Monthly Archives: July 2012

On Northanger Abbey

Here is a place I care not to visit. Northanger Abbey is my least favorite Austen novel. I know the least favorite should be Mansfield Park, and I know I’m supposed to enjoy Northanger Abbey‘s parody, but I can’t go beyond the fact that not even the characters are good. For satire I better read Love and Freindship.

Cover fot the 1986 Northanger Abbey version

Northanger Abbey 1986 cover

And then there’s the 1986 adaptation that doesn’t help in my liking the novel. The first thing that struck me was the music. Forget about the fashion, the music it’s awful!

And then there’s the characters portrayal. Catherine Morland is not that bad, it’s clear she’s a silly girl let loose in Bath and in Northanger Abbey, but Henry Tilney is everything but sexy. General Tilney seems too interested in the extremely young Catherine. He almost looks like a child molester which is creepy and there’s no way to avoid feeling sorry for Eleanor. The Thorpes are all right, you can tell they’re up to no good from the moment they step into the screen.

I did like the Bath scenes because it seemed period, and the castle standing in for Northanger Abbey. It didn’t look plausible for the one in the novel, nevertheless it did look like the perfect place for this Catherine Morland imagination.

By the way, I think she reads a little bit more books in the novels than in this film. I’m not sure since I never bothered to reread the novel or watch the other movie adaptation.

What can I learn from  Northanger Abbey? Honestly, I have no idea. Maybe to be careful about my characters imagination or let their imagination run wild.

A well dressed young woman reading a book with Jane Austen in it.

Modern day Catherine Morland reading the latest gothic novel that is NOT Twilight.

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On Emma

Emma Woodhouse is a rich white girl with too much time on her hand and who likes to marry everybody. We all know somebody like this for sure. And somebody as clueless as Harriet Smith, as two-timer as Frank Churchill or as hypochondriac as Mr. Woodhouse.

And that’s exactly why I like Jane Austen’s Emma so much. Here you have a bunch of stereotypical characters that are so masterfully created that you don’t even notice.

Cover of "Emma [Region 2]"

Cover of Emma

The 1996 version is good although it didn’t make Emma as obnoxious as she’s portrayed in the novel. Tony Collette is perfect as Harriet Smith. I can’t say the same thing for Gwyneth Paltrow, especially not after watching Romola Garai’s version. There was something that I liked a lot: the light in night scenes. It looked authentic.

As a writer, I think that I can learn a lot from Emma about how to develop characters to make them feel real even if they’re stereotypes.

By the way, I haven’t watch Clueless in quite some time, but I do remember being a really good modernization of Emma.

Picture of a blond girl dressed in pink reading a Glamour magazine with Jane Austen at the cover.

Emma Woodhouse or Cher Horowitz, whatever, checking the social pages for her later matches.

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On Mansfield Park

I’m not sure but I think I missed something. Either that or I read a different book.

I’ve watched  Mansfield Park for the first time for my Immigrant Experience class back in college. I found it weird. Now it seems weirder. For starters I don’t remember Fanny Price being a writer. Of course, if you have read Jean Austen Juvenilia you’ll enjoy he literary wink, but if not you’ll believe something that I don’t recall is in the book. Changes are common in books adaptation but there were several that didn’t work well.

Fanny Price character is not the sweet and shy girl you meet in the novel, and Frances O’Connor is too pretty to play Fanny Price. I’m not saying that she wasn’t pretty. I don’t recall her being describe at all. But I got the impression that she was the girl next door. The real beauty was Maria Bertram, played by Victoria Hamilton who’s everything but a beauty. Actually she would’ve been a better Fanny Price.

Lindsay Duncan does a superb job playing Mrs. Price but not as superb as Lady Bertram. I just couldn’t buy her in that role. I think she was miscast as pretty much all the other characters except Mrs. Norris and Mr. Rushworth and maybe Julia. By the way, Sir Bertram and Mr. Price almost act as sexual predators. Luckily those characters didn’t walk that path.

Mansfield Park (film)

Mansfield Park (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s something else I didn’t like about this version: the Antigua affair.  Not that raising consciousness against slavery is bad. I’m all for it, but this is not to movie to do it. On the other hand I did like the lesbian undertones in Fanny and Mary Crawford scenes because that’s something I envision Mary doing.

All in all I didn’t like this version and don’t know what can I learn from it that’s useful in my writing. Actually, I have no idea what I can learn from the actual novel either.  Well, that’s not exactly true. It’d be interesting to explore a character like Lady Bertram.

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