Everything I’ve been told about Jane Austen is wrong.
Those of you who know me in person know my feelings about Jane Austen novels. The best way to sum up my feelings is to loosely quote SNL: “His teeth are the color of excrement and he has relations with his hunting hound but I SHALL MARRY HIM ANYWAY!” I know I’m committing female heresy when I say this but geeze louise, I do not identify with Elizabeth Bennet and I don’t think Colin Firth is dreamy.
However, I recently hauled myself from Seattle to Lake Huron by way of Vancouver, Chicago and a total of 8 hours in a van shuttle. Faced with the reality of nearly 24 hours of travel time (round trip), I set out to find entertainment. Which leads me to my temporary truce with Jane Austen. See, ordinary movies simply wouldn’t do. Most movies are, what, 1.5-2 hours long? Nope. I needed something more substantial. And as I scanned my roomie’s dvd collection, I found what I sought….a whole box set of BBC Jane Austen mini series. We had not one, not two, but FIVE of these suckers so I chose Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and Northsomethingorother Abbey. These selections gave me a guaranteed 15 hours of ‘entertainment’ even if it did mean suffering through 19th century ‘strong willed’ heroines dealing with the trappings of society and all that fancy square dancing.
But lo! Turns out, these productions were extremely low budget and filmed in the late 60’s and early 80’s. Woah.
I settled into my van shuttle seat and popped in Mansfield Park. Disclaimer, I’ve never actually read any Jane Austen. I can’t stomach it. But I’ve seen the new Pride and Prejudice (and the old 6 hour marathon), Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson, and a new version of Mansfield Park. All of it was tolerable. So I was familiar with the general story of Mansfield Park. And so it began. The child playing Fannie Price was pretty bad but she was a kid so I cut her some slack and looked forward to seeing the grown up Fannie. Oh. My. God.
The BBC’s adult Fannie Price is one of the most horrible atrocities in recent entertainment memory. Adult Fannie is played by an ‘actress’ named Sylvestra Le Touzel and her first offense is her refusal to move her neck. She clopped around the set like some sort of zombie. Secondly, her face seemed to be in a perpetual state of shock and awe. Eyes huge. Dialogue sparse. It’s as if she was so terrible that the director has everyone act AROUND her. Everyone else was reasonably good but are you telling me that in the entire country of England they couldn’t find an actress who could, you know, act?! It was so painful. Please refer to Exhibit A below:
I suffered through 6 hours of this. Why’d I suffer so long, you ask? Simple…it felt like a challenge. Plus, it gave me fodder for this blog entry.
On my return journey to Seattle, I put in Persuasion and I’m happy to report that the acting is much better. The costumes, however, are not. I find it very hard to believe that women wore 5 or 12 giant hair pieces and teased their hair into boufont (sp?) styles like they did in……the 60’s. We have paintings from Regency England that prove my point. Here’s a basic tip: if you’re making a period piece, it should reflect the time in which the story is set…not fashions of the day. Arg.
Oh well. My feelings still stand. I can’t stand Jane Austen. However, I was reminded of what I can stand: Gone With the Wind. (cue random segue way)
We found a first edition of the book with Eric’s great grandma Zephy’s name in it dated 1936 (sidenote: how awesome is the name Zephy?!) and Leah is devouring it presently. It inspired me to dig out my copy and reread it.
Fidledee. Jane Austen. I’ll think about that tomorrow.