Sense and Sensibility (film)

Last night, I watched Sense and Sensibility for the first time in years. (My old copy was actually  on VHS, which meant I rarely watched it – I rented this one, because I’d been craving it.) You’ve all seen it fifteen times, haven’t you? I’d forgotten how good it is, and how satisfying. It’s been even longer since I read the book, even though it makes the top three of my favorite Austen novels, and I had to pull my copy off the shelf to see how faithful it was. Emma Thompson, who helped adapt the script, did a remarkable job. With very few flaws, she put the novel on the screen: the competing claims of reason and passion, as those claims are played out in the quiet interior rooms of women.

Of course, the long speeches had to be cut, the ones that explain Marianne’s theories and Elinor’s emotions. Edward is made more charming in the film (I always found him singularly difficult in the book), and Margaret is a better movie character, more modern and more vivid. There’s a wonderful scene in the book where Willoughby explains himself to Elinor; why did they cut that? It would have been deliciously dramatic. There’s also the temptation in the film to believe that the difference between the sisters lies in their ages, not in their temperaments. Elinor and Marianne should only be separated by a year or two, not ten or twelve.

Still, the film has advantages. It’s suddenly easy to see the difference wealth makes to life: the contrast between Norland and Barton Cottage couldn’t be plainer. Ang Lee, the director, composes the four women into groups reminiscent of paintings by Vermeer, who was also a keen observer of domestic interiors. Happiness, tenderness, discretion and desire: I can never get tired of Austen.

By the way: did you know that Emma Thompson married Willoughby (well, Greg Wise, but you catch my drift)? The whole idea just pleases me tremendously…


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5 Responses to Sense and Sensibility (film)

  1. Tara says:

    I also had/have the VHS, bought the DVD on the cheap recently. This is a favorite of mine, though I maintain Emma Thompson was too old to play Elinor. Did not realize she married Willoughby !

  2. Jenny says:

    I agree with you about Emma Thompson (much as I love her!) Elinor should be nearer Marianne’s age. Still, the film is so good, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in her place. My own favorite Austen adaptation is the Ehle/Firth Pride and Prejudice, and then the Amanda Root version of Persuasion. What about you?

  3. Eden says:

    I hope you don’t mind a comment from someone who just happened across your review. I too love this movie and just recently briefly reviewed it on my blog. I also just saw the 2008 BBC version and now I have another DVD to add to my collection. I liked this new version very well and think it is a keeper. You may like it as well.

  4. Jenny says:

    Hi, Eden! I love comments from anyone. Haven’t seen the new BBC version yet (nor any of the recent Masterpiece Theatre versions), but I hope to soon. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Teresa says:

    The new Masterpiece Theatre versions are all worth a look. Some are better than others–Northanger Abbey was probably my favorite new adaptation in the series.

    I think that as a film, the Emma Thompson version is the best S&S that I’ve seen, but the new version might actually work a bit better as an adaptation. It doesn’t have the age separation problem, and it includes a few scenes that I very much missed in the Emma Thompson version. Still, it’s the Thompson version I could see myself returning to.

    My favorite Austen adaptation? Firth and Ehle in P&P of course. Least favorite? That travesty of an adaptation of Mansfield Park back in 1999. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!

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