Jane Austen

1995: The Year of Jane Austen

Jane Austen books have been popular for the past 200 years. However, in 1995, they received an extra jolt of popularity because several acclaimed movies were made based on Austen’s books that year.

Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma were all transformed into films in 1995. That’s nearly half of Jane Austen’s works. She also wrote Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey and Lady Susan.

Pride and Prejudice

In 1995, BBC produced a six-part, five-hour miniseries of Austen’s arguably most popular book, Pride and Prejudice. This miniseries is extremely faithful to the book in a way that normal two- or even three-hour movies could never be.

The love story in Pride and Prejudice is one of the best ever written in the English language. Mr. Darcy’s excessive pride and Elizabeth Bennet’s misunderstanding of almost everything about him makes for great drama. The 1995 miniseries faithfully recounts the details of the original story found in the book.

The only disappointment is the climax. In the book, when Mr. Darcy confesses his love a second time to Elizabeth and she finally reveals that she loves him, they share a long conversation about their feelings that explains much of the struggles they faced along the way. But in the movie, the conversation is much shorter and there is not enough time to enjoy the fruits of the story.

Sense and Sensibility

The 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility is notable for many reasons. It was directed by Ang Lee, an up-and-coming Chinese director at that time who went on to direct Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This film was nominated for several awards, including the Best Picture Academy Award.

Sense and Sensibility actually won its screenwriter, Emma Thompson, an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Thompson was also nominated for a Best Actress Oscar because of her portrayal of Elinor Dashwood. Kate Winslet was also nominated for an Academy Award for her turn as Marianne Dashwood. It’s interesting to see her two years before becoming famous in James Cameron’s Titanic.

The film is as faithful as possible in a relatively short two-hour timeframe. Alan Rickman, usually noted for his villains in films like Die Hard and Quigley Down Under, plays a superb love interest. Hugh Grant is also remarkably subtle, likeable and believable in this film.

Emma

Alicia Silverstone got her big break in Amy Heckerling’s film Clueless. This film is actually a modernization of the book Emma. Clueless did to Jane Austen’s Emma what Ten Things I Hate About You did to William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

A lot of the story has been modified in the film Clueless, but Emma’s basic story is still present: A privileged young woman thinks she knows what’s best for everyone around her, but she winds up doing more harm than good. She also falls in love along the way, despite her strongest objections.

Interestingly, in 1996, a truer version of Emma also came out, starring Gwyneth Paltrow in the title role.