Please, no more adaptations of Jane Austen

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Trailer for the new film adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel from Netflix. Belief recently appeared on the net, and the result was a buzz. Since Tom Hooper saw adoption for the first time in 2019 cats was there such horror in what seems to be an obvious parody of such a beloved work.

It’s easy to see why a preview of director Carrie Cracknell’s first film drew such condemnation. Belief many Austin fans regard her as her greatest work. In addition to being her last novel, it is a dark and touching reflection on lost love and the possibility of redemption. It has been successfully filmed for television twice, once in 1995 and again in 2007.

Austin remains big business and that’s why Cracknell chose Dakota Johnson, star fifty shades series, as the heroine Austin Ann Elliot. Johnson has definitely proven she can do films like Maggie Gyllenhaal. Lost daughter and Luca Guadagnino Suspiria, but as one social media prankster remarked, “Dakota Johnson has the face of someone who knows what an iPhone is.” Cracknell and her screenwriters Ronald Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow appear to have been heavily influenced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s novel. Rubbish, so we present Ann, who constantly points her arches and knowing glances at the camera, punctuated by decidedly millennia-old observations about love and romance. The most pitiful of them, no doubt, is when Anne, in love, announces her long-lost lover Captain Wentworth: “Now we are worse than the former: we are friends.”

Helpful, the trailer tells us that Belief “based on the timeless love story of Jane Austen” who is “authored by Emma as well as Pride and Prejudice“. Well, that clears things up. It is possible, of course, that Cracknell’s film is better than its marketing suggests, and that beneath its irritatingly flippant exterior lies a sensitive and thoughtful adaptation of the novel. It certainly seems to be reinforcing the same wacky air of irreverence that has pervaded many historical adaptations of late, not least Armando Iannucci’s excellent one. David Copperfield, which made effective use of both a diverse cast and contemporary psychological understanding of Dickens’ characters. But few people read and adored Belief could have finished it and thought he really needed more boiled mustache jokes.

[See also: What the “men don’t read novels” debate gets wrong about fiction]

However, as weak as she is, she will do little to stop the constant stream of Austen adaptations we encounter. Considering that half a dozen of the canon novels have been filmed numerous times, it is not surprising that filmmakers have turned to the Apocrypha, both of which are excellent – in the case of Love and friendshipa gorgeous version of Whit Stillman’s 2016 epistolary novel. lady susan – and indifferent. Debate whether the world needs two seasons Sanditongiven that Austen originally wrote only 11 chapters of the novel, but they were made regardless.

The most generous interpretation of recurring adaptations is that they cater to the same cozy, undemanding market as the ever-popular Bridgerton. Stripped of linguistic wit and psychological insight, Austen’s novels are relatively easy to turn into breeches and corsets revolving around the most heteronormative plots imaginable. Even though the writers and actors are flippant about the strange undertones of characters like Emma Woodhouse and Fanny Price, it goes to show that the latest major adaptation Emmashot by photographer Autumn de Wilde and starring Anya Taylor-Joy, pulled away from everything, even the slightly controversial, despite the fact that Johnny Flynn’s Mr. Knightley bared his ass.

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Where Austen is most interested in modern thought is in post-colonial theory. The slave trade is often not mentioned in her books, but is always present. The only novel in which she is even briefly mentioned is (in my opinion, her masterpiece) Mansfield Park, which hints that Sir Thomas Bertram’s great wealth comes from the plantation; when this topic is brought up briefly at dinner, it is met with “dead silence”. However, that hasn’t stopped filmmakers from viewing Austin through a post-colonial lens. Back in 1999, an underrated adaptation Mansfield Parkwith Harold Pinter as Sir Thomas brought the themes of slavery to the forefront and no doubt future versions will fully explore these ideas.

Perhaps the best way to adapt Austin in the future is to be more, not less, irreverent. fire islandrecent free version Pride and Prejudice, gave the story both a modern and gay twist, while receiving rave reviews. Laura Wade’s recent stage adaptation Watsons offered a Pirandello-inspired twist that raised questions about the nature of the transformation of one artistic medium into another, and the recent success of the West End Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) mixed romance with karaoke for an extremely entertaining effect. In their own way, they are all closer to the spirit of Austen—a woman who made a name for herself and a career with her pen at a time when female authorship was considered an outrageous eccentricity—than to watch an all-American actress offer a poor emulation of the character Fleabag.

But what about Austin? She might take it as an accepted truth that fashion adaptations are to blame. Belief likely to fall disproportionately on Cracknell and Johnson rather than Bass or the male stars Cosmo Jarvis and Henry Golding, and sigh. Then she could quote a pertinent line from the book: “If something unpleasant happens, men will definitely get out of it.” But later she would be glad to know that her work is still read, discussed and adored two centuries after her death, and no know-it-all of derivative postmodernism can change this inherent fact.

[See also: Philip Pullman on the end of the Costa Book Awards: a blow for children’s literature]

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