Saturday, 6 December 2014

My introduction to Les Miserables

Or: Why you should read the book (or watch the musical) before seeing the movie.

I gotta admit, in the past I always kept my distance when I heard of Les Miserables - I mean the title sort of indicated it would be a depressing tale.

But when I saw a trailer for the movie, I decided I simply had to see it. And that is how I came to see the movie with no prior knowledge of the story, except for the trailer and a brief teaser summary. are some scenes that confused me/got quite a reaction out of me:

When 1815 appears written on the screen: "Wait a minute, I thought this movie would be about the French Revolution." Yeah..misunderstanding no 1.

The bishops entrance:."Why is he singing half the lines?"

During Valjean's Soliloquy: "He is talking... no wait he is singing again, why does he keep singing?
Obviously, I had no idea of the entire concept of Les Miserables. (I think I accepted it halfway through "At the End of the Day")

When Javert appears again: "Oh no, he has found you, run Valjean run!! Or not.....he isn't very good at recognising faces."

When Fantine dies: "What? she DIES??? How can she die? She is on the poster...and we are only 20 minutes into the film."

During Stars: "He is very close to that edge...he is not gonna jump is he?"

At the reprise of Look Down: "This. Is. So. Epic... Best movie ever."  

When Eponine dies: "What? She dies too?? What happened (in the commotion I hadn't noticed she was shot until she started singing) This was not neccesary (Urge to rewrite her story with a happy ending rises)

At the end of the last battle: "Now would be a good time to surrender...War is terrible. So many deaths. This movie is depressing."

During Javert's suicide: (Flashback to "Stars") He is very close to that he gonna jump? He is gonna jump...why do every single person in this movie have to die?

During the Epilogue: Off course..he is gonna die as well. This is so sad. Ok... he's dead, now fade to black......wait, what is this depressing ending suddenly turned into an inspirational feel-good ending.

While leaving the cinema: Now I have seen it. I am depressed, I don't think I'll ever watch it again. Can't wait to read the book though, and learn more about the characters.

Obviously that last decision didn't last. After reading the book (and watching the 25th anniversary concert uncountable times) I had an overwhelming urge to watch the movie again because I had a feeling I had missed a lot of what was going on.

So I counted down to the DVD release, bought it on the day it came out and it is now the movie I have seen the most times in the shortest interval (except maybe for Frozen).

And that my friends, was my introduction to Les Mis.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Emma (2009) - A Review

How does one even begin such a monumental task as listing all the things I love about this adaption?
Well...better start at one end.

A thing I always feel is very important when a book is adapted is that the film remain faithful to the content and tone of the book. This is definitely a thing this adaption does. It manages to show all the plot points and most of the conversation from the book (and the dialogue is very true to the one in the book). There is time to show it all without rushing it at all, but at the same time without the viewers getting bored.

Another very important thing is the characters. The casting and the portrayal is essential, and I think they have done a marvelous job at that.
Firstly, the casting is brilliant.
Secondly, the actors are brilliant in their portrayals.

I admit the first time I watched it I had to get used to Romola Garai's portrayal of Emma, but now I simply love it. At first she acts very energetic and at times seems immature, but I think it greatly underlines how much she matures during the film. She also brings a playfulness to the part that is very enjoyable.


I think Johnny Lee Millers portrayal of Mr Knightley is just perfection. He is my favourite Knightley ever and really brings all the characters lovely sides forward. I especially love his dynamic with Emma and their little banters. Let's just say this film brought my love for this character to a new level.

As for all the supporting characters I generally enjoy watching them. I love the sweetness of Jane Fairfax and how she is just the sort of person everybody would love.

I really enjoy the role of Mr Woodhouse - especially when they add all the motivation he could have to act the way he does - it makes him a more real character. Where in the book he is more shown as an old man focused on his health and trying to make others follow his advice, here he is shown as a man who knows the pain of loss and therefore tries to protect himself and his loved ones from anything causing illness and death.

Harriet, I think, is made very true to the book. How she at first blindly follow Emma's every opinion but is humble about he own status until she grows to being quite conceited and shocking Emma with her behaviour. Still, she remains a sweet girl and I just think the actress really brings forward everything that Harriet is.

Did I mention I also love the portrayal of Frank Churchill? The way he is shown as a cheerful young man, with quite some mood swings, who everybody loves and nobody really counts as a villain (which he is not at all compared to some of Austen's other villains).

One character I immensely enjoy in this particular film is Miss Bates. While she is still shown as cheerful and a little ridiculous, in this version we get to see behind her facade and realise she is quite aware of her sad situation, but still tryes to keep her spirits up both for herself and her mother. I think that was a very touching moment and it made me understand and like her much better.

Then, of course, there is The Eltons. I love them (and by that I mean I hate them. But that is what I was supposed to, so the actors have greatly fulfilled their job).

Now, that was the acting.
Another thing I that truly sets this version apart from everything else is the storytelling. The little prologue where all the treads is collected and shown, regarding Emma, Jane and Frank is simply brilliant. It quickly shows a connection only hinted at in the book and which I had never thought about before watching this. 
In general the screenwriters have been marvellous at seeing little hints and connections in the book and bringing them forward and making them an important part of the story (for instance how Emma has never left Highbury).


Now, on to another important subject.
What is the most important thing in a period drama except for the story and the acting?
You guessed correct...the costumes.
The costumes are so gorgeous! Emma Woodhouse's wardrobe in this film is one of my favourite in all period dramas. Every time I re-watch it I am reminded of even more dresses to add to my list of favourites. 


There's just one more thing I need to gush over and that is the music. The music is so lovely and brilliantly underlines the moods and emotions in the different scenes. And the dance music at the ball is just such catchy tunes. My all over favourite must be The Last Dance. 
But I like to just listen to a playlist with all the music on repeat. It is very soothing.  

Now I think, there should be no one out there doubting why this is my favourite version of Emma.
It is just brilliant all over, and is one of the few period dramas I can just watch over and over again.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Discovering Emma Week - Tag

Heidi at Along the Brandywine is having an Emma themed blog party this week, and who am I to resist anything Austen related. 


She has already published a lot of exciting posts about the book and different adaptions, so if you like Emma be sure to check it out.

Here are my answers to the tag:

1. Have you ever read Emma?

Yes I have, 5 or 6 years ago. The book didn't really catch me back then but I still loved the story.

2. If so, is that how you first made her acquaintance? (If not, feel free to elaborate!) 

My first encounter with Emma was the 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow film, which I dearly loved. The story and the time period was fascinating and it was so funny. (I think that's part of the reason I didn't like the book as much when I read it - it wasn't nearly as funny as I expected)

3. Do you have a favorite film adaptation? 

The 2009 version is the best one ever!!! I could go on for hours about the perfections of this film - but I won't do it now for I am doing a review post on it later this week. 

4. Favorite dress(es) from that film?

These are some of my favourites, though when I looked for for the pictures I found at least 5 new favourites, but for the sake of keeping this post short(ish) I'll keep at at these two.

5. Share a line you love from either the book or movie/s—several if you like!

"There is but one married woman in the world whom I can ever allow to invite what guests she pleases to Donvell, and that one is...Mrs. Knightley, and till she is in being, I will manage such matters myself."

"I examined my own heart and there you were never, I fear, to be removed"

6. Is Emma one of your favorite heroines? Why or why not?

 I think I have a rather neutral relationship to her. I do not dislike her for it is obvious she has a good heart and the best intentions, but neither is she one of my favourite heroines.

7. What is one of Emma’s strengths (good qualities)?

I like the fact that she is really concerned for the well being of others. She does a lot for the poor in the parish and truly wants her friends to be happy. Though her approach to securing their happiness can be discussed it is obvious that she means well.

8. Describe in one (or two…or three) sentences, why Mr. Knightley is so wonderful.

He is all that is gentlemanly and good.
There...managed it in only one sentence.

9. Why do you think Mr. Knightley and Emma are so well suited to each other?

 First of all they know each other through and through - the good sides and the bad sides - and love each other anyway. Also they have a good and honest communication, which is quite essential in a relationship. 

10. Would you rather spend a week in Highbury with the Westons—on Abbey-Mill Farm with the Martins—or in London with the John Knightleys?

Well, that needed a little thought....
I choose Highbury with the Westons. I would get to see Highbury, live in a country mansion and they seem like very nice people (that they have a baby girl I would get to meet is just a bonus).

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Joy of Classical Music

The autumn season has come... which for me means that my piano lessons are starting again.
That in turn means, my yearly ritual of browsing through every piece of classical music I have ever known in the search of something new to play, is starting all over again.

It may not sound as something very difficult, but finding a piece of music is the least of the work. When that is done I have to search everywhere for the sheet music, and then also finding sheet music that is neither way too easy or so hard that I give up in advance just by looking at it.

So yes, it is anticipated and feared every time.
But as it happens every year I finally succeeded in finding something.
This season I will be playing the piece "Anitra's Dance" from the famous Peer Gynt suite by Edvard Grieg.   

It is not the most well known music from that composer - I think the piece "Morning Mood" is the one most people know. But I am rather fond of this one, it is so happy and lively, and it just makes you wanna start dancing (it is a dance after all).

So that will probably be the extent of my musical progression the next couple of months. (besides the occasional musical numbers I always manage to sneak in, before and after practice)

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Jane Austen Week: Wrap Up and Link Up

To think this week has already come to an end!

After all the planning and writing, I gotta say it has passed pretty fast.

When I first got the idea I was a little daunted by it all - but this will definitely not be the last blog party I make. It was way too much fun!

I hope you have enjoyed this week as much as I have, and thank you to all who has commented. It was lovely hearing your thoughts and meeting fellow Austen fans. 

And a special thanks to the ones who took the time to answer the tag. I really loved reading your answers.

Below is a list of the answer posts:

Heidi at Along the Brandywine

Joanna at The Squirrel's Diary

Jessie at So Much More Than They've Got Planned

Apart from that Heidi has also posted reviews of Persuasion - one for the book and one for the 2007 adaption.

I think that got it all covered.

But it's been great to share my love of Austen with all of you, and as I have barely scratched the surface this week you can be sure to find many more posts on Austen on this blog in the future.

Answers to the Games

The answers for the "Who said it?"-game

1. “A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”
Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice

2. “The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!”
 Marianne Dashwood in Sense & Sensibility

3. “It is always incomprehensible to a man, that a woman should ever refuse an offer of  marriage!”
Emma Woodhouse in Emma

4. “If this man had not twelve thousand a year, he would be a very stupid fellow.”
Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park

5. “Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed a little in love now and then. It is something to think of and gives her a sort of distinction among her companions.”
Mr. Bennet in Pride & Prejudice

6. “Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again.”
Mr. Tilney in Northanger Abbey

7. “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.”
Captain Wenthworth in Persuasion

8. “What are men to rocks and mountains?”
Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice

9. “I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman's inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman's fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.”
Captain Harville in Persuasion

10. “Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.”
Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park

11. “Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives.”
Mr. Knightley in Emma

12. “The person, be it gentlemen or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
Mr. Tilney in Northanger Abbey

13. “It is not everyone, who has your passion for dead leaves.”
Ellinor Dashwood in Sense & Sensibility

That's the answers... the scores are:

Heidi........250 points
Naomi......120 points

And here are the answers to the "Guess the supporting character"-game:


Jane Fairfax from Emma (2009)


Mrs. Allen from Northanger Abbey (2007)


Georgiana Darcy from Pride & Prejudice (1995)


Mary Crawford from Mansfield Park (2007)


Isabella Thorpe from Northanger Abbey (2007)


Maria Lucas from Pride & Prejudice (1995)


Lucy Steele from Sense & Sensibility (1995)


Harriet Smith from Emma (2009)


Elizabeth Elliot from Persuasion (2007)


Mrs. Dashwood from Sense & Sensibility (1995)

And the scores are:

Naomi....160 points
Heidi......140 points

Thanks for playing Naomi and Heidi. I hope you had fun.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

My answers to the Tag

As the title so fittingly says, this is my answers to the tag I posted earlier this week.

When and how did you first get acquainted with Jane Austen?

Well, I recall hearing Pride & Prejudice mentioned as some big classic, but the story didn't interest me until the 2005 movie was released and I heard a bit about the plot and suddenly wanted to see it.

Around the same time my mother bought the book, but as I wasn't that good at English back then I only managed to read the first few chapters before I gave in.
Luckily a good friend of mine had the book in translation and offered to lend me it - and, as you say, the rest is history.

I was drawn in by the story at once, and I clearly remember reading Darcy's letter for the first time and how everything I thought I knew about the book was turned upside down.

Favourite Jane Austen book?

Pride & Prejudice will always have a special place in my heart, it being my first Austen book and all, and it is my general favourite. a work of litterature I think Mansfield Park is the best.

And Northanger Abbey is no doubt the funniest one.

Favourite heroine?

Ellinor Dashwood  is a heroine I could really identify with when I was younger, and there are many similarities between her and my disposition.

But I have also always admired Fanny Price for her quiet strength and wished to be like her.

Favourite hero?

I find it hard to single one hero out for I love them all in different ways.

However, I really love Henry Tilney with his easy going and humorous manners.
He is so funny and sweet, and really loyal towards Catherine - that is not something to be taken lightly.

What makes Jane Austen special to you?

There is not one single thing I could point out and say: that is it!
I think it is a combination of so many things.
Firstly her stories are sweet, thought through and gives a good and humorous look at society back then - I really love her subtle way of making jokes.

But what I love most about her, is the great characters she creates and how they really come to life on the pages and act like real human beings with all their flaws and virtues.

What is your favourite adaption of a Jane Austen work?

I think the P&P 1995 is true perfection and the most faithful adaption of the book ever!

I also love the 2009 version of Emma. I am still amazed by how they managed to turn a book I had no special feeling for, into this great and beautiful adaption that I could watch on repeat.

Friday, 29 August 2014

The Ultimate Jane Austen Adaptions

I have seen quite my share of  adaptions of Austen's works, and as every Janeite I have my list of favourite adaptions.

In the following I am collection a guide to all the adaptions I have seen:  what was good and bad about them and which one is the ultmate adaption of that particular book.

Pride and Prejudice

1995: My opinions on this adaption should be quite clear, considering I am a member of the P&P 1995 forever club. The actors are brilliant, the plot follows the novel down to the particulars and due to the length there is plenty of time to show all the plotlines and characters. The costumes are gorgeous, the music beautiful, the dance scenes lovely. I could go on forever. 

The only "bad" thing I can say about it is that I don't think the actress playing Jane is prettier than the one playing Elizabeth, something that was really underlined in the book, but that is just a pet peeve of mine. 

2005: This was actually the first Jane Austen movie I ever saw, and when I saw it first I loved it. Today i still have to say that it do contain some beautiful scenes, the locations are gorgeous and the music is brilliant.

But that cannot outweigh all the historical inaccuracies and the many flaws in decorum and etiquette. I also think the plot is really rushed to squeeze it all down to 2 hours and as a result the characters are outlined more harshly than they should be. 
Actually I am not able to see it as an actual adaption of the novel Pride & Prejudice today; I see it more as a romantic movie in a semi historical setting where the plot and actors have some similarities to those in Austen’s work.

The ultimate adaption: 1995 FOREVER!!! Was there ever any doubt? I don’t think they will ever be able to make a new adaption nearly as good as this one.

Sense & Sensibility

1995: Something I really love about this version is that it manages to keep the light mood the book has, despite it being a very emotinal story. I also think the acting is brilliant - from the leads and down to the minor characters the casting is so good. The music is a story in itself - so pretty. And I gotta say I am impressed how much of the plot they managed to press down to 2 hours without it feeling rushed.

At the same time they have cut out smal parts of the story and some of the minor characters.  I understand why it was done but it is still a shame. And then there is the general opinion that the actors were too old to play the characters, though it never bothered me.

2008: In this version I think the actresses playing Ellinor and Marianne in particular do a great job. The fact that it has all the characters is also in favour of this version. (Including Miss Steele's older sister was the best descicion ever made!) 

But despite it being a 3 hour series it still omits a lot of the story in favour of scenes that wasn't even in the book, or scenes from the book completely altered. The general mood of the story is also very dark, underlined with a lot of scenes showing bad weather. And then there is the thing with the highly inappropiate introduction scene, which after my opinion has nothing to do in a Jane Austen movie.

The ultimate adaption: Definitely the 1995 version!! No further explanation needed.


1996(movie): I really liked the visual in this movie, from the locations down to the dresses and hairstyles it was just beautiful. Among the actors I particularly liked the one playing  Mr. Knightley and think he did a great job portraying him. There were also a lot of small funny moments and remarks that while not in the book were still very enjoyable.

It was easy to see though, that it was a Hollywood adaption, they sadly changed the dialogue in some scenes (Knightley's proposal for instance) in order, I think, to make it more romantic for the viewers.
Also, the movie didn't have time for all the nuances of the book, leading to the characters being exaggeratedly played and some of the dialogue being way too direct in order to save time. 

1996: When I watched this one I was surprised how good it actually was. The characters are cast beautifully and really well played, and it is very true to the plot in the book.

However, many of the plotlines feel quite rushed through and that is really a shame for it flattens the story a bit. And I don't think the ending scene would ever have taken place like that in the Regency time period (though I may be wrong).

2009: How do I describe this adaption in a way that does it justice? It is simply brilliant! I love the way it really deepens the characters and make us see beneath the surface of them - partly due to the script and partly to the wonderful acting performances. It keeps the tone light and follows the dialogue and plot very closely to the book, but manages to never leave you bored or waiting for the plot to proceed. And did I mention the wonderful soundtrack?

Some might say that Emmas manners and way of holding herself is a bit too modern for the time - and that is completely true, though it is mostly in the first episode, and something I barely notice later on.

The ultimate adaption: 2009!!! Again, was there any doubt? I love that version to the point that if I had to choose between reading the book and watching the series, I would choose the series. (A dangerous thing to say, I know, but that is how much I love it.)

Mansfield Park

1983: This is by far the adaption that is  most faithful to the book. It follows the plotpoints and the dialogue in all details – and due to the length it actually has time for it all and avoids rushing some of the plotlines. The actress playing Fanny does a splendid job – she really hits the right combination of sweetness and complaiance without making the character flat. And Lady Bertram – she is just hilarious. I think the only actor I didn’t like was the one playing Edmund – he looked far too old.

However I didn’t really feel the story as in the book, and as it often is the case with BBC dramas from the 80’s it is more like a play being recorded than an actual movie so it felt a bit drawn out at times.

2007: This adaption really managed to make me feel the story. The actors did a good job of showing their characters with more nuances, just as they are described in the book.

On the other hand it is very different from the book. It leaves out the huge passages including the whole Portsmouth part, changes the ball to a picnic and depicts Fannys character quite differently than in the book. 

The ultimate adaption: THERE ISN'T ONE!!! None of the 2 adaptions managed to capture the mood of the book as well as staying true to it. We really need for someone to make a new adaption of this one.

Northanger Abbey

1986: This adaption is just plain disturbing. Firstly they have completely misunderstood the whole "parody" aspect and made it as an actual Gothic romance. Then they have added characters and scenes that are not in the book - something I find really unnecessary. I watched it one time and that was enough.

2007: What I really like about this one is the way it catches the light and satiric mood of the story. Many of the authoress’ remarks are included, and Catherine’s character is really depicted very well. Also I have never seen a better Mr. Tilney (and I don't think I will).

On the other hand there are a few scenes I don’t think belong in a Jane Austen movie and because they weren’t even hinted at in the book it bothers me greatly. They also make some of the scenes switch places (not a major sin, but still...)

The Ultimate adaption: The 2007 version is definitely the best, and I think with just a few adjustments to the script it could have been the best one ever.


1995: This adaption is beautifully made and it is very true to Austen in its depiction of the society and manners. It follows the book quite well and I really like the 2 actors playing Anne and Wentworth.

It can, however, be a bit confusing at times if you are not well known with the story, because you have to read all the characters thoughts from the acting - I had no problem doing it, but it kind of removes a layer of the story that way.  

2007: In this adaption I think the actors do a tremendous job - I especially like all the supporting characters. It also manages to get a lot of Anne's thoughts into the plot which gives a much better insight to her character. Not to mention the beautiful piano theme.

But I feel they have made the adaption a bit too "modern". The, at times, shaky picture was quite distracting, the manners of the characters seemed too informal and the general mood in the movie was just too bleak for my taste.
Then there's the fact that I felt like they rushed or minimised each scene that didn't center around Anne and Wentworth, which gave a slighly warped impression of the plot. And the whole ending scene was just confusing.

The Ultimate adaption: It must be the 1995 version. I think both versions are really good, but the 1995 just feels closer to the style of a Jane Austen adaption. 

So there you have highly biased opinions on the different adaptions.

What do you think of the adaptions in existence?
Which ones do you prefer?
I am eager to know!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Pemberley piano cover

Today and tomorrow is in the sign of period dramas and one thing I generally love about period dramas is the music.

When I hear a beautiful piece of music in a movie I always end up spending a lot of time finding the sheet music so I can play it myself.

I have been so lucky as to find a collection of sheet music from some of the Jane Austen adaptions, and have been playing it most vigorously lately (getting in the mood), so I decided to share a cover I made of the Pemberley theme from P&P 1995.

Another game: "Guess the supporting character"

It's time for another game!!
This time I have made some captions of supporting characters in some of the Jane Austen adaptions.

The rules are simple: guess the name of the character and the period drama it is from. 
You get 10 points for each correct answer.











The answers and scores will be up Sunday.

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