So I’ve finally got around to watching a movie for the “Period Drama Challenge” hosted by Lights, Camera…History! It’s normally not so difficult for me to make time to watch my favorite period dramas, but just as I make the committment to do so, I got swamped in other tasks. Tonight, though, I thought I’d better get going since I’ve got six movies to watch! And, it’s a rainy evening, so I immediately thought of the 2007 version of Northanger Abbey. I’m putting this one down for the Bonnets and Hessians (the Regency Period) category.
The “scatterbrain little creature” Catherine Morland lives more in her novels than in the real world. When she is invited by Mr. and Mrs. Allen to visit the big city of Bath, she is giddy with excitement. Little does she realize the scandals and adventures of the real world are so much less romantic than those that play out in her daydreams.
The 2007 version of Northanger Abbey is a delight. After watching it for the umpteenth time, I still think it’s one of my favorite on-screen adaptations of a Jane Austen work to date (though I techincally haven’t read the actual book). There’s lots of poking fun at polite society, and teasing of Cathy’s innocent and overreactive imagination.
When Cathy arrives in Bath she is immediately preyed upon by the Thorpes, who push themselves into her life, and push certain novels into her hands, among other things. Bath is a dangerous world of impropriety, flirtation, bold gazes and suggestive looks from all sides. Cathy is accosted with bold comments the moment she steps out of the carriage.
There are plenty of dances and operas that provide chances for everyone to meet and for misunderstandings to happen and be corrected. Of course, everyone must be introduced to each other before any real conversational troubles can begin.
Felicity Jones plays a charmingly naive Catherine who becomes a magnet for trouble when she arrives in Bath. I’ve never read Northanger Abbey (though I plan on doing so for the “Everything Austen Challenge”), but I think she did a spot-on job of capturing the innocent, romantic character of a young country girl who has a certain taste for adventure and a curiosity for the intriguing. I love her sincere expressions of horror, especially during those little episodic incidents at the abbey itself, where she had quite vivid and ‘horrible’ dreams.
JJ Feild, who plays Henry Tilney was as dashing as a Jane Austen man can be. Gentlemanly and delightfully teasing, he and Felicity Jones pulled off such a great on-screen relationship. I’m of a belief that, even if the film is terrible in terms of plot, dialogue, etc.., if the on-screen couple works, it’ll still be a pleasure to watch. Feild exuded a very warm and playful charm yet still manages to uphold enough of an enigmatic aura to fascinate Cathy’s imagination.
Carey Mulligan takes on the role of the flirtatious and scandalous Isabella Thorpe, which I thought she played very well. She brought on the coyness with her fan and her suggestive looks, aimed at the wealthy and handsome. On the other hand, oh!, the horrid horrid Mr. John Thorpe, played by William Beck. He was insufferable. If I were in Cathy’s shoes, I’d be peeved by such a man! Especially how he tricked her so shamelessly. Everytime John was quoted to say, Cathy “was the prettiest girl in town etc..” I was thinking, “God forbid!” He was too bold and manipulative. And, he looks like a toad. Sorry William Beck.
Like most Jane Austen movie adaptations, the cinematics were breath-taking. The vast fields of foggy landscape, with the rooftops of the great houses peeping up. The crazed carriage rides across the expanses of land, the private horse races across dewey fields. Not to mention the adorable vine-ridden cottages, chock full of children running about helter-skelter.
I love Northanger Abbey and it’s outright medieval gothicness. And the mock gothicness of many of the scenes in the movie.
Cue Lightning. Thunder. Darkness. Moany wind.
Hear the organ music, jump at the flickering candles.
“Are you prepared to encounter all of its horrors?” Henry asks Cathy before they enter.
Inside the abbey, the rooms are dark and damp looking, with lots of corners for shadows to bounce off of. What looks like a mysterious manuscript of horrors at midnight becomes a laundry list in the morning. There are unused corridors and locked rooms. The place is eerily quiet, and full of forbidden wings. There were a few scenes that reminded me of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, when Belle sneaks off into the forbidden wing, though Cathy sees a stuffed bird instead of a whole line of creepy gargoyles.
And the music! Lots of suspenseful pieces. In one scene, I giggled at the use of the spooky music that accompanied Cathy’s first dinner at the Tilney residence. One must ensure one reaches for the right spoon… or else. There are horrors both in the corrupt and sinful city of Bath as well as the polite and rigid atmosphere of Northanger Abbey.
Then, like a true Jane Austen movie ending, the man on the white horse arrives at the small cottage where the poor girl lives, and everyone in the household rushes about to make things proper for his arrival. I love the scenes where the family members surround the important guest, who sits uncomfortably on a chair, sipping tea. Everyone stares at him – in hostility? in curiosity? – as he tries to make polite talk with the mother while secretly wishing he could have a moment alone with the girl of his heart.
I just love what the directors did in this movie – especially those exciting interludes of Cathy’s daydreams. This movie really appeals to the reader’s heart in many ways. For me, I’m always thrilled to the bone at the thought of adventure and excitement as Cathy is. But, like Cathy, I live in my own little world and, sadly, don’t really have much experience with the ‘real’ world adventures. This is also why I love ‘The Mummy’ so much. Rachel Weisz plays the naive, absentminded librarian Evy, who has never been on a real adventure before but possesses a world of an imagination. Both Cathy and Evy believe that, through the knowledge gleaned from their books, they know what to do when the real situation comes barreling around the corner. A romantic adventure, full of subtle humor and nice things for your eyes to look at, Northanger Abbey is an amusing story to watch onscreen. If you haven’t seen a Jane Austen adaptation yet, do watch this one!