A weekend with Jane Austen, Part 3 (Last Part)

Alas! My Jane Austen weekend has come to an end. It was a wonderful way to cap the weekend by watching the movie, Emma (1996); BBC’s Emma (2009) and another movie, Becoming Jane (2007).

Emma 1996 (image from erasofelegance.com)

Emma (1996) stars Gwyneth Paltrow as the young, pretty and rich Emma Woodhouse and Jeremy Northam as the charming, reticent but kind Mr. George Knightley. It was really surprising to see Ms. Paltrow, an American actress, portray an Englishwoman. I found her English accent a bit weird but as the movie progressed, I became quite used to it. Paltrow, an actress blessed with classical features, had so much poise and gracefulness which just made it work. On the other hand, Jeremy Northam was splendid as Mr. Knightley. He is hot!!! I love how his facial expressions conveyed his feelings and how he delivered his lines. I particularly liked when he spars with Emma and when he scolds her. The film was entertaining and funny indeed. My only gripe with film is that events were much too compressed that there’s not much room for character development.

Emma 2009 (image from © BBC 2009)

In the recent BBC production of Emma (2009), I was really happy to find a familiar face. Jonny Lee Miller, who earlier portrayed Edmund Bertram in the 1999 version of Mansfield Park, is back as the quick-witted and charming George Knightley. I adored him in Mansfield Park even though his character there took a long time to realize his feelings for the heroine. But I believe that he was a great choice as Mr. Knightley because he absolutely nailed it. He was exceptional with his scenes with Emma, particularly when he is arguing with her, scolding her, goading her, or when they are just having a good time. Such a consummate actor! On the other hand, it is my first time to see Romola Garai but I liked her as Emma Woodhouse. Her Emma is youthful, clever and witty. Garai and Miller are great together. I loved how their argument scenes (there were several) were really played out, with both sides arguing their cases well. Another delightful surprise was the presence of Michael Gambon as Mr. Woodhouse. I was taken aback and I had to take a second look when he first appeared because I could only think of one thing: That’s Dumbledore!! He was such a dear old man, Mr. Woodhouse er, Mr. Gambon.

The advantage of a mini-series is that events are not rushed and forced unlike in the movies. Furthermore, there is much room for character development and event build-up. I liked how Mr. Knightley’s realization of his true feelings for Emma was depicted. It’s not rushed and forced. I think, this is the best adaptation of Emma I have seen.

Becoming Jane (image from http://www.tribute.ca)

Becoming Jane (2007) explores the untold story of Jane Austen, one of the greatest writers in English Literature. Jane is being pressured by the family to marry. But being a woman far ahead of her time, she refuses unless it is for love. She meets Tom Lefroy, a lawyer who is dependent on his uncle and his fortune. They both started on the wrong footing but eventually fell in love. However, the couple is faced by numerous obstacles – family, friends and fortune. Anne Hathaway, an American actress, plays the feisty, opinionated Jane. Anne was alright but I think a better actress might have been able to portray Ms. Austen. On the other hand, James McAvoy portrays Tom Lefroy who breathed life into his character brilliantly, so much so, that I wanted to love and hate him at the same time. The film left me with a bittersweet feeling, no matter how I am used to see such kind of endings.

The film gives an inside look of what might have been the secret life of Ms. Austen. I have read that Ms. Austen never married and I surmised that for a writer who created wonderful stories with happy endings – heroines marrying the men they love, she must have had loved deeply. That in her short life, she must have had, as poets and writers gush about, “that one great love.”

Discovering North and South (BBC miniseries, 2004)

image from selina.yichi.org

It was quite an accident when I discovered a period drama of a gem. I was researching for British period dramas and was actually on a marathon watching several Jane Austen film and TV adaptations when I came across “North and South.” Viewers were singing praises about it and decided to take the plunge. And wow! I’m glad I did.

Based on Elizabeth Gaskell’s Victorian novel, the series has both political and social overtones. It explores England’s industrial and “gritty” North and the agricultural and cultured South. The heroine (Margaret Hale) and her family moved from the Southern town of Helstone to the Northern industrial town of Milton. Margaret longs for her life in the South and detests Northern ways. She also develops an aversion to the young cotton mill owner, John Thornton, because she witnessed an encounter between Mr. Thornton and one of his employees that puts him in a bad light, at least in Margaret’s eyes. On the other hand, John is besotted with Margaret because of her spirited, outspoken and sometimes haughty demeanor.  Matters between the two worsen when different issues were thrown in their paths.  Amidst the rather “bleak and dark” backdrop, these two people from entirely different backgrounds struggle through first impressions and misunderstandings and ultimately, realize where the other person is coming from. And yes, they do discover a whole lot more.

So, what is addicting about this series? What has made me into a raving lunatic, swooning fan, and obsessed follower?

Richard Armitage as the brooding John Thornton

Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale

Sandy Welch‘s screenplay is just as awesome and Brian Percival‘s direction is seamless. The supporting cast was also good in their performances. But I would rather focus on the two actors for breathing life into their characters by way of their brilliant characterizations. Daniela Denby-Ashe who portrayed the young, outspoken and caring Margaret Hale was delightful. However, it was the compelling presence of the relatively unknown Richard Armitage which glued me to my computer screen and endure long hours of streaming from Youtube just to watch this series. His portrayal of the brooding John Thorton was absolutely riveting!  He was able to convey his feelings even with subtle facial expressions and body language. And the EYES, the EYES! His eyes were so expressive – all that brooding and smoldering! He just smoldered, my goodness! Oh, I couldn’t help but wish I am Margaret, the object of his affection. 😉

Other aspects of the production were also outstanding, particularly, the music and cinematography. The music was haunting enough, I was blown away by the musical scores. The cinematography, on the other hand, while it focuses more on the bleak and dirty industrial setting gives it more realism.

I understand now why it has had a cult-like following after it has been aired and why it continues to draw newbie fans, such as myself, even after 6 years. North and South is a treasure!  It is now one of my all-time favorites. I have seen the series a week ago but I can’t seem to stop talking, thinking and obsessing about it. I want to get a DVD really bad but I think I have to wait for someone in the US to buy it for me. Though I have recently acquired an ebook edition of the novel, I would certainly love to have my own hard copy of the book. And maybe one day, I’ll write something about the novel itself. In the meantime, I just have to start reading it.

John and Margaret

Credits: Photos from richardarmitageonline.com and jrinla.com

A Weekend with Jane Austen

I was sick over the weekend. To pass the time and to amuse myself, I watched several film adaptations of some of Jane Austen’s novels.

I’m going to be in a fangirl mode and talk about the “heroes” of the films.

image from janeausten.co.uk

I already watched “Sense and Sensibility” years ago but it was a great treat to watch it all over again. I love Alan Rickman, who in the said film, played Colonel Brandon. He is such a wonderful actor. Mr. Rickman is also known as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies. I just found out that there is a 2008 adaptation of the said title, I will watch it when I have time.

image from pbs.org

And then I saw “Persuasion”. I adore Captain Frederick Wentworth who is dashing, handsome and very charming. Rupert Penry-Jones was the perfect actor to play the said character. The epitome of an English gentleman! I cannot help but swoon whenever he appeared on screen. Hot! Hot! Hot! *sigh*

I also got to see two versions of “Pride and Prejudice.” The earlier version was the 1995 BBC mini-series where I fell in love not only with the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet but also her counterpart, Mr. Darcy, which were portrayed by Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth respectively. Ms. Ehle gave life to her character magnificently! She is so charming, beautiful and witty! I really love her face! And Darcy, my Mr. Darcy! Colin Firth breathed life into such “complex character.”  He was perfection! I just love it when he appears on screen. I cannot help but think of a similar character, one I also love, who appeared in one Korean series (but of course!) – the infamous Maestro Kang/Kang Mae.

image from erasofelegance.com

On the other hand, I find the 2005 movie version quite lacking but I would admit it has its moments. Mr. Darcy’s rendition of his two proposals to Elizabeth were quite romantic and passionate.  And Matthew Macfadyen who played Mr. Darcy was good looking and smashing compared to Colin Firth. But…I’d still prefer Colin’s Mr. Darcy anyway. I found Keira Knightley who played Elizabeth Bennet a bit bland.

image from lovefilm.com

I guess I love the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice because the chemistry between Ehle and Firth was undeniable. Furthermore, both actors gave outstanding characterizations. I also didn’t like how the film was compressed into 2 hours and 9 minutes, which sacrificed a lot of significant developments in the lives of the characters in the novel. The series, however, encapsulated the important events and dialogues, consistent with the novel.

image from erasofelegance.com

I would love to watch other film adaptations of Ms. Austen’s novel. I believe, there are a few still that I have to look for. Meanwhile…where can I find my Mr. Darcy? 😉