October 28, 2011

Guest Review: Sense & Sensibility

2011 marks the 200-year anniversary of the publication of 'Sense and Sensibility'... In celebration, I am very happy to welcome to ‘The Book is Always Better’, Rissi from ‘Scribbles, scripts& such’. Rissi is passionate about writing, films and BBC costume dramas – who better to review one of Jane Austen's most adapted literary classics? 

Film adaptations have always made more of an impression on me than their written counterpart.

The works of iconic author Jane Austen were a part of my growing-up years, and no doubt fostered some of my girlhood daydreams. Although I had seen many adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels over the years, I had not read any of the books – with the exception of Sense & Sensibility.

In addition to reading the book, I have managed see three film versions of the story. In my opinion, the 2008 BBC/ITV miniseries is by far the most complimentary to Austen’s writing. The adaptation is not only a true masterpiece; it understands Austen’s vision. This production was one of those costume dramas that left its targeted audience in a tizzy of anticipation for its release. Or at least it did for me!

My first introduction to this story was the award-winning 1995 film version (starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet) and, as a result, it will always be special to me. But I have to say, with subsequent viewings, my overall favourite is the 2008 BBC miniseries. It’s a breathtaking, lavish production. Anytime Andrew Davies is involved we are assured a treat where the screenplay is concerned.

Much speculation, criticism and praise has been heaped on Davies’ miniseries in equal parts. Fortunately, I feel that I’ve been able to look objectively at the things that aren’t up to par while giving credit where it improved upon its predecessors – and most of all, it’s correlation to the novel.

From a cinematic perspective, this production is gorgeous. The scenery is rustic amidst its natural beauty, as is the seaside cottage the Dashwood’s inhabit, which contrasts nicely with the grandeur of the estates. Such a setting lends itself to romantic moods. Naturally, the score blends well with complimentary camera angles.

Likely, the greatest source of debate has been the cast. In my view, each of the cast members represent the written counterpart better than any of the other versions – primarily due to their ages. Edward and Elinor’s interactions have significantly improved compared to the 1995 feature film, and even the novel.

Edward is barely discussed in Austen’s writing, which is not unusual considering she never did write from her hero’s perspective due to her limited knowledge of the male sex. But here he gets a fair interpretation. One of the most memorable scenes is the cute “meeting” between Edward and Elinor. Similarly, the proposal scene between Edward and Elinor is emotional but lovely in the miniseries and actually gets screen-time, whereas Austen chooses to skip over that pivotal moment.

Mary and Margaret Dashwood are also better portrayed in this version and insignificant scenes from the book are explored in greater detail – such as the scene where Willoughby comes to beg Elinor’s forgiveness and to request an audience with Marianne, which offers a kind of final reckoning for their relationship.

From the very opening of the series, which begins with John Dashwood’s illness and death, this miniseries is in capable hands with Davies – his ideas are the most considerate to Miss Austen compared to anyone else who has scripted her works.

Any lover of Austen will find a jewel in this movie. No matter which you like better – the books or their film adaptations – the 2008 miniseries of Sense & Sensibility is far too memorable to be missed.

Much appreciation to Danielle for inviting me to write this guest post, thanks Danielle!


  1. Thanks so much Rissi!

    It's hard for me to imagine that any adaptation could rival Austen's original...

    By sharing your views, you have given my humble little blog the opportunity to consider things from an entirely new perspective. Perhaps the book is not always better... what a revolutionary thought :)

  2. I need to reread and watch both again before I can give a better opinion. I prefer the Edward and Elinor of the new one because they are both younger closer to what the book states their ages were. Edward in the newest one is significantly better looking than Hugh Grant whom one blogger described as "appearing as if he was looking for the nearest restroom." Willoughby was better in the older version; he was also better looking-in the newer one he looked like a rake. Marianne in the older version is much, much better. The newer one played a misinterpreted Marianne (the kind of misinterpretation I find is a problem with the portrayals of Emma). Colonel Brandon was far too old in the older version, but in the newer version I found him totally slimy. I do not at all remember Mrs. Dashwood and Margaret from the newer one. Wow, now I really want to see it again. I love your review; I love Jane Austen and reviews like yours.

  3. I enjoy both adaptations -- I wish I could take the Marianne and Brandon from the Hollywood film, and the Elinor and Edward from this one, since it would make the perfect movie! =)

  4. Wonderful!
    Rissi is an awesome writer :)
    I love to read her blog becuase her posts are always so detailed and intersting!
    Lovely guest post!
    I followed you by the way, love your blog!

  5. Hi Livia, Charity and Rebekah. Thanks for stopping by. Rissi is fantastic, I would welcome her back for guest reviews any time!

    And thanks for your kind words Rebekah. I'm just starting out, but am really enjoying blogging so far. I'm glad you like it :)