More than anything else about the PBS Jane Austen season in 2008, I'm most keen to see Andrew Davies' new adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Davies of course is the man behind the best Emma and Pride and Prejudice adaptations (1995), as well as Middlemarch (1994), Take a Girl Like You (2000) and Bleak House (2003), among many other excellent productions. I'm also rather excited about his adaptation of A Room with a View, set to be released in the UK some time this year. The Merchant-Ivory production is one of my favourite films, probably in the top five, but I'm always interested in new and potentially good work.
There's been some silly talk in the media about Sense 08 rolling in a replacement for the (apparently) much talked of 'wet shirt scene' from Davies' Pride and Prej. Sigh. That's all I can do when read such dribble. My closest friend and I loved that production when we were teenagers. We watched it many times over, we probably knew the entire script by heart. My mum bought me 'the making of' book for my birthday. I was into it. But never once, not even as a sixteen year old, did I rewind and replay said scene or even think about it after it had passed. I never met anyone who gushed over it. I suspect it was obsessed over more in the media and in other books than in real life. There is of course a book in which it, and poor Colin Firth, actually play a part in the storyline, but so much do I dislike the BJ books that I can't even bring myself to type the words.
But I digress. Scenes involving dueling, seduction, rainy wood chopping and (apparently manly) horse riding are being speculated as there to up the sex appeal. I just find this kind of lurid speculation so boring. Davies knows what he's doing, he's at the top of his game, and gossip about shirtless men just takes away from the amount of research and work that goes into these productions, for the sake of a few sexy minutes.
Not that wood chopping and dueling aren't sexy. They totally are.
I'm very, very glad that the duel between Willoughby and Brandon, and the seduction of Eliza Williams feature, as she especially is such a crucial part of the book's storyline. Plus I just love a cinematic fencing duel. I can't help it. The Princess Bride and Dangerous Liaisons. I'm all about it.*
"The novel is as much about sex and money as social conventions. This drama is more overtly sexual than most previous Austen adaptations seen on screen and gets to grips with the dark underbelly of the book", states Davies in a BBC press release, and I think that says it all, really. I'm rather excited about this production and I believe it may well turn out to be a classic of BBC adaptations. The cast includes David Morrisey as Brandon, Dominic Cooper as Willoughby and newcomers Hattie Morahan as Elinor and Charity Wakefield as Marianne.
*It's just occurred to me at this later stage that this is most likely a duel with pistols. How daft that I just assumed it would be fencing.