Customer Review

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In defence of this adaptation., 5 Sep 2008
This review is from: Northanger Abbey [DVD] (DVD)
Northanger Abbey [1986]

Having noted all the extremely harsh reviews for this adaptation, I felt moved to submit a review in its defence. Jane Austen's novels are frequently regarded as `simply' love stories, but in all cases they are far more than this. Miss Austen had an excellent understanding of human nature, leading to some unforgettable characters, a lively and sometimes wicked sense of humour, but above all a masterful facility with the English language. Virginia Woolf said `Of all the great writers, Jane Austen is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness', and I believe it is because her greatness is inextricably bound up with the way she uses the language. To alter even one word can sometimes be disastrous. To change that famous quotation : `It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in posession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife' to : `is in want of a wife' (as was done on the DVD sleeve notes of the excellent BBC adapatation of Pride and Prejudice) is to rob the quotation of much of its humour and all its irony. Thus those faced with the task of adapting a Jane Austen novel are faced with the problem of retaining the spirit of her language while at the same time producing an entertaining love story which will be accepted by modern viewers who expect nothing else. This is particularly difficult if they are also expected to abridge it to fit the modern conventional run-time of 90 to 100 minutes for a film.
If one analyses this adaptation in this light, it certainly deserves more than one star. The dialogue is, in most cases, faithful to the spirit of Jane Austen's novel; the characters are, in many cases, more faithful to those in the novel than are those in the (admittedly superior) ITV adaptation. The acting is not as bad as many reviewers have intimated, and as for the heroine being unattractive, personally I find this an unfair criticism as well as an incorrect one. Physical attractiveness is notoriously subjective after all, and as regards personalities, surely both the leads are attractive - Jane Austen has written them to be so. Admittedly there are some strange scenes connected with the Abbey, but this is a result of attempting to create a `gothic' atmosphere as fantasized by an impressionable teenage girl, and the ITV version is not entirely innocent on this count either. We should be more tolerant here. I agree also that some of the music is inappropriate, but it would be unjust to condemn the entire production because of that.
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