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!


  1. I definitely agree with P&P and Emma!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The P&P1995 version is the best and best and best and best movie ever (you can hear that I love this movie, can't you? :) and Emma 2009 version is just priceless. Those two movies are, in my opinion, the two nicest movies ever. :-) Ah, I just LOVE them.
    I liked both S&S's. We skipped the first scene in the 08, so I actually really enjoyed it. It has more book-accuracy. I thought the 1995 S&S version was LOVELY, but just a little too short. They skipped lots of parts, like Edwards visit, for example.
    I haven't seen Mansfield Park, but I think I'd go for the older version. That blonde Fanny doesn't look at all like Fanny!
    I loved this post, Rose, and well done!

  2. Rose -- I enjoyed the post! You did an excellent job sharing some of the pros and cons of each version with grace and charity. Very well done! :-)

  3. I have only seen P&P '95, S&S '95, Emma '96, and Persuasion '07. I have only seen MP 1999, and I haven't ever seen Northanger Abbey, but it is one of the two of Ms. Austen's works! Thank you for this, now I know which ones to watch!!


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