron
  • I think the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma captures that novel pretty well, but that’s why I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I thought Clueless illuminating in translating Emma into modern times. Perhaps I’m odd in not finding any of the Pride and Prejudice efforts completely satisfying. In some ways the Pride and Prejudice movies capture the essence best for me, perhaps because it wasn’t so reverent. Reverence can definitely get in the way. – Jo Beverley
  • I’m frankly fed up to here with the movies.  Enjoyed the first few – particularly Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility, and I’m also one of the very few who really admire Patricia Rozema’s Mansfield Park, which I thought a very imaginative variation.  Oh, and I loved Clueless.  But the waves and waves of these things have finally killed all my interest dead.  I will not go to any more Jane Austen movies.  Few of them have anything to do with my inner vision of the novels or the author, and I do not want, and will not allow, the likes of Keira Knightley and Gwyneth Paltrow to get into my head and ruin my own imaginings.  Never again. – Diana Birchall
  • I like the Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice, the Francis O’Connor Mansfield Park, the Ang Lee Sense and Sensibility and the Anne Hathaway Becoming Jane. I suppose I like them best because the characters seem more real to me, more flesh and blood, more recognizable than other options.  Whether or not they are religiously faithful to Austen’s intent, I cannot say – but I suspect the more juicy and human the portrayal, the more we’d hear Austen applaud. – Diane Meier
  • The 1999 Mansfield Park with Harold Pinter as Sir Thomas was superb; so was the 1995 Persuasion with Ciarán Hinds and Fiona Shaw, and Amanda Root as Anne Elliott. I also loved the Ang Lee Sense and Sensibility, but none of them compares with the novels, where the pictures are much better. – Frank Delaney
  • Dialogue, strong characters and comedy are Jane Austen’s strong points, so her writing translates easily onto the stage and screen, much like Dickens. People who aren’t that excited about Jane Austen object to the constant remakes of her novels, saying that there are plenty of other writers who could be adapted for costume dramas. True, but they’re not Jane Austen, are they? Pride and Prejudice in particular has several elements of the fairy-tale that translate well onto the big screen. Balls featuring elaborate costumes and elegant dancing; a lush, serene countryside that enhances the romantic element, and a “castle” like Pemberley that is breathtakingly beautiful and comes with the Prince. Add to that witty exchanges and humorous side-kicks and you get a wonderful romantic comedy. Few scenes can compare with the wonderful scene in Netherfield in which Miss Bingley admires Mr. Darcy’s handwriting, and Lizzy sets out to laugh at him. The repartee there comes alive with hardly any changes necessary in the script. Because of this combination of elements, most adaptations of her novels work very well, each one bringing something just a tad different. My favorite Pride and Prejudice is the 1995 one, because nobody does Mr. Darcy as well as Colin Firth. But I’ll admit that one of my favorite adaptations at the moment is the 2009 Emma, because Jonny Lee Miller actually managed (gasp) to make Mr. Knightley rather sexy. Certainly he made the relationship between them romantic rather than paternalistic, which is no mean feat! I loved the way the two of them discovered that they were not “brother and sister” after all! – Monica Fairview
  • I think the television adaptations work best because they have time to do justice to the novels. – Amanda Grange
  • I love the Jane Austen films, and think the stories translate marvelously to the screen. Out of all the adaptations, which I’ve seen many, many times, my favorites (which I think all capture the spirit of her stories and characters perfectly) are the A&E/Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice, the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility, the 1995 Persuasion with Amanda Root and Cirian Hinds, and the 2008 version with Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry Jones (he is SOOO gorgeous!), and two versions of Emma—the 1996 film with Gwyneth Paltrow and the 1996 TV version with Kate Beckinsale. My absolute favorite? P&P 1995, of course! – Syrie James
  • I’ve always claimed that Austen is a big girl and can take any indignities thrown at her in movie adaptations (rather like the music of JS Bach has withstood bizarre jazz interpretations and orchestrations). I think Persuasion (1995) is outstanding for getting everything right with wonderful cinematography and acting. – Janet Mullany
  • I am rather fond of the movie/television adaptations and have DVD’s of them all. Movie producers and the public just cannot get enough Jane Austen – so there are a lot to choose from. Her stories transfer to the screen beautifully because their appeal is universal – timeless stories, great characters, wonderful, romantic, happy endings. The ultimate feel-good movie. My favorite novel adaptation would be the 1995 Persuasion staring Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds. Favorite variation on a Jane Austen theme would be Clueless staring Alicia Silverstone. Recently, I have enjoyed Lost in Austen and Miss Austen Regrets. I would be remiss in my true Janeite sensibilities if I did not put in a good word for Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy plunging into the Pemberley pond in Pride and Prejudice 1995. ;-) The adaptations that excel in my mind are those that stick to Austen as closely as possible. Changes do have to be made to work the story into the movie medium, but please producers/screen writers, I beg you, don’t change the characters personalities or the plot. – Laurel Ann Nattress
  • I do think Jane’s stories transfer well on one level, but her books are too complex to be entirely satisfying as they are presented in plays or on screen. My favourite adaptation is the Ciarán Hinds/Amanda Root Persuasion (B.B.C 1995) because the script kept so closely to Jane’s writing, and for me, captured the spirit of her novels most successfully. Amanda Root was a perfect Anne Elliot, (I always think she would have made an excellent Jane Austen,) Ciarán Hinds was a wonderful Wentworth, and I loved the attention to detail in the costumes and settings. Filmed in the real locations of Bath and Lyme helped to give a sense of realism. Uppercross was filmed at an ancient manor house, and the Elliots’ house in Bath was filmed in a Georgian house, and these backdrops enhanced and enforced a sense of familial permanence and longevity.  The scenes by candlelight are fabulous! – Jane Odiwe
  • Jane Austen’s novels translate so well to film and stage because she creates relatable characters, interesting and complex plots, and sparkling dialogue. Don’t we all know a Mrs. Bennet? Or someone like Elinor and Marianne Dashwood’s horrible sister-in-law, Fanny Dashwood? In many of the film and television adaptations, the dialogue is lifted word-for-word from her novels. And the intricate storylines create both comic and dramatic situations that entertain the viewer as well as the reader. My favorite adaptations are the 1995 Persuasion with Ciarán Hinds and Amanda Root as well as the now-classic 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. I admit, though, to enjoying the range of adaptions, from the BBC versions from the 1980s to the most recent efforts such as the 2009 Emma with Romola Garai.  The mini-series adaptations have more room to portray the breadth and width of the novels, which I enjoy. – Beth Pattillo
  • Jane Austen’s novels transport wonderfully to the stage and screen. My all-time favourite has to be the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Colin Firth. He will forever be my Mr Darcy…. the scene where he comes out of the lake in his wet white shirt clinging to his chest… well, what more can I say? :) – Alexandra Potter
  • Jane Austen’s novels adapt well to the screen (depending upon who is doing the adapting).  My favorite is the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.  This is the adaptation that prompted the creation of The Republic of Pemberley (http://www.pemberley.com), the Jane Austen web site that I still manage. I’m not sure we’ll ever get a good adaptation of Mansfield Park.  Andrew Davies, who so successfully adapted Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey, has said that he wouldn’t attempt Mansfield Park as Fanny is too difficult a heroine to bring to the screen.  You will notice that the recent Mansfield Park adaptations have taken it upon themselves to change Fanny’s character completely, in which case it’s not really Mansfield Park. – Myretta Robens
  • I think Austen has the potential to translate very well to the screen. However, the obstacle to transferring them is often the restriction to the conventional two-hour format. Of the feature films, I think the 1995 Persuasion did the most creditable job. The 1995 Pride and Prejudice and the 2008 Sense and Sensibility, were filmed as mini-series, and so had the advantage of length; I think they were the most authentically Austen of those filmed for television. – Jane Rubino
  • I think Jane Austen’s stories translate well, no matter what medium, because they have characters and plots we can all identify with.  And, of course, there are the classic adaptations, like the 1995 P&P, or the Root/Hinds version of Persuasion.  However, I really love the 2008 Sense & Sensibility.  It takes the time flesh out the characters, especially the love between Elinor and Marianne (I always wondered how they could stand each other in the books).  It also uses the ‘visual adaptation’ part to its advantage — I love that they actually show us the duel scene, as opposed to Brandon simply telling Elinor it happened later. – Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
  • I remain a fan of the 1995 BBC adaptation of P&P adapted by Andrew Davies – who could forget Colin Firth as Darcy? Davies kept much of the original dialogue, and the period detail was exemplary, so that it felt very close to the original. Every aspect was a pleasure, even the incidental music had a lovely Regency feel to it. A different sort of adaptation which I enjoyed was the recent TV series, Lost in Austen. Replacing Elizabeth Bennet with a modern heroine (brilliantly played by Jemima Rooper) was such an amusing idea, and I loved it when the real Elizabeth, transported to the modern world, got a job as an au-pair. – Maya Slater
  • Movies and stage plays must make changes to a novel in order to be successfully produced. The media and the method of storytelling are different. However, I have found when changes are made because the adapter or director wants to put their own stamp on a story, or some kind of heavy-handed interpretation, then the results are less successful than when changes are made out of necessity, and the adaptation made with love and respect. When they start calling something “modern” and “fresh,” in my experience no good can come of it. The books are pretty modern and fresh on their own, though they are two hundred years old, and they don’t need any help from lesser writers. – Margaret C. Sullivan
  • I love them all – from Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth to Bridget Jones Diary- all wonderful, fresh, witty takes on good old stories.  Emma Thompson, who wrote the screenplay for Sense and Sensibility 1995, can do no wrong in my book. She’s a brilliant writer, adaptor and actor of the work.  She brings the goods every time she tackles Jane Austen. – Adriana Trigiani
  • Austen’s stories are eminently adaptable, which is why filmmakers never seem to tire of remaking them. Nevertheless, film and books are inherently different mediums, which is why no adaptation can ever be truly “faithful.” Besides, with two hours of screen time, something will have to be cut in the translation. Nevertheless, my attachment to each of Austen’s novels is so strong that when I see an Austen film adaptation for the first time, I can hardly concentrate on watching the film as a film; I’m too busy obsessing over what was cut, added, or changed from the book. But once I get that first viewing over with, I can settle in and see if I really like it or dislike it as much as I thought I did. Actually, one of my favorite things to do when I watch a film adaptation of an Austen novel is to analyze what the filmmakers added, changed, or deleted and ask myself if the adaptation gained or lost something by that change. For example, it was particularly fascinating to admit that a favorite scene from Sense and Sensibility (Willoughby’s desperate visit to Elinor when Marianne is ill) would have been too risky in the Ang Lee adaptation, because the audience might have walked away wishing that Marianne had married Willoughby after all. And making Edward Ferrars a more fleshed out and sympathetic figure than he was in the book was also a smart decision on screenwriter Emma Thompson’s part.  She did a splendid job of capturing Austen’s narrative wit, which is no small task in a medium that doesn’t typically (and in my opinion, should almost never) have a narrative voiceover. I also think that the Andrew Davies-scripted Pride and Prejudice mini-series (more popularly known as the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice) did a beautiful job of capturing the spirit of that book while adding character-illuminating (and, let’s be honest, crowd-pleasing) scenes such as the fencing scene, the famous wet shirt scene, and the bathtub scene. The casting and performances were stellar. Many Austen readers praise this adaptation as being the most faithful of all the films, but then again, it had five hours to do so! I also greatly admire the Roger Michell-directed adaptation of Persuasion, starring Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds. It is a very faithful adaptation, not only in terms of story, but also in tone, capturing what some critics have referred to as the book’s autumnal tone as well as a visual sense of Anne’s “quiet, confined” life in an often oppressive and suffocating society. At the same time the filmmakers were also faithful to Austen’s humor, social satire, and the ultimately optimistic message of the novel. – Laurie Viera Rigler
  • My favorite of the recent Austen adaptations (sorry, P&P fans!) has always been the late-90’s Persuasion with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds.  I watched it again and again as I was writing my first book, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.  It did a beautiful job capturing both the weaknesses and strengths of Anne Elliot’s character, the social world that constrains her, and the full range of Austenian comic side characters.  As for other media… Austenian interpretive dance, anyone? – Lauren Willig

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Ballantine Books (2011)
Trade paperback (446) pages
ISBN: 978-0345524966

Read previous posts containing: Question 1, Question 2, Question 3, Question 4, Question 5, Question 6, Question 7

Please join us next Friday for the ninth of the fifteen questions and answers that will be posted over the next several weeks.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

9 thoughts on “Q & A with Jane Austen Made Me Do It Authors: Question 8

  1. My wife is a full-throttle reading machine but I have never-never been able to get her into reading Jane Austen. However, she LOVES everyone of the film adaptions of Miss Austen’s works. Film is such a fascinating but tricky art form and there are what I consider masterpieces of her works out there. Our favorites? The Masterpiece theater rendition of Emma (Romola Garai & Johnny Lee Miller, Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle, Persuasion (Amanda Root & Ciarian Hinds)

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  2. Like so many others, I especially admire the 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle and the 1995 Persuasion film with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds, P&P being my favorite mini series and Persuasion my favorite film. I have to put in a good word for Jeremy Northam as my Mr. Knightley from the film of Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow.

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  3. I always have such a good time with any of the Jane Austen movies-it really doesn’t matter what version it is. My favorite is the Ang Lee/Emma Thompson S&S. I enjoyed reading all the authors’ responses to your questions!

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  4. Its so hard to choose just one! Everything has its pros and cons when it comes to its adaptations

    Persuasion – Amanda Root and Ciaran Hind
    Sense and Sensibility – Emma Thompson
    Pride and Prejudice – Colin Firth
    Emma – Jonny Lee Miller
    Mansfield Park – 1983
    Northanger Abbey – 2007

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  5. I tend to like most of the adaptations, even if they aren’t faithful recreations of every scene. To me, its about capturing the tone and spirit of the books, rather than being wholly faithful to the book itself.

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  6. I enjoy movie adaptations. IT IS NOT THE SAME AS THE WRITTEN WORD! However, I think it’s interesting to see how others perceive Jane Austen’s work. Movie adaptations make that possible. The 1995 Pride and Prejudice seems surprisingly close to the inspiration of it, but really almost any adaptation has bits that make you say, “That’s Austen”. (Ooo, and let’s not forget audio adaptations. Those are fun too.)

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  7. I perfer the old BBc adaptions because they are closer to the books (except thh 1985 P&p comes only second to the 1995 edition ) MP1986,S&S1981,Pers1971Emma1972

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