Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Everything Austen II Challenge Wrap-Up

Today, I'd like to wrap up the Everything Austen II challenge, so I can get on with the mini-break I will be taking, over the next week, or two.  I'll be leaving my blog for a little while to tie up some loose ends at home and prepare my application to graduate school.  I wanted to complete this challenge to the best of my ability at this point, and here are my results:

1. Lost in Austen mini-series-FINITO! 4 stars-see my review from Monday.
2. Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict-Laurie Viera Rigler-FINITO! 3 1/2 stars-see my review from Monday.
3. Pride and Prejudice-a re-reading and re-viewing of 1995 film-I will be reviewing below. 5 stars, of course!
4. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo
FINITO! 2 1/2 stars
5. Attend my first JASNA regional meeting in Rochester, NY (I wish I could have gone to Portland this year, but I didn't want to miss Halloween with my son!!) FINITO! 4 1/2 stars
6. Finish reading Becoming Austen by Jon Spence-not very motivated at this point to finish, and not sure I will!

This has been a great challenge, all-in-all.  It has definitely forced me, a person with not much patience for long term projects, to complete most, but, unfortunately, not all, my self-imposed tasks.  For those of you who have read my review of Lost in Austen and Rude Awakenings, you know that I enjoyed both takes on the same theme:  the interchange through some kind of time travel between the Regency era with our Modern one.  I have read Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattilo, but this didn't give me too much of an impression, so I won't review this one.  It is more of a fun novel for leisurely reading, and I find these days, that I really prefer something more intellectually stimulating.  Maybe at another point in my life, I will enjoy it more.

I did attend my first JASNA regional meeting in Rochester, NY this past month, and I was wowed!  Not only by the fact that there is a such a place to celebrate Jane, but by the fact that there are people out there with such an incredible knowledge of Jane Austen, almost bordering on encyclopedic! One particular attendee claims to have all of her writing memorized, and she took the opportunity on many occasions to "show her stuff".  What a resource she was!   Everyone was fully attentive, and the discussion was quite thorough and intense.  We discussed the issue of money in Austen's novels, which is one of the most interesting aspects of her novels, in my opinion.   I am so glad I made the hour-long drive to attend and spend a couple hours immersed in Jane's writing.

So, there are two items left on my list.  Becoming Jane by John Spence is still in the works, but, to be honest, I haven't touched it in a while.  It is a slow moving , rather dry biography, and right now, I have so many other books keeping my attention.  I do have until the end of the year, right?  Well, one can only hope.

The last item then on my list is the combined reading and watching of Pride and Prejudice-both the original novel and the 1995 film, written by Andrew Davies.  I have actually read the novel twice:  once in the form of her traditional novel format and the other an annotated edition by David  M. Shapard.  I loved both re-reading the novel (I had read it a few times previously) and reading an annotated edition.  I love Shapard's analysis of this novel, and it would be the book I give to someone who wants to read Austen, but never has before. I love some of his comments, and here is a good example:

Shapard gives us this note about Mr. Collin's proposal to Elizabeth:
pg. 199
            "It is significant that, amidst his lengthy explanations as to why he has decided to marry, Mr. Collins has said almost nothing in praise of Elizabeth herself; clearly she has little to do with his decision.  All this makes his next sentence, speaking of his violent affection for her, especially ludicrous."

Yes, "especially ludicrous" would be a good term to use for Mr. Collins.  He is always ludicrous and exasperating, and his proposal is him at his most foolish.  He is such a buffoon!  
I highly recommend Shapard's edition to anyone, whether you know Austen by heart, or have never heard of her before. 

So, lastly, we come to the film, the most celebrated of all the P&P adaptations:  the 1995 BBC film with a screenplay by the great Andrew Davies.  I think the majority of us will concur that this is the definitive adaptation, and it would be extremely difficult to improve upon.  I think one of the few criticisms I have heard about this film is the excessive masculine references added by Davies.  Yes, of course, these parts were not in the novel.  We see little of the male perspective in Austen's novels.  In my opinion, a film does not need to follow the novel word-for-word.  That is why it is called an adaptation for the screen.  The novel must be adapted to fit the viewing audience, and I think seeing things from a male perspective is a wonderful addition, especially Darcy's personal perspective, which I highly enjoyed!  

Another aspect I enjoyed about this particular film is the purely evil Mr. Wickham, played by Adrian Lukis. He is definitely the best Wickham I have seen:  so slimy, duplicitous, a true cad, and a very bad human being.  I feel sorry for the actor because he probably cannot get past this casting.  We will always know him as that awful Mr. Wickham. 

Mr. Bingley is also wonderfully cast.  He is so incredibly positive and friendly, and I think this is who Austen had in mind.  Lastly, and most importantly, the casting of Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as Darcy and Elizabeth is iconic, and cannot be touched, by anyone, anywhere.  The romance, the chemistry cannot be topped.  It is amazing to me that they are not married in real life, but I guess that is the true power of acting.

I do love the visual quality of this film, from the costumes to the landscapes and buildings chosen, especially Pemberley, but as far as the set design, I would give Joe Wright's film higher regards.  Wright's film is just amazingly rich and beautiful and the colors are exquisite.  The music as well, in this film, is perfect and cannot be improved upon.

But, having said this, when it comes to a Jane Austen film, especially P&P, what really matters are the characters and how they deliver her witty lines, how they interact with each other and bring her story to life.  So, I think that the 1995 film is the best and takes top honors, and prove me wrong, but it will always be the best ever made.

So, this is my wrap-up.  I may have to add to it, but right now this is what I have to say.  Happy Reading, Crafting, Viewing etc. Everyone!


Stephanie said...

I am totally jealous that you got to attend your local JASNA regional meeting - I really must try to do so one day. Thanks so much for participating in Everything Austen II!!

TheWingchairTraveller said...

Thank you so much for hosting, Stephanie! Such a wonderful idea, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Christopher said...

Your comment "In my opinion, a film does not need to follow the novel word-for-word. That is why it is called an adaptation for the screen" is absolutely spot-on.

This is always the problem that I have with the rabid Janeites; they want everything to be ruthlessly faithful to the novel. Well, that is simply absurd. Anybody who watches a film adaptation looks for the screenwriter's and the director's interpretation of that printed material. Therefore, I am with you, I love the adaptations of Andrew Davies. I think he is the wizard of period pieces.

Superb posting, my friend, and good luck with the application to graduate school. Cheers! Chris

TheWingchairTraveller said...

Thanks much, Christopher, and cheers right back to you! Have a great weekend!