Watching Frank Churchill

amo vitam

FrankChurchill (3)I’ve been watching the 1996 Emma again. No, not that one, the other one. The one with Kate Beckinsale. Yes, I like the Gwyneth Paltrow version a lot too, and the 2008 Romola Garai one – in fact, so far the Kate Beckinsale one has been my least favourite of the three; I only own a copy on taped-from-TV VHS (I know, right?). But I pulled it back out lately for reasons of research completely unrelated to Jane Austen.

You see, I’m using the Frank Churchill in that movie as a model for one of the characters I’m writing at the moment. Just physically, mind you – it’s the actor, Raymond Coulthard, his looks and the way he moves and smiles, that I’m using, not Austen’s Frank Churchill. I’m picturing a young Ray Coulthard, ca. 1996, playing the scenes in my story, which helps with writing them…

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Beauty and the Beast Meets Pride and Prejudice

This just cracks me up: a mashup of Pride and Prejudice with Beauty and the Beast.

The best part about it is how well it works. The “Beast” voice is so much like Matthew McFadyen’s voice, especially when he says “I’ve never felt this way about anyone” – exactly the Darcy tone. I found this video when I was looking up P&P as a version of B&B – because it is, when you think about it, and apparently I’m not the only one with that opinion.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single Beast in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a Beauty…

And Yet One More

One more post on Jane Austen, and I’ll have done for the summer.

The term paper is finished – 6,000 words on the P&P and S&S film adaptations (the 1995/2005 and 1995/2008 ones). My main point in it is that the newer movies are as much influenced by the older ones as by the books, and it’s really clearly seen in the characters of Mr Darcy, Margaret, Edward and Colonel Brandon. Film adaptations are a form of reader-response criticism – well, at least that’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

So after three months of full Austen immersion, I still don’t hate her (which is not a given; I can get tired very easily of subjects, especially if I have to do work on them). In fact, I’m more of a Janeite than ever, and now I’ve got the education to back me up. Educated fanatics are the worst kind; look out, world.

I think I could do a whole other course on Austen. I could have things to say about the adaptations of Mansfield, Northanger, Persuasion, and Emma. And I’d like to look at how, or if, Austen created the “romance” genre as we know it today (the storyline of proud rich man/feisty prejudiced girl has been repeated over and over in thousands of Harlequin novels and rom-coms). What did Austen mean when she said “I could no more write a Romance than an Epic Poem”? (That’s from a letter to the Prince Regent’s librarian, Sir James Stanier Clarke, who wanted her to write a “Historical Romance illustrative of the History of the august house of Cobourg” – heroic propaganda, in other words. Had that guy even read what Austen usually produced?) Obviously, the term “romance” meant something different then – but what? So I wouldn’t mind exploring Austen’s place vis-a-vis 19th-century Romanticism – is she, or is she not, part of that movement? I think not, but then I don’t know enough about Romanticism (yet). And how do we get from Romanticism to today’s red-hearts-and-Valentines “romance”? The last is where it veers off from Austen a bit – but regardless, suffice to say there’s still so much to think on and study, I could be busy with this for a long time yet. No wonder people get whole PhD’s studying Austen.

And speaking of people who haven’t actually read Austen: apparently the Brits are going to put her on the £10 note, starting in 2017. The accompanying quote, as this article in the Guardian points out, is one that’s a bit of a blunder: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” That’s said by Miss Bingley, for the sheer purpose of sucking up to Mr Darcy. Major irony on Austen’s part. It’s like a fridge magnet I have: it came with a box of herbal tea, and has an oh-so-cute teddy bear in a rocking chair on it sipping from a steaming mug, and bears the inscription: “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort! Jane Austen”. In that case, the quote comes from Emma, and is said by Mrs Elton being her usual annoying self – she really doesn’t mean what she’s saying any more than Miss Bingley does in the £10 quote. But then, I suppose, using as certified Austen quotes some lines that are examples of her incredible gift for irony is, in a strange way, quite apt. Those of us in the know can enjoy our quiet chuckle, and appreciate how definitive of the great Jane Austen those words are, after all.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that – this line is one of the most over-quoted in English literature. So I think I will sign off for now. Thanks for reading my effusions! I’ll be back in the fall with Children’s Literature and Fairytales.

Mark Twain

So apparently Mark Twain was supposed to have hated Austen. This was quoted in the side bar of an article on CBC that said Austen’s picture is going to be on a British pound note: “he said … every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shinbone.”

Well, d’uh, Mr. Twain. If you hate the book so much, why do you keep reading it over and over? I think that deserves a few whacks with your own shinbone, right there.

First Draft

Well, the first draft is in the can. Of course, so far from not having enough to say to fill up the 5000-word paper, I had far too much to say, and ended up dropping more than half of what I had planned on and of the references I had copied out to use. I guess there’s good reasons people have written so many books on Austen and the film adaptations of her books.

So now to rewrite this thing into some semblance of sense…

Writer’s Block

Walking through molasses is nothing to this. I have no idea if I can find enough to say on the movies to make a whole term paper. Well, enough that’s intelligent – fan girl squealing isn’t going to cut it for an academic paper. It’s time for a nap, isn’t it?

On the other hand, I read a very interesting chapter by John Wiltshire in The Cinematic Jane Austen on “period lighting”, and how film makers use it to say “heritage film”. The fact is that in Austen’s time, everything after sunset was marked by darkness, the only light coming from candles or oil lamps (although gas lighting was being invented and started to come into use in her lifetime; but it would be unlikely that any of her characters would have seen or used it). Some of the film adaptations completely ignore that fact, noticeably the 1995 P&P. The evening scenes all take place in brilliantly lit rooms, with the candles just a token image in the background, merely decoration.

Incidentally, I’m using the terms “film” and “movie” indiscriminately to mean “moving picture”, regardless of what medium the picture in question was originally meant for. I think both “film” and “movie” technically means “cinematic release”, with the other being “telefilm”, “TV adaptation”, “TV series” or some such thing. That’s too awkward, though, especially as today we just watch all of them on the small screen via DVD. So I’m just using the shorthand.

Intertextuality

Knee-deep in research for the term paper. Re-watched both P&P and S&S movies in the last week, as that’s what I’ll be writing about – so that’s about 12 hrs worth of Austen film. Tough, but someone’s gotta do it.

Part of the point of my paper is going to be the issue of intertextuality, how one “text” (in this case films are considered “texts” as much as the printed version) refers to another, and how our reading/viewing of one is influenced by the other.

We had an argument last night in the family about whether the 1995 P&P, which we’ve watched incessantly, actually includes the scene from the book where Bingley says that if he decided to leave Netherfield, he’d be gone in five minutes – which he says in a sort of self-deprecating way, “Haha, I’m so impulsive,” whereupon Darcy tells him off, saying that he’s really indirectly boasting of being like that. It’s a fairly significant character point in describing both Bingley and Darcy. One of the family thought they were absolutely sure that scene was in the movie, and thought they remembered hearing Colin Firth delivering the line “I see your design, Bingley. You dislike an argument, and want to silence this.” But the fact is, that dialogue and this particular line are not in this movie adaptation; Colin Firth never did say that. But having watched the film so often, on every re-reading of the book Mr Darcy now speaks with Colin Firth’s voice, to the point where it’s difficult to separate the movie memories from the book ones.

Conversely, I only just twigged to the fact that in the 1995 S&S Emma Thompson’s Elinor is not, in fact, nineteen, but more like twenty-eight. I had always watched the film with the “knowledge” in my head that Elinor is nineteen and Marianne seventeen, and purposely in my mind glossed over the very obvious age difference of the actors (Emma Thompson was thirty-five to Kate Winslet’s nineteen) – sort of told myself to suspend disbelief, made myself read Elinor as nineteen even though she obviously wasn’t (kind of like watching Shakesperean boy actors play girls, you just make yourself accept it). I was watching the movie through the lens of the book. But in fact, Emma Thompson wasn’t trying to play a nineteen-year-old. The character is written and acted as a mature older sister, daughter of a fifty-year-old mother (not the forty-year-old of the book), looking after her flighty little sisters and running the household (“denying” them sugar and beef, for example, because it’s too expensive) – in fact, being the responsible mother-figure in the family. That’s how the film character is written and played (and played well), but I didn’t really see it because I was looking for the Elinor of the book, and so that’s what I saw.

And then of course there’s the fact that the movies heavily influence each other – in the case of Sense and Sensibility, the 2007 version directly quotes the 1995 one over and over, visually, verbally, in allusions, in character development, in scenes – sometimes purposely contrasting the one with the other. For example, in 1995 it’s Willoughby riding on a white charger to the rescue of Marianne who is collapsed in the rain; in 2007, Colonel Brandon gets to ride the horse to find Marianne, whereas Willoughby is on foot in that first scene. The Colonel-Brandon-carry-Marianne-into-the-house scene is not, I’m sad to say, in the book – Austen was obviously lacking the proper romantic sensibilities for appreciating such a scene. Good thing we’ve got Emma Thompson and Andrew Davies to make up for it.