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.
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