This version of Northanger Abbey starts out with one of Catherine’s imaginings as she reads one of her lurid romances, so the gothic romance idea is introduced from the first and it’s very strong throughout the story. Some of her imaginings are ridiculous, while others are a bit disturbing. I don’t think the adaptation conveyed the right sense of these books being ridiculous and over the top, as the book is clearly poking fun at the genre. The setting was also a little disappointing in this regard. Northanger Abbey is pretty creepy here, which could fuel even a less active imagination, whereas it should be disappointingly comfortable and modern, thereby highlighting how absurd Catherine’s flight of fancy is. General Tilney is also more sinister in this adaptation than in the book.
The Thorpes, particularly Isabella Thorpe, are presented quite straightforwardly as who they are rather than more subtly which I thought was a missed opportunity as one of the things I liked about the novel is the juxtaposition of Catherine’s imagination seeing more than it should when there is no basis and her naivety causing her to miss a real life deception being played out in front of her eyes.
|Peter Firth - Henry Tilney (L) / Colin Baker - Doctor Who (R)|
Another thing about this adaptation that struck me was the background music, at times, was really bad, particularly during the gothic imaginings scenes. It was quite synthesised, and I think there was even a bit of saxophone at one point. It was just far too modern.
You may feel from reading all this that I didn’t enjoy the adaptation but you’d be wrong, because I enjoyed it despite all the above! It’s actually pretty amusing. If you’ve read the book you can fill in the gaps. If you hadn’t read the book already, I’m not sure somebody watching would get the joke. I think the main shame for me with this version, is that I thought it was almost like ‘Northanger Abbey Lite’. I know this is true of all adaptations, to an extent, as to get the story in full you’d be better off reading the book, but I felt that particularly with this adaptation, it didn’t do anything in much depth. I wouldn’t recommend it as an introduction to ‘Northanger Abbey’, you’d be better off reading the book (obviously!) but if you didn’t fancy starting with the book, start with the more recent adaptation, which I plan to watch next. This version gets 3 stars from me.