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Monday, 9 March 2015

Northanger Abbey 2007

Northanger Abbey 2007 British DVD cover
After watching the 1980s version of ‘Northanger Abbey’ I wanted to re-watch this one, as it’s been a few years since I saw it. The 2007 version was scripted by Andrew Davies, who famously scripted ‘Pride & Prejudice’ 1995 and also the 1996 ‘Emma’, starring Kate Beckinsale, and the adaptation of ‘Sense & Sensibility’ from 2008.

We open in the same vein as the 1987 version of ‘Northanger Abbey’, with Catherine having a wild imagining brought on by her choice of reading material. There are a number of these throughout the film, the earlier ones are daydreams, but the majority of them are dreams and they are so funny, really endearingly silly. Catherine imagines swordfights, dungeons, abductions and even, daringly, some nudity (although the viewer doesn’t see anything that needs blurring out!).

Sylvestra Le Touzel from Mansfield Park 1983 and Northanger Abbey 2007
Austen adaptation aficionados may well recognise Catherine’s neighbour, Mrs Allen, who she accompanies to Bath. The character is played by Sylvestra Le Touzel, who played Fanny Price in the 1983 version of ‘Mansfield Park’. I enjoyed her in the role, she was quite over the top and funny. Mrs Allen is quite an amusing role, I think, so it fitted well.  This one is muslin-obsessed!

Carey Mulligan as Isabella Thorpe - Northanger Abbey 2007
This version isn’t exactly the same as the book. Catherine’s leap of imagination in respect of General Tilney here is somewhat explained because hints have been dropped by more than one person in relation to his behaviour to his wife. I was also a little sad to see a few key conversations weren’t included such as the conversation Henry and Catherine have while dancing where they talk about the similarities between dancing and marriage (not because of its significance to the story, but just because I like that bit!) and also the part where Henry points out to Catherine that it’s not the attention of other men to Miss Thorpe that is the problem, it’s the fact that she accepts them. I know Catherine dismisses this view, but it underlines Miss Thorpe’s character nicely for the reader. That being said, her character is perfectly clear to the viewer. I felt the 1987 version of Isabella lacked subtlety but this version is far, far better, and here the viewer is led to pity her too.

Like the 1987 version, the setting of Northanger Abbey is too gothic looking, rather than the disappointingly normal-looking building that Catherine finds. Although the interior of the building is dark and a little spooky, however, her behaviour when she is at Northanger is more in line with the book.

J J Feild as Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey 2007
What makes this adaptation really stands out for me are the performances of the leads. Henry Tilney is played by J J Feild and he is entirely charming and lovely. The viewer can fall in love with him right along with Catherine! Although he teases her, it’s not done unkindly and she often teases him back, which puts them on an equal footing. Henry has nearly all the best lines in the script, and he delivers them really well. The conversation that Henry and Catherine have the first time they dance where he talks about the required discourse while dancing and finishes off with the line “Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again.” was delivered so drolly, and accompanied by a very amusing over the top smirk that had me laughing along with Catherine!

Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey 2007
Felicity Jones is fantastic as Catherine. Her performance is the best thing about a generally wonderful adaptation. She is sweetly naive and unsuspecting of the motives of the more worldly people that she meets. You can completely understand Henry’s teasing of her, because she reacts so adorably to it! One thing I liked about this version of Northanger Abbey is that it’s clear that Catherine is by no means unintelligent, she’s just so sheltered that she’s only ever met honest, straightforward people. Conversational subtext goes entirely over her head.

Henry and Catherine, Northanger Abbey 2007
I think this might be my favourite adaptation of any of Austen’s works. The adaptation is entertaining and funny, the leads work well together and individually, and though some changes were made, in many cases this served to convey aspects of the book. I felt it was true to the spirit of the book. There was only one theme of the book that didn’t really translate for me, which was the defence of the novel found within the book, though since that’s the narrator making this argument it may have been tricky to convey without distracting from the main story. I would say that this version could be appreciated by people who haven’t read the book yet (although the book is wonderful and definitely worth reading) and I would heartily recommend it. A big fat five stars from me.

5 star watch

4 comments:

  1. Glad to read you love this one!! I love love love Felicity as Catherine. While I hate Henry Tilney, I have to admit that J J seems excellent in the role(I can't judge acting ability). Some of the non-verbal stuff in particular seems effective. And how about Eleanor Tilney? She seems to get some love in her minor role.

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    1. I love, love, loved her too Kirk, she was wonderful! I didn't like Henry Tilney much when I first read the book, but seeing this adaptation gave me a new perception of it. If Catherine was that adorable to tease, it must have been hard to resist! I think their relationship was made a bit more equal as regards the teasing.

      It was also lovely to see Eleanor Tilney get some screen time. She's such a sweet, downtrodden character so it's nice to see her getting some appreciation.

      I also enjoyed John Thorpe too. He is a wonderfully awful comic creation in the book and his ridiculousness comes over in this adaptation. Although Northanger Abbey isn't my favourite Austen novel I enjoyed the adaptation so thoroughly, I think it's the best adaptation of Austen's work that I've seen.

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  2. I haven't seen this one. I've wanted to....I need to! :D

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    1. You really should watch it, it's so good. I think you will love it!

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