Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pride & Prejudice: 1995 vs.2005

So, "Masterpiece Theatre" finished showing the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice last Sunday. I had never seen this version before, so I was looking forward to comparing it to the 2005 version which I adore. There are so many different opinions as to which version better, so I decided to throw my own in there as well.

Jennifer Ehle ('95) vs. Keira Knightly ('05)
This one is a tie. Both actresses bring different elements of "Lizzie Bennett" to life. Jennifer definitely has the maturity and the wit. She plays Lizzie with grace and doesn't gives her witty remarks like they were from a script, but rather from her own mind. She does, however, lack some youth and vivacity, and can sometimes seem as if she were playing a much older character than a 19 year old. Keira is the opposite. She has the youth, vivacity and "what do I care if Darcy likes me?" attitude, but she lacks Jennifer's grace and delicacy. If we could find a way to meld the qualities of both of these actresses, I think that then we would see the real Lizzie.

Matthew McFadyn ('05) vs. Colin Firth ('95)

Another tie. Both of these men are wonderful as Darcy. Matthew brings an air of mystery and contempt to Darcy's natural pride. He is cold, distant and reserved. With Colin, we know that he likes Elizabeth from the start, so we are expecting his proposal when it comes. Not so with Matthew. His proposal comes as a shock given the fact that other than a few glances and touches, there is no indication that he feels anything but contempt for her. Another difference is the two actors different interpretations of Darcy's reaction to the Bennett's impropriety. Matthew's feelings are not very evident. He remains cold and distant in the face of the Bennett's silliness. But Colin is obviously mortified, giving us a sense of the pain it was for him to be around the family. Honestly, both of these actors portray Darcy beautifully, and I could watch either of them on any given day. (But between you and me, I prefer the foggy sunrise to the "wet shirt scene").

Susannah Harker ('95) vs. Rosamund Pike ('05)
The winner for me is Rosamund Pike, hands down. Unlike Susannah's Jane, Rosamund gives the character a personality. Though her Jane is obviously shy and modest, she is also affectionate and warm. Susannah's Jane remains flat and dull, leaving one to wonder what Mr. Bingley saw in her in the first place. Plus, Rosamund is actually pretty.

Tom Hollander ('05) vs. David Bamber ('95)

It's hard to choose a favorite Mr. Collins, because the character himself isn't easily likable. But I think that I will have to go with Tom Hollander. He plays Mr. Collins as an awkward, ridiculous twerp (and his height only adds to this impression). David plays him more as an in-your-face and rude kind of guy. I personally liked Tom's portrayal better. I found his Mr. Collins to be so utterly ridiculous and laughable, that he was almost charming. As for David's Mr. Collins, the word that my sister and I felt best described him was "disgusting". I couldn't even really laugh at him, I was so busy rolling my eyes and wrinkling my nose.

There are many other differences in the other characters, but I won't go into all of them.
So, my final verdict? These adaptations are different, but equal. Without a doubt, the '95 version is the definitive version. I have seen very few movies that follow it's book so closely, and almost all of the character interpretations were right on. However, there are times (especially the first 2 hours) when this version seems to drag.
The '05 version gives the plot a faster pace and a modern sparkle, and the majority of it's character interpretations are good as well. But like alot of modern adaptations, the essence of the book is somewhat lost in the shuffle.
Ultimately, I think that I will have to have both of these adaptations in my collection.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Happy Birthday to:

Victor Hugo
February 26, 1802

"Whenever a man's friends begin to compliment him about looking young, he may be sure that they think he is growing old. "

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pride & Prejudice is Tops in Australia

Australian bookseller Dymocks (the AU version of Barnes and Noble) recently published a survey on the best book ever written. Over 15,000 members voted for their top five books and the winner was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, beating out The Lord of the Rings (#2) and To Kill a Mockingbird (#3). And, not only did one of this amazing lady's works win, three of her other novels (Persuasion, Emma and Sense and Sensibility) placed in the Top 101 as well. Congrats to Miss Austen!

Other great books that made the cut were The Count of Monte Cristo, Wind in the Willows, War & Peace, Anna Karenina, The Chronicles of Narnia, Great Expectations, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Jane Eyre.

So did any of your favorites make the list? Were there any that you thought should have been rated higher (Jane Eyre should definately have been higher than #10)? Were there any that didn't make the list that you thought should have (Haven't those Aussies read Les Miserables!)? What are your top five books?

Monday, February 18, 2008

"O Day of days when we can read!
The reader and the book, either without the other is naught."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Inheritance

A pure heart is worth more than gold, and true love is shown through kindness and selflessness. That is the message of The Inheritance. Written at the tender age of 17, Louisa May Alcott's first novel was not published until 1997, after it was rediscovered in Harvard's Houghton Library by two scholars working on her letters. A story of love and virtue, passion and betrayel, it has since become almost as well loved as her more famous works, and gives us a glimpse into the mind of a brilliant writer in the flower of her youth.

The Plot:

Edith Adelon is a beautiful, yet gentle Italian orphan who was adopted by the wealthy Hamilton family as a young child and taken to live on their English estate as a companion to their young daughter Amy. As she grows, her tender love and pure heart endear her to those around her, especially Amy and her brother Arthur.

One summer, the Hamilton house welcomes the arrival of two young men, the dashing and passionate Lord Arlington and the noble and kind Lord Percy. Both men are captivated by Edith's beauty and kindness and pursue her through different means, much to the chagrin of Lady Ida, a cousin of the Hamiltons. Lady Ida constantly seeks to make Edith's life miserable and to snub her for her lack of rank and wealth. Finally, Lady Ida devises a plan to disgrace Edith forever and have her banished from the Hamilton estate. Now the only thing that can save Edith is a long-kept secret that will shed light on her past and make it possible for her to accept the love of the man her heart desires.

My Review (Caution-Spoilers):

Though The Inheritance lacks the depth and scope of Alcott's later novels, it is nonetheless a pleasing story, especially for one written by a 17 year old. As in many of Alcott's other novels, the virtues of honesty, fidelity, trust and self-sacrifice appear as the main themes and each character plays a part in bringing these themes to life.

Edith's two suitors contrast each other very well and show how kindness often wins against passion and vanity. Lord Arlington loves Edith for her beauty and gentelness, yet it is a selfish love that seeks only its own gratification. He often says and does things that openly declare his love and doesn't care if they make Edith uncomfortable or not. Lord Percy, on the other hand, is a complete opposite. While he does love Edith, he has a true love that will not allow him to openly hurt her by declaring a love for her that she feels she must not accept. Instead, he shows his love for her by simply being kind and helping her in all of the charitable work that she does in the community.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us the nature of true love: "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."

So often in today's world we mistake emotion and selfishness for true love. We mistake the copy for the original. The Inheritance offers a glimpse into what true love really is, and that it's worth truly is above all material things.

The Movie:

The Inheritance was made into a film for television in 1997. It stars Cari Shayne as Edith and the handsome Thomas Gibson as Percy. The setting is changed to Massachusets in the mid to late 1800s, so titles are dropped and a small subplot of equality for women is added. This makes Edith's initial refusal of Percy kind of weird since class wasn't quite as strict then as it was in England. But overall, this is a great introduction to this classic story and is entertaining for those who have and also those who haven't read the book. Good acting, great scenery, and an enchanting plot make this a wonderful film for everyone.

Note: This film is available in both a complete and a "family-edited version". I own the edited version and there is an obvious scene missing from it. Having not seen the complete version, I do not know what was considered "objectional" about the missing scene.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Masterpiece Theatre: Miss Austen Regrets

Miss Austen Regrets follows the beloved Jane Austen through the last couple of years of her life as she tries to help her young neice, Fanny, decide if she should accept the proposal of a young man who is courting her, and as she also reflects back on the proposals she turned down in her own life.

I found Miss Austen Regrets to be a refreshing reality check. It is so easy (especially for us single young women) to read Austen's novels and begin to view romance and love through rose colored glasses. It isn't long before we begin to judge the men in our lives against the likes of Mr. Darcy, Capt. Wentworth and Mr. Knightly. This is the trap that Fanny falls into, and poor Mr. Plumptree (like all men) falls dreadfully short. Her aunt Jane tries to change her thinking by reminding her that "The only way to get a man like Mr. Darcy is to make him up!"

Jane also tries to let Fanny know that there are so many things to consider when choosing a husband. Money, love, nature and family must all play a role in making a wise decision. But the one thing that struck me was that neither Jane nor Fanny seem to take into account the only thing that truly matters in the choosing of a mate; God's will. When we allow God to direct us to a mate, then everything else, money, nature, family and yes, even love, will follow suit.

The acting of this film was superb. Olivia Williams sparkled and smouldered by turns as Jane, and Imogen Poots was lovely as Fanny. Since most of Jane's letters were burned, we do not have a a very accurate idea of what thoughts, feelings and regrets she may have had. Nevertheless, Miss Austen Regrets is a lovely glimpse into the life of one of the most loved authors of all time, as well as a warning to love her novels for what they are, but to not try and translate them into real life.

Note: After reading my previous reviews of the other Complete Jane Austen adaptions, I think that I might have come across a little too harsh. Please understand that I thoroughly enjoyed each of these adaptations for the entertainment that they are. Could they have been better or closer to the book? Probably. But I am not a purist when it comes to screen adaptions of literature. I can enjoy them as movies, and many times they only increase my love for the great works that inspired them.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy Birthday To:

Charles Dickens
February 7, 1812

"Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do it well; whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself completely; in great aims and in small I have always thoroughly been in earnest. "

Friday, February 1, 2008

Masterpiece Theatre: Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park is not often considered Jane Austen's best novel, in fact it usually ranks on the bottom of most readers' lists. And Masterpiece Theatre's edition is another par-for-the-course adaptation. Once again, the story has been squeezed into 90 minutes, but unlike Persuasion, it's plot fits a little bit better into the time frame.

Overall, it was a very pleasing story with only a few problems that stood out. The role of Fanny Price was miscast, pure and simple. Billie Piper comes across as too modern and does not seem to have the same strong moral character as Fanny. Plus, her hair was everywhere! I don't think there was a scene when it didn't look like she had just rolled out of bed. Another complaint is the wardrobe, the dresses were so low cut that it was distracting. Finally, as in the previous weeks, some important supporting characters were either watered down or cut.

But there were good points as well. The rest of the cast was wonderful, especially Blake Ritson as Edmund Bertram and Hayley Atwell as Mary Crawford. It was also great to see the familiar faces of James D'arcy and Joseph Morgan, and Lady Bertram's little pug just about stole the whole show. The best part of the whole adaption was probably from the "thunderbolt" scene (if you saw it, you know what scene I am referring to) to the end. Soooo sweet! I think that Edmund Bertram is definately going to join the ranks of my sisters' and my favorite leading men.

So next up is Miss Austen Regrets, based on her last two years of her life and her lost loves. Now I all that I have to do is get the rest of my family to turn off the Super Bowl.