It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen did not write enough books. With only six novels published before her death in 1817, Austen left readers wanting more of her characteristic wit, humor, and finely-drawn love stories. Light on description and laden with wonderful dialogue, Austen’s books lend themselves easily to film adaptation, giving us a collection of excellent Austen-themed movies and—perhaps the greatest gift of all—Mr. Darcy in his wet shirt. But how many times can one read Pride and Prejudice before wanting a bit of a change? How many times can one watch Clueless (an adaptation of Emma) before it starts to get old? (The answer to that one is “As if!”; Clueless never gets old.) Most Austen fans are content to compulsively reread her novels and watch film adaptations over and over, but we all crave a bit of variety sometimes.
Here are six films and miniseries that should appeal to fans of Austen, adapted from novels and real events of the nineteenth century. As with Austen’s works, these movies are romantic, smart, and often funny. Beautifully filmed, they make the nineteenth century much more attractive than it probably actually was. Needless to say, the books from which these films are adapted are highly recommended as well!
1. North and South
And did I mention that Richard Armitage is super hot in this movie?
2. A Room with a View
Also, Julian Sands is really attractive in this movie. (Are you noticing a trend here?)
3. An Ideal Husband
This 1999 comedy adapts Oscar Wilde’s 1895 comedy of the same name. Starring Cate Blanchett, Jeremy Northam, Rupert Everett, and Minnie Driver, this movie has charm in droves. Brimming with the witty one-liners for which Wilde is famous (“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance”), An Ideal Husband’s ample humor works in concert with the play’s more serious questions: Can we escape our past sins? How do we love people despite their flaws?
4. Bleak House
5. Jane Eyre (BBC, 2006 version)
Also, Toby Stephens is quite nice to look at in this movie. (One could argue that his attractiveness is problematic because Mr. Rochester is supposed to be ugly, but, frankly, I don’t care.)
6. Bright Star
Ok, so this movie is not exactly a comedy. This 2009 film,
directed by Jane Campion, portrays the romantic relationship between poet John
Keats and Fanny Brawne. If you know anything about Romantic poetry, you know
that Keats never got a “happily ever after.” I highly recommend this film all
the same. It is visually stunning, the script is romantic, and the acting is
excellent, with Abbie Cornish, in particular, lending a real complexity and depth
to Fanny Brawne. And the best part might just be the closing credits, when Ben
Wishaw reads Keats’ haunting “Ode to a Nightingale.”
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music: — do i wake or sleep?