Considering I'm not a huge lover of Austen, though I will begrudgingly admit that she's starting to grow on me, it might surprise people how often she gets mentioned on my blog; when you do a degree in English Literature she's literally impossible to pass by!
Though I'm not the biggest fan of the way Austen's books are written I do enjoy watching adaptations of her stories - they are good stories, they wouldn't still be everywhere if they weren't - and today I'd thought I'd recommend a few films that aren't adaptations of the original texts, but are still films I think any Austen fan would enjoy. I have three modern films, set in the '90s and onwards, and three period films to share with you.
I guess this is a pretty obvious one, but I love Bridget Jones's Diary so I couldn't not mention it. I still haven't read the book but I always enjoy the film, and particularly love watching it around New Year. If we're going to be technical we could argue that this is an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, in the sense that it's a modern day adaptation, but I'm still going to count it anyway. If you're after a fun film with a bad first impression and a happy ending, much like Pride and Prejudice, then you'll love this!
This is another modern day adaptation, so I'll get this one out the way with before we get onto the more obscure choices. If you're a fan of stories with semi-unlikeable protagonists who are ultimately good at heart, like Emma, you'll like this film - it's also a great film if you happen to be a lover of films like Mean Girls and 10 Things I Hate About You. If you're a huge Austen fan, however, I imagine you've already watched Clueless and Bridget Jones's Diary!
This is probably the most obscure recommendation on my list, but I think it works! Of the Austens I've read so far (I say 'read', but I've only really read two of them all the way through and others I read bits of for university) Sense and Sensibility is definitely my least favourite. I just don't find the story all that interesting, and I really hate the ending; in my opinion Elinor and Marianne both deserved better, particularly Marianne. A Royal Affair is based on a true story, of the affair between Caroline Matilda of Great Britain (sister of George III) and her husband's personal physician Johann Friedrich Struensee. Caroline was married off to Christian VII of Denmark who struggled with mental illness throughout his life, back in a time when mental illness was understood even less than it is now. Caroline and Johann's story is heartbreaking and this film is so beautiful. To me A Royal Affair has that same gloomy quality that Sense and Sensibility does; they're both fitting stories if you've just been through a break-up and you need a good cry.
Fun fact: Mansfield Park is the only one of Austen's novels in which slavery is mentioned. I guess that's not exactly a fun fact, but it's interesting, right? Mansfield Park is also one of the two Austen novels, alongside Emma, that I haven't read at all, though I admit it's also one of the ones I'm most curious about because I hear it talked about so little. Belle is another period drama based on a true story, on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle. Dido was the mixed race daughter of Maria Belle, an enslaved African woman in the West Indies, and Sir John Lindsay, a British naval officer. When Lindsay returned to Britain he took Dido with him and entrusted her to the care of his childless uncle, Lord Mansfield, and his wife. The two of them raised Dido as a lady, alongside their orphaned niece Lady Elizabeth Murray. Mansfield was Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, and during his time in this role he brought about the formal end of slavery in Britain. In his will Mansfield confirmed Dido's freedom (as she had been born into slavery) and made her an heiress. Pretty impressive. This is a brilliant film, and both Dido and Fanny Price have quite a bit in common as they are both sent to live with wealthier relatives and both struggle to find their place in the world.
Letters to Juliet is cheesy and predictable and, at times, pretty naff, but like Bridget Jones's Diary and Clueless, it's fun. If you're in the mood to watch something you don't really have to think about, something you want to sit back and enjoy with a glass of wine and a bar of chocolate, then this is the film for you. If you're a fan of stories about second chances, about lovers who didn't get it right the first time and want to try again, like Persuasion, then I recommend watching this film. Plus it's set in Italy, and Italy's beautiful!
Finally, we have my favourite Austen: Northanger Abbey. I love Guillermo del Toro's work - I think Pan's Labyrinth is fantastic, and I love others films he's been involved in such as the Hellboy films and Mama - and Crimson Peak is right up my alley. I love Gothic stories, love love love them, and stories about women who move to creepy new houses are right up my alley; the synopsis of this film reminds me of The Miniaturist, actually! I think the story of a young girl who moves to a spooky house inhabited by a mysterious family seems like the perfect film for any Northanger Abbey fan!
Have you seen any of these films? Are there any others you'd recommend?