Sense and Sensibility (2008 TV): Part 2

Even though the last kiss in the movie goes to Elinor and Edward, I feel this second part of Sense and Sensibility belongs to Marianne and Colonel Brandon.  Indeed, David Morrissey’s Colonel Brandon has been the leading man and Charity Wakefield’s Marianne shines.  Their lines even bring back some epic images of a past Austen adaptation.  Just dwell on them again:

Marianne: My feelings for him has changed so much…I love him.

Elinor: Then I am happy for you.

Words of endearment reminiscent of Davis’ adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (1995)…flashback to Lizzy’s response to Darcy’s second proposal, and as she explains to her unbelieving father of her accepting it, and of course, Mr. Bennet’s loving consent upon hearing her declaration of love for Darcy.  As for the imaginary scene of the fencing duel?  Isn’t that just reminds us of Darcy’s own struggle?  Further … isn’t it true that such an improvised addition could work just as well with Darcy and Wickham too?

I think we have seen enough Davis adaptations to not be surprised by his interpretive visions…not authentically out of Austen’s book, but effective just the same … and we forgive him yet again.

Indeed, not only the fencing duel, which is nicely shot, mesmerizing and dream-like, but all the scenes we see in this new version that are Davis’ own imagination are all quite effective, thanks also to the excellent camerawork and cinematography.  Scenes such as Brandon’s gentle touch of Marianne’s hand as she lay ill in her bed, the invitation to his own library and leaving Marianne to the privacy of her own enjoyment of the pianoforte, to the taming of the falcon, all vividly depict Brandon’s patient and quiet yearning for her.  And Marianne, even though by nature a free-spirited creature like the falcon, would eventually fly back and rest on the arm of the one who beckons her with his steadfast love.  Davis’ imaginary scenes are most effective in portraying Marianne’s turnaround.

There are some very moving moments for Elinor too.  Desperately seeking solitude in her silent suffering, Elinor finds shelter in a cave by the seaside.  The camera’s point of view from inside the cave looking out, framing her silhouette against a tumultuous ocean, a stunning vision.  Or, when she sits on a bench, again alone, facing the wide open sea, waiting, doubting, or just plain accepting… Our hearts pour out to her, and yet, it is Elinor’s perseverance that has won us over, not sentimentality.  Now that is authentic Austen.

At the end, as Edward enters the Dashwood cottage to propose to Elinor, the slightly shaky camerawork is most effective in depicting the agitated anticipation of both lovers, for Edward, the nervous uncertainty of his reception, and for Elinor, the restless suspense and later unpredictable euphoria….kudos to the screenwriter, director, and cinematographer.

The Welsh filmmaker Peter Greenaway once made a controversial remark criticising film versions of literary work as mere “illustrated books”.  Regarding Jane Austen’s work, he said:

“Cinema is predicated on the 19th century novel.  We’re still illustrating Jane Austen novels–there are 41 films of Jane Austen novels in the world.  What a waste of time.”

(Click here for the Wales news article containing the above quote.)

To which I respond:  The visual can powerfully bring out the essence of the literary.  A good film adaptation is more than illustration of printed words, but an inspiring visual narrative.  At best, it can offer an interpretive vision and a new perspective to a timeless piece of writing.

The present adaptation is a vivid example.


Click here to go back to Sense and Sensibility Part 1.

Don’t forget to vote in the Poll on the sidebar, Which Austen heroine do you think Jane was most like?


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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

7 thoughts on “Sense and Sensibility (2008 TV): Part 2”

  1. What I adore about this adaptation is the use visual cues to prompt the viewer. I think the sea and sky have been used to great effect, and I took note of the following: the rain cleanses Marianne of her memories of Willoughby; the clouds without echo the roiling emotions of the characters within; the colonel’s white steed (which needs no explanation); Willoughby shown in almost complete darkness as he tries to explain his actions to Elinor; Mrs. Ferrars flanked by two footmen, symbols of supreme wealth, as she deprives Edward of his inheritance;Margaret seen playing with expensive toys at Norland and preoccupying herself with trinkets made from shells at Barton Cottage. This movie is rife with such images, which enhance our viewing experience. This adaptation was no waste of time; but added to our knowledge about S&S.

    Thank you for an excellent review.


  2. Ms. Place: Thanks for your additions, they are indeed insightful observations. You’re right, this adaptation is full of scenes loaded with meaning, thanks to AD’s interpretive vision. They have certainly enhanced my enjoyment of S&S…I’m not so sure about what JA purists would say though.


  3. I only wanted to add that I disliked “the taming” of Marianne. Women are not chattel, and she is most definitely gentled by Brandon in this adaptation. These scenes are definitely written from a man’s perspective; and I doubt Jane would have approved. My four minor quibbles with this movie (I despised the scenes in which it was having some fun at the expense of a chubby child) did not detract from my enjoyment of it.

    Having said that, I can think of few authors today who are happy with film adaptations of their novels. That’s because the two mediums are so different; one excites the imagination through words, the other is as heavily dependent on visual cues as dialogue. As with Northanger Abbey, several pages of description are dealt with by simply having the character move through the space that is described. The problem with adapting Jane’s novel is that she rarely described her characters’ dress or surroundings, and so the film maker must make do with archetypal symbols, which allow us to get into the character’s mind.


  4. I’d like to think that Marianne chooses to go to Colonel Brandon on her own volition, and CB silently waits and lets her make her decision, rather than ‘taming’ her. It’s his patient love and respect for her that has won her over, not crude and impulsive sensuality, like Willoughby.

    Film has become a genre of literature, or another language of literary expression. Transferring from one to another always is demanding, and certain meaning and significance is often lost, misplaced, or detracted in translation. This is certainly something that Jane would not need to worry about in her time.

    I just find the scenes are very effective in this adaptation, although I still enjoy the more literal and mature acting in the 1995 movie, which I still like very much. If I’d to choose, my preference is still Emma Thompson and yes, Alan Rickman.


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