"And to this purpose"

"If people like to read their books, it is all very well, but to be at so much trouble in filling great volumes, which, as I used to think, nobody would willingly ever look into, to be labouring only for the torment of little boys and girls, always struck me as a hard fate; and though I know it is all very right and necessary, I have often wondered at the person's courage that could sit down on purpose to do it." (In other words: rambling analyses, opinions, ideas, views, and comments from an English major, Essay/paper-writing enthusiastic, Austen-loving Master Librarian on, well, Jane Austen...and a whole lot of other things, too.)

"Celebrated Passages are Quoted"

Heidi's favorite quotes

"What is it really like to be engaged?" asked Anne curiously. "Well, that all depends on who you're engaged to," answered Diana, with that maddening air of superior wisdom always assumed by those who are engaged over those who are not."— L.M. Montgomery

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

S&S Movie Book Club Answers

Well, I'm a day early, but here are my answers for the Book Club! (I figured I'd post now before I forget--I've been so busy with work!) I hope many of you will comment and discuss. Better yet--answer them for yourself and send them along!

1. Did watching more than one version increase your understanding of the story?
Actually, no more than what the ’96 version helped clarify for me.

2. The character of Margaret is cut out of two of the four movie versions. What significance does she have to the story? Is she necessary? Which other characters were cut from the movie versions?
Well, I don’t think she’s absolutely necessary. But I do think it’s a shame she is excluded. I think she can be important in showing Marianne’s role as an older sister—the example she is (or should be) setting, and her moments of responsibility. Gives her another good quality instead of her only having silly ones.

I was very disappointed that the ’96 version cut the character of Anne Steele. She’s so hilariously annoying. And helps show even more how girls like the Steeles are nothing in comparison to girls like the Dashwoods (even for all of Marianne’s silliness). I think the actress who played her in the ’07 version was delightful.

3. In the 1996 Ang Lee/Emma Thompson movie version, Willoughby first meets Marianne while he is on horseback. In the book, he meets her while on foot. What motive would Ang Lee (director) and Emma Thompson (screenwriter) possibly have for changing it to horseback? Did you like or dislike that he added the scene where the grieving Marianne walks in the rain to look at Combe Magna? What about the Atlas scene with Edward, Elinor and Margaret?
I think the horseback element was supposed to be the knight riding his white charger—which would coincide quite well with Marianne’s fantasies of romance.
Though it annoyed me she still wasn’t over him, I liked the Marianne scene at Combe Magna. Quoting that part of Shakespeare was a great way in showing how truly shaken Marianne’s fixations and ideas on what romance and love were. She really was betrayed, and betrayal is such a difficult thing to overcome.
The atlas scene? Perfect addition. I loved it! Any addition that helped show how Edward and Elinor were much more meant for each other, and also showed their friendship and feelings growing for each other was an improvement upon the book. Plus, it’s just too humorous to not include!

4. In the book, Willoughby is described as being the most handsome/sexy man. Did the movie versions you saw stay true to that description? Why or why not?
Blech, blech, and NO! Looks-wise right off I didn’t think any attractive. And I never was one for the obvious and/or popular man. I like the men who are more subtle in their good looks and great personalities.

5. Is Mrs. Jennings more or less likable on screen compared to in the book?
I don’t remember her as much from the book. Yet the movies made her unforgettable. She’s still annoying, but she’s a likable annoying and I didn’t mind laughing while watching her. I do think I prefer the Mrs. Jennings in the ’96 version though.

6. The “Willoughby confession scene” was cut from the Ang Lee version of the movie. How significant for you is that scene to the overall plot?
This was immensely significant for me—because it’s my favorite scene from the book! Though Willoughby is trying to justify himself (and I was rightly angered with Sophia Grey), he still through this scene shows the immoral coward that he is.

7. Who do you think the unnamed informant is who ruins Willoughby's fun? Do any of the movie versions attempt to answer that question?
My answer to this is different from what I answered for the book, probably because I had the question clairified for me as well as a suggestion from Brittany. She suggested Col. Brandon. Which got me to think and had me give this response: “That is a twist. Yet it makes sense—who else would tell? But what if he was doing it to see if Willoughby would admit his wrong, and come back to Eliza? A last chance effort for Eliza, though he probably guessed it wasn't going to happen. Hmmm....” I don’t think the movie versions have answered that question—or even hinted at it!

8. Do any of the movie versions give us any red flags that lead us to believe Willoughby might be a villain? As a viewer, would you want to see red flags or would you rather be drawn in by him, vicariously through Marianne?
Well, the ’07 version certainly sent up a red flag. I’m not sure about the red flags though, because I went into the movie knowing he was a cad. I have never been able to bring myself to have any kind of sympathy or feeling for him. (I did have one friend who voted Willoughby all the way, even knowing how promiscuous, untruthful, and unfaithful he was. How---????? Ug.) I think the ’96 version does a good job in trying to draw the viewer in. But they also try to keep you sympathetic to his outcome. Unh-uh!

Personally I wouldn’t want to be drawn in at all like Marianne, for I would hope to have the sense like Elinor to see the better merits of gentlemen such as Edward or Col. Brandon.

9. Discuss the title. What does Sense mean? What does Sensibility mean? Who in the story embodies those qualities? (Think about Elinor, Marianne, Col. Brandon, Edward, Mrs. Dashwood, Fanny Dashwood, Willoughby, etc.) What are the advantages and disadvantages of both qualities? In the movie versions you saw were there visual symbols of the meaning of the title? Which versions are better at depicting this?
I quote from my answers for the book: “Elinor is sense. She is practical and does everything that she thinks is right, proper, and best. Marianne is sensibility, who does everything that she feels is best—usually for her. I would like to think I have both. There are times my sense of propriety wins out in many things. But other times my overly sentimental self takes over.” To which I add that others with sense (even if misplaced, misguided, or poorly/selfishly executed) are Edward, Fanny, Mrs. Jennings, Lucy Steele. Sensibility would have Mrs. Dashwood, Anne Steele, Charlotte Palmer. Col. Brandon has a decent mix of both.

I think it is helpful to have an even balance of both. Sense, of course, to know the practical things in life and do what is appropriate, beneficial, and needed. But there needs to be some sensibility—some feeling and emotion. Life without passion would be very dull indeed.

I had never thought about visual symbols in the movies, but having to think about it, at least one thing comes to mind. In the ’07 version, Margaret uses a lot of shells for decoration. They are simple and yet made beautiful and add to the charm of the cottage. I believe this is the Sensibility side. Margaret is a great show of how Elinor and Marianne have both had an effect on her and how hopefully she will grow up to be a good balance of both.

10. Which movie version is your favorite? After watching more than one version, did that opinion change?
My favorite was the ’07 version. Special, personally historic ties to ’96. But ’07 just added so much more depth and beauty. Not as much humor as the ’96, and (of course) longer which allowed for more depth. I’ll always love ’96, but I’m so glad ’07 is there now.

11. In your opinion, which movie version is most like the book? Which individual actors best fit their character in age, appearance and disposition? Are there any other additional actors whom you would like to see play those parts?
I think ’07 was most like the book—including more characters than any other version (including the Middletons’ children). I believe this version had much better actors suited for the characters in every respect. It’s more how I would have envisioned them. In the ’96 version they all look a whole lot older than they should be (except for Margaret). With my affinity for Ioan, though I think he would make an excellent Henry Tilney, he’d probably do well as Edward Ferrars, too.


Sara Lyn said...

Good stuff, Heidi. I'm thinking that I need to both read the book again and watch the 07 version again. Ooo... That sounds really fun! Agreed with you on a lot of points. Especially that Willoughby is always ICKY! (Which is too bad that my great-grandfather's name was Willoughby. Family name.) Gag, gag, gag. And I was sad too that his confession scene was cut. I remember reading the book after I watched the movie and really loving that scene. And if it was Col. Brandon that "ruined his fun," GOOD FOR COL. BRANDON! What an idiot W. was. How dare he lead on an innocent girl (even if he was in love) when he was such nastiness.

Brittany Marie said...

I'm only going to comment on the 96 and 07 versions since the other 2 I can't stand. LOL
1. The 07 version helped me realize how much significance the Willoughby confession scene has on the story as a whole.
2. I like that Margaret is that voice- she can blurt stuff out that the other older girls can't. She says outloud what the others are thinking. ("The Atlas? Why has Edward not come?") She also provides an insight into Marianne's character as the Middle Sister. Marianne can relate to both Margaret and Elinor. Margaret is also the litmus test for the men as well. Think of how she is very much ignored except for Col. Brandon telling her about the West Indies (96), and Edward and the Atlas (96), and Edward taking her riding on his horse (07).
3. I too see Willoughby coming on horseback as a way to draw you in to his charms.
4. For me, Willoughby should always be the most handsome man in this story. He represents that old lesson of "not judging a book by its cover"; while Willougby is dashing and beautiful, Edward is shy, awkward, fidgety, plain, etc. and Brandon is of course, "old". :p
5. I do prefer Mrs. Jennings of the 96 version- I love her being that over the top.
6. That scene was very significant for me. In the 96 version I had to watch it over again to see if Willoughby did indeed love Marianne, or was I mistaken like she was? They did a very good job of making you think "Did she make that up in her head?". The confession scene justifys (not her actions) but Marianne's understanding that he did in fact, love her.
7. There seems to be a coolness between Brandon & Willoughby that suggests that they may have a history. Willoughby is always badmouthing Brandon, etc.
8. I think Willoughby being "too good to be true" is a red flag. His mini book of sonnets, his wildflowers, etc. Also, as a Gentleman, he should not act the way he does. He says in the 07 version "I hate these stupid conventions" when he takes Marianne to the house (alone).
9. Some visual symbols of the title: I like the visual of Marianne first being carried in from the rain by Willoughby (sensibility) and then by contrast being carried in out of the rain by Brandon (sense). The sisters themselves are visual symbols of both and in the 81 version, it opens with a shot of the 2 sisters balancing on a teeter-totter. And, in the 96 version, Emma Thompson's commentary says that there is are 2 hedges that intersect in a field; one is Sense and one is Sensibility.
10. I loved the 07 version and it is my favorite- but barely. The 96 version is still close to my heart.
11. I think the 07 version is closest as well. I liked that they were closer to their respective ages (although having Brandon be played by Alan Rickman could be an exaggeration of how his "age" is perceived by Marianne.) Even though is age and looks are wrong for Edward, Hugh Grant's blinky eyes and fidgetiness is perfect for the part. I can't see anyone but Hugh Laurie play Mr. Palmer though. :p