Friday, February 1, 2008
Just a quick word. Why did the BBC and PBS think we needed more versions of Jane Austin's novels? Since 1995, we have had the privilege of seeing definitive versions of three of her works: Pride and Prejudice (The A and E version), Sense and Sensibility (the Emma Thompson movie), and Persuasion. Persuasion did have its faults. Sometimes the characters speak in whispers hard to hear and the viewer may not fully understand what is going on without reading the book first. Yet as in the other versions mentioned above, the actors were so suited for their roles that it may be said that they own these characters. To show another production of these stories after so little time has elapsed is a waste. Not only that, but what I have seen of two of the remakes makes me wonder if they would not discourage potential Austen readers from ever reading her. Persuasion was abysmal and Mansfield Park not much better. None of the actors were suited for their parts. In the previous versions, not only are the actors better suited to the characters, these actors actually looked as if they belonged in the time the novels depict. Charlton Heston once made the observation that there was something about him that made him seem natural as a character from the past, while his roles as modern characters were not as convincing. Comparing himself to Paul Newman, he said that while both of them are about the same age, when Newman wore a Roman toga for a role, he was laughed at. The actors in the newer versions of Jane Austen looked like twenty-first century actors dressed up and just reading their lines with little passion. When I heard that there was to be a remake of Mansfield Park, I was looking forward to it. The eighties version, while highly satisfactory, has some flaws in it. Yet I would rather watch six hours of that that the newer version which does not allow enough time to let the situations develop. The newer version of Northanger Abbey was actually enjoyable. The story is not as complex as other Austin works and ninety minutes is enough time to tell the story. However, in the eighties version, the portrayal of the villain by Robert Hardy is much superior to the portrayal in the newer version. Also, the newer version contains a suggestive scene not found in the book. There was no need to produce these remakes and I hope they fade from view. The older versions of Austen's works are quite enough to satisfy.