Jane Austen frequently uses the ironic narrator in her novels to give her stories more depth. Instead of having stories where the outcome is obvious to reader, Austen incorporates ironic narrators whose points of view get mixed into our own. But writing with an ironic narrator is nothing compared to trying to film it. An 18th century reader is dramatically different from a 21st century moviegoer.
Changes and alterations must be made to Austen's work in order for a moviegoer to have the same experience as the reader. Additionally, movies are generally only an hour and a half to two and half hours long and there is no way that any novel's narration can be fully expressed in that time frame. We can see ironic narrator alterations in almost all of Austen's film adaptations including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma and Persuasion.
One example of moviegoers missing out on details of a novel happens in Pride and Prejudice. To an 18th century reader, there are several indications that Mr. Darcy has more than just friendly feelings towards Lizzie. He even goes so far as to explicitly tell Miss Bingley that he has intentions for her (25). But for those who see the movie, certain little hints of Mr. Darcy's infatuation with Lizzie may slip their notice. In order to let the audience be fully aware of this, the movie grabs their full attention.
[...] She thinks that they are just unintelligent, but Edward knows how to make her come out of her shell and be more comfortable with the strangers in her home. There is also a scene where Elinor notices out her window that Edward and Margaret are playing swords with two pieces of wood. He is showing her the proper way to stab someone. It is from these scenes that the moviegoer gets the same idea of Edward that a reader would get from the novel. He cares about others and isn't afraid of embarrassing himself and having a little fun. It shows the loose and unreserved side of Edward. [...]
[...] It is always better to read the novel, but for the people out there who don't have enough time (or are too lazy), there is always the film version, but it must be remembered that a movie from the 21st century does not always reflect the ideas of the 18th century. [...]
[...] The novel does not give a name to the person who speaks this to Anne, it is either her father or her sister and the tone of the comment seems more nonchalant and ignorant of what Anne is saying. The movie gives these lines to Elizabeth, whose tone is rather angry as she raises her voice to Anne. It is as if Anne has just frustrated her beyond belief. This tactic is also used in the scene where Mrs. Clay, Elizabeth and Anne are stuck in town in the pouring rain. [...]
[...] Darcy's infatuation with Lizzie may slip their notice. In order to let the audience be fully aware of this, the movie grabs their full attention. When Lizzie discovers the truth about Wickham, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, it is by reading a letter that Mr. Darcy has written after her rejection of his proposal (166-172). In the A&E adaptation of the movie, Lizzie still learns the truth through a letter from Mr. Darcy, but the scene sets a different tone for its contemporary audience. [...]
[...] The audience that Jane Austen was writing to is radically different from the audience that is now going to see her novels adapted into film. Many have never even read the novels before and this makes the job of conveying Austen's true meanings to a moviegoer even harder. It is not that her ideas, attitudes and characters do not exist anymore, it is just that in this century they exist in different ways and some of Austen's concepts have to be altered in order to still get the same point across. [...]
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