Sense & Sensibility (Movie 1995) vs. Sense & Sensibility (TV BBC Mini-Series 2008)

senseOnce again, I’m back comparing two classics.  Who doesn’t love Jane Austen?  Well, maybe some biker on a Harley, wearing lots of leather and a skull helmet. Nevertheless, for the ladies of the world who revere her timeless stories, this is one of my favorites.

Like many other Austen tales, there are multiple versions of this first published work of Jane’s in 1811.  There was a 1971 TV serial, 1981 TV serial, 1995 film  and the most recent 2008 mini-series.  Do I have a favorite?  The 2008 version is the one that floats my remote, but the 1995 movie version is close behind.

The 1995 version had been my favorite, of course, until the 2008 mini-series came along, consisting of three episodes and 174 minutes.  Sense & Sensibility is one of my best-loved Austen tales. The 1995 version is the star-studded, well-known cast of Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Greg Wise (married to Emma Thompson in real life, by the way), Hugh Grant, and the infamous Alan Rickman.  Each of these talented actors make up cast who tells this fascinating tale of the Dashwood sisters.

The 2008 TV mini-series is much longer, of course, with a casting of new faces, at least for me, in most of the characters.  I had never seen Hattie Morahan (Elinor) or Charity Wakefield (Marianne) before this series aired.  Frankly, I loved them and found them both endearing in this version.  Kate Winslet, although, probably outshines as Marianne between the two. She is such a spirited actress. “Can he love her? Can the soul really be satisfied with such polite affections? To love is to burn – to be on fire, like Juliet or Guinevere or Eloise.”

Then we have the men who love these woman. Hugh Grant and a young Greg Wise in the movie version make good choices. In the 2008 version, we have blue-eyed Dan Stevens (the Downton Abbey heart throb) as Edward Farrars.  A more sleazy Willoughby, in my opinion, was the 2008 Dominic Cooper, who drew from a me a little more empathy in spite of being a rogue. There is quite a bit of sexuality played in the 2008 version with the seduction scene at the beginning. The interaction between Willoughby and Marianne is more tender and seductive as well. However, I’ve read that was a pain point with some critics (read here).  Austen and raunchy don’t mix. But in all honesty, there isn’t anything raunchy about the BBC version whatsoever.Sense1

Then we have Colonel Brandon, played by the late Alan Rickman in 1995, who did everything well on screen. It’s sad that he has left us and his fans have been robbed of great performances that were yet to come. Nevertheless, we are left with memories of older ones, even in this version of Sense & Sensibility.

In the 2008 version, we have David Morrissey, a handsome Brandon, who I thought more attractive but a bit too stiff in his role.   Alan had a little more heart in his performance than David did.  Morrissey is no longer wearing cravats and period clothing but has been on Zombie and sci-fi related shows in the past few years. Apparently, he’s working on another long-long-ago period drama set in 45 AD, Britannia. Maybe he’s taking up a toga instead.

Another thing that I like about the longer series version is that it’s not so rushed.  You also get to enjoy beautiful coastal scenery of Hartland, Devon, with quite a few shots of rolling waves crashing against the rocks. It brings back to me the quiet life of those time periods, when long walks, picnics, playing the piano forte, and finding husbands were the order of the day.

Both versions are available to rent and stream on Amazon.  However, the 2008 version is on Hulu, if you have a subscription there.

A Little Chaos (Movie 2015)

4 Kernels

Stars: Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Matthias Schoenaerts

Unfortunately, A Little Chaos has limited distribution.  It was only showing in one theater where I live in downtown.  I could have taken public transit and walked five blocks to get to the venue but kept putting it off.  Good that I did, because A Little Chaos is currently streaming for $6.99 on Amazon with a run time of 1:53 minutes.

It’s an interesting and unique story about a woman named Sabine, who has a gift for gardening. Yes, she has a quaint little backyard of flowers and trees, but her real talent is that of a landscape artist. She applies for the opportunity to work in the gardens of Versailles.

After obtaining the position, she is charged by the head architect, Andre (played by Matthias Schoenaerts who was just in Far From the Madding Crowd), to work on a special project that the two eventually design together.  The fact that Sabine was a woman of great talent did not mean that her task was an easy one, but it was eventually successful.

However, underneath Sabine is a woman of great sadness. She is a widow and has also lost her daughter of six years of age. The reason for her family’s passing isn’t revealed until the end of the movie. How it occurs is heartbreaking, so I won’t spoil that part in case you decide to watch the movie.

Of course, Andre, who is unhappily married to another woman, who possesses less than a stellar character, falls in love with Sabine. At first she resists because of her sorrow from the past, but eventually discovers solace and comfort in his arms.

Kate Winslet does the movie great charm. Her portrayal of Sabine is nothing but brilliant as all her movies. There is one particular scene that literally brought me to tears where she is among a group of women from the King’s court. The ladies sit together and talk about what ladies talk about, but the conversation turns toward whether she is married and has children. Sabine, of course, can barely choke out the truth, and it is then that the majority of the woman in the room relay to her their sorrow of lost children of their own due to smallpox or other tragedies. It is so touching, I could barely keep from crying. Sabine is deeply moved when she realizes that she is not the only woman carrying such a deep burden of grief.

As the movie continues, you are made aware of her gracious character, wisdom, and kindness to others that eventually lead her to a road of healing. Yes, the movie is about the gorgeous gardens of Versailles, but it also much more. The story is rich with sidelines about others who are close to the King as well.

Alan Rickman plays Louis, but he also directs the movie.  As beautifully touching as the story is at times, you may find it a bit slow in movement. There is construction of her portion of the garden, her interaction with the King and his court, her blossoming love for Andre, that all move toward the end at a leisurely pace.  Some may like it — some may not.  I wanted to push it a bit myself but later scenes redeemed whatever discomfort I felt while waiting for the story to unfold.

You will see many characters played by British actors that you will recognize – Rupert Penry-Jones (Captain Wentworth in Jane Austen’s Persuasion); Steven Waddington (who played the Duke of Buckingham in The Tudors);  Adrian Scarborough (who has done his share of British television roles including Midsomer Murders); Stanely Tucci (who has been in plenty of movie roles that you can remember); and many other well-known faces.  What you may find a bit unsettling is the majority of the cast lacking French accents from British and American actors, however, there are a few women who do have one.

Nevertheless, the costumes are quite stunning as well as the scenery and sets. The production was filmed in England at nine locations (click here to see where), including Hampton Court, which I immediately recognized the exterior and interior.

If you’re looking for a touching, but not spectacular period movie, you may want to check this one out.

"A Promise" – (Movie 2014)

A Melodramatic Love Affair
Released Overseas – Now Streaming on Amazon
Stars: Alan Richman, Rebecca Hall, Richard Madden
It is probably a matter of personal taste when watching a story of forbidden love as to how it is portrayed.  There have been many that have gone before “A Promise” that have moved readers and audiences alike.  Frankly, it’s old tale of elderly man, young wife, and introduction of handsome contender who falls for the forbidden fruit.  As much as I like Alan Rickman, I found this movie to be a slow-moving tale lacking the passion I hoped to encounter.

Alan plays the elderly owner of a foundry, Karl Hoffmeister, with an ailing heart.  Enters Friedrich Zeitz, who he takes under his wing as his protege.  It’s apparent from the beginning he is grooming the young, intelligent man to take over his business. Early in their relationship, he discloses the secret that he is not well. 
As he methodically allows the young handsome Friedrich to enter his home and take up residence, you gain the sense that he has purposely brought him close to his wife to encourage something more.  Perhaps, it is the love of an older, dying man for his young wife to make sure her needs are met after his demise.  Little did he know, that having done so, he finds himself brokenhearted over the outcome when she falls in love with Friedrich.

Rebecca Hall plays the proper wife, though slightly dull.  Richard Madden plays the protege, who is immediately attracted to Heir Hoffmeister’s wife.  He turns into a sappy, slightly obsessive worshiper of young Charlotte. In one scene he smells her scent and kisses the keys of the piano that she has played, as if he’s making love to it.  Of course, that is countered later in the movie with Charlotte sniffing the pillow of his empty bed.

The two are thrown together due to Heir Hoffmeister’s ill health attending the opera and other activities.  It’s a silent game between the two, as they both play with fire, but fail to acknowledge their feelings for one another for some time.  It’s not until Hoffmeister reaches the stage of jealousy, that he sends off his rival to Mexico on business for two years.  Then, the floodgates of words of undying love burst forth between the two, as well as the “promise” to wait for one another.

The movie is set in pre-WWI Germany.  When war ensues, it keeps them apart far longer than either anticipated.  After the death of her husband, and many years of receiving no word, Friedrich returns after the war.  Charlotte who has been sorrowfully smitten and pining for her sweetheart meets him once again.  Instead of the passionate reunion you anticipate, it turns into a polite cup of tea like two friends making up for lost time. He is aloof and cold, she is polite and proper.  In fact, he confesses he’s not married but has been with other women.  She fluffs it off as inconsequential.  It’s not until the end scene they finally kiss.  Where’s the tears? Where’s the passion? Where is the joy of seeing one another again?  Obviously, six years has cooled them off.  It’s an odd, emotionless reunion.

The more I think about why this movie doesn’t have the effect is should, is that the two main characters, Charlotte and Friedrich, never really take the viewers to the point of falling in love with them.  Friedrich is sullen, moody, and intense.  He surely didn’t make me want to swoon and commit adultery.  Charlotte’s character, though quite innocent in the beginning, doesn’t really portray why she is so unhappy with her husband that she should be tempted to stray.  Because I never bonded with the characters, except for Herr Hoffmeister, it wasn’t an exciting, moving, heart-throbbing love story that made me want to see the two live happily ever after.  Even though it is based off a novel written by Stefan Zweig’s “Journey into the Past,” it comes across as a worn-out plot that is missing important elements of passion to make it memorable.
Of course, I love period movies, whether excellent or mediocre.  Though for me this was more mediocre, you may find it your cup of tea.