Posts Tagged ‘Jane Austen Movies’

Camden Place, Bath. Sir Walter Elliot and his family reading.

Thomas Hope (1769–1831), the style icon of the Regency interior, would have been happy with these images of Sir Walter Elliot’s interior of Camden Place in Persuasion 1995.  Thomas Hope was known for the “decorative details and ornament based on influences from his nearly ten-year Grand Tour, as well as from motifs from ancient Greece and Egypt.”

Camden Place: A view of the Drawing Room

Hope’s startling juxtaposition of styles included Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Indian elements, as well as his own version of the French Empire style. Classical sculpture and vases were displayed alongside modern paintings and sculpture. Most striking of all was the inventive and exotic furniture that Hope designed specifically for the house. – Exhibition, Thomas Hope, V&A Museum

Camden Place: Dining Room (Anne and Elizabeth Elliot and Mrs. Clay)

From these images it is quite obvious that the set designer of this film chose furniture and draperies that for the Regency era would have been regarded as ultra fashionable. Sir Walter might have moved from Kellynch Hall to reduce his expenses, but his tastes remain expensive and he shows no inclination to follow the rules of economy.

More on the Topic

Thomas Hope: Regency Designer

Like designers of his day, Sir Thomas Hope drew his planned room design ahead of time. Witness the following whole room design:
Design of a room, 1807, by Sir Thomas Hope

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pollReading Twitter, some people are turned off by the modern approach to Emma 2009. Curious minds want to know what you thought of the first installment of this new Jane Austen novel adaptation with Romola Garai, Jonny Lee Miller and Michael Gambon. These are your choices:  a yawner, meh, loved it, and will have to wait and see. If you would like to share your thoughts, please leave a comment. Do you love the new film? Do you like it? Or are you sitting on the fence, waiting to see how the series will develop? Here’s my review of the film.

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It is ironic that a novel filled with clues similar to those found in a good mystery tale can spin off a film whose clues stand out like a red cape in front of a bull. Jane Austen deftly sprinkled hints about Jane Fairfax’s relationship with Frank Churchill throughout Emma. One has to read the novel twice to find her subtle inferences, and even then one might miss a few. The 1996 film version of Emma, written by Andrew Davies, leaves no stone unturned and drops its clues with such a heavy hand that midway through the film you want to shout – “enough!” Jane and Frank exchange frequent glances, are seen at the piano together in Mrs. and Miss Bates’ apartment, and argue on the terrace at Donwell Abbey. We even see Jane crying after their tiff as she walks through a field hatless. Tsk. Tsk. At least Mr. Davies did not sex up this particular film adaptation.

While I like this film overall, and gave it a favorable review when it was shown during PBS’s presentation of The Complete Jane Austen earlier this year, it did have a cringe worthy moment. Mr. Knightley, forcefully played by Mark Strong, proposes to Emma and says afterwards: “I held you in my arms when you were three weeks old”. Kate Beckinsale as Emma replies before they kiss: “Do you like me now as well as you did then?” Eww! The unfortunate image these words evoke are not at all what Jane intended. Here is how her Mr. Knightley proposes, which is just as it ought to be:

“My dearest Emma,” said he, “for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour’s conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma—tell me at once. Say ‘No,’ if it is to be said.”—She could really say nothing.—”You are silent,” he cried, with great animation; “absolutely silent! at present I ask no more.”

Emma was almost ready to sink under the agitation of this moment. The dread of being awakened from the happiest dream, was perhaps the most prominent feeling.

“I cannot make speeches, Emma:”—he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.—”If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.—You hear nothing but truth from me.—I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.—Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.—But you understand me.—Yes, you see, you understand my feelings—and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice.”

Jane DID bring up the differences in ages, but earlier in her novel, when 21-year-old Emma and 37-year-old Mr. Knightley attended a family gathering soon after Mr. & Mrs. John Knightley arrive for a visit. The conversation occurs some time after Mr. Knightley had chastised Emma for influencing Harriet in declining Mr. Martin’s marriage proposal. In this scene, Emma and Mr. Knightley speak as long-standing friends and as relations through marriage:

Emma: “What a comfort it is, that we think alike about our nephews and nieces. As to men and women, our opinions are sometimes very different; but with regard to these children, I observe we never disagree.”

Mr. Knightley: “If you were as much guided by nature in your estimate of men and women, and as little under the power of fancy and whim in your dealings with them, as you are where these children are concerned, we might always think alike.”

Emma: “To be sure—our discordancies must always arise from my being in the wrong.”

Mr. Knightley: “Yes,” said he, smiling—”and reason good. I was sixteen years old when you were born.”

Emma: “A material difference then,” she replied—”and no doubt you were much my superior in judgment at that period of our lives; but does not the lapse of one-and-twenty years bring our understandings a good deal nearer?”

Mr. Knightley: “Yes—a good deal nearer.”

Emma: “But still, not near enough to give me a chance of being right, if we think differently.”

Mr. Knightley: “I have still the advantage of you by sixteen years’ experience, and by not being a pretty young woman and a spoiled child. Come, my dear Emma, let us be friends and say no more about it. Tell your aunt, little Emma, that she ought to set you a better example than to be renewing old grievances, and that if she were not wrong before, she is now.” – Emma, Chapter 7, Volume One

Since watching this film adaptation, I have often wondered why Mr. Davies inserted those words about Emma as a baby into the script at what should have been a supremely romantic moment. Thankfully the Harvest Ball almost made up for his faux pas, almost, but not quite. Although the scene ends the movie on a perfect note, Jane never wrote it for her novel.
Score: Jane Austen, 100; Andrew Davies, Good try.

For more posts about Emma, 1996, click on the links below:

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Antiques and Vintage Dress Gallery features beautiful close up photographs of a riding costume designed for Mansfield Park, 1999. “The jumper gown can be worn buttoned up at the sides as you see, or just unbutton to wear straight. The jacket has violet-blue velvet collar, cuffs and buttons”. Francis O’Connor, who played Fanny Price, did not wear this costume. Click on the link to see 15 images of the gown.

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Six months. Six novels. Six members. The Jane Austen Book Club takes reading the classics to new heights of passion in this romantic comedy featuring an all-star cast.

Three years ago when The Jane Austen Book Club made the best seller lists, a friend and I started a Jane Austen book club of our own. This is how it began: I was bemoaning the tepid and forgettable books my book club had been choosing. In turn, my friend summarized her book club’s last choice – The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. Our conversation lasted over an hour, in which we reminisced about reading Pride and Prejudice in our teens, and how we had both reread Jane’s books over the years. We resolved to form our own Janeite book group. The first meeting consisted of three women eager to explore all things Jane Austen. We talked loudly and interrupted each other constantly as we polished off two bottles of champagne, a pint of strawberries, and a brick of truffle pate. Needless to say, we had a rollicking good time.

Nearly three years later, our Janeite book club has grown to include 6 members ranging from 25 to 65 years in age. One of them is a man. Sound familiar? Which brings me to The Jane Austen Book Club DVD. The video, which has been out since January, should have been released early enough for gift giving during the holidays. However, not all is lost. If they missed the opportunity on Valentine’s Day, our significant others can still place the DVD in our collective Easter Baskets or under the Blarney Stone.

The movie is better than the novel, and I rarely say that. As one Janeite friend said about the book, “I wanted less back story and more book club. There wasn’t enough talk about Jane’s novels.” While the movie isn’t exactly about Jane, it does emphasize the book club meetings. Some of the scenes, such as the first conversation in Starbuck’s, lasted well over 20 minutes. Each club member speaks their mind, no matter how outrageous their thoughts about Jane’s characters, or how vehemently the other members might disagree with another’s assessment. Grigg, the sole male member, became so excited with his book choice of Northanger Abbey that he read the Mysteries of Udolpho. What a nice touch. In fact, each of the main scenes opens with the title of Jane’s book the club plans to discuss, and shots of the actors reading the novels. These transitions work to unify the film’s scenes.

Hugh Dancy (Grigg) is yummy and adorable as Maria Bello’s (Josselyn’s) younger love interest. Amy Brenneman (Sylvia) and Jimmy Smits (Daniel )play their roles as a divorcing couple with just the right notes of sadness, anger, and regret. Kathy Bates is the perfect, quirky ringleader for the group, and I simply fell in love with Maggie Grace from ‘Lost’. The one jarring element in the film is Emily Blunt’s performance as Prudie. Her accent is too broad and not quite American, and her performance is too dour for this light, frothy fluff of a film. Prudie’s constant whining, and moaning about her husband – a man who clearly loves and adores her – is misplaced in this story. After seeing Emily’s sparkling performance in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, I was frankly disappointed with her one-dimensional, mouth-quivering, teary eyed interpretation of Prudie. In addition, the script emphasizes Prudie’s crush on one of her students. I felt uncomfortable watching scenes of a mature high school teacher falling for a kid. Sorry, but her moves on this boy reminded me too much of a bad Nancy Grace special on MSNBC. In this one instance, I liked the character more in the novel than on the screen. Prudie was much more complex and believable in print. But I place too much emphasis on Emily Blunt, whose performance is my only complaint about the film.

I loved how Robin Swicord, the director and script writer, wove the characters in with the book club meetings, their own lives, and their observations about Jane’s novels. During the commentary, one of the DVD’s many extras, one is privy to the friendship that developed among the cast and that has lasted beyond the shoot. Ms. Swicord deftly adapted the novel to the screen, slicing away most of the back story and tightening the book club scenes. Most of the actors were perfect for their parts, and my guess is that for anyone purchasing the DVD, it will be a keeper.

  • Interview with director, Robin Swicord, on Jane Austen Today, Part 1 and Part 2

    DVD Bonus Features Include:

    • Cast and Crew Commentary
    • Making of “The Jane Austen Book Club”
    • “The Life of Jane Austen” Featurette
    • “Character Deconstruction” Featurette
    • Seven Deleted Scenes

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