What sort of fevered imagination we readers must have!

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.

“Perhaps after all it is possible to read too many novels!”

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!

Other reviews:

– At Enchanted Serenity of Period Films

– At The Period Drama Addict

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17 thoughts on “What sort of fevered imagination we readers must have!

  1. I loved this! Definitely my favorite Jane Austen adaptation to date – Cathy and Isabella are so adorable when they get together (gotta love Carey Mulligan – “It is the most shocking and horrid thing in all the world!”), and Henry Tilney was perfect. Actually I read Jane Austen in the first place because somebody told me that Henry Tilney was way the best Austen hero. Quite true. Good sense of humor. This is probably a horrifying thing to say, but I like him much better than Mr. Darcy (who I also like!)

  2. Okay, now I HAVE to watch this! I loved Northanger Abbey, and reading Emma this week put me in an Austen-ish sort of mood. I don’t think reading two of her books in a row would work for me, though, so what could be better than an adaptation? πŸ˜€

  3. Jenny – Yup, Henry Tilney was perfect wasn’t he? I never did like Mr.Darcy all that much. I’m not for the overly broody type myself. I need to start breaking the spine of Northanger Abbey
    Nymeth – Oh, yes, do! After you’ve seen the first season of Buffy =P…But, truly, don’t miss out on this adaptation, especially if you’re in the mood for an Austen Romance.

  4. have you seen the latest version (i think it s prolly about 2005-2006 BBC version) of Vanity Fair (not the one with reese witherspoon – too gaudy)? it’s delicious and Becky Sharp is amazing in it!

    I’ve seen the version of Northanger Abbey that your above blog post is about, and I profess to heart it very much.

  5. Aimee – No I don’t believe I have seen this version of Vanity Fair! Now that you’ve suggested it I may put it on the list to watch for my “Period Drama Challenge”. I didn’t enjoy the version with Reese Witherspoon as much as I thought I would (you’re right, it is a tad bit too gaudy perhaps), so I’m definitely up for any other versions.

  6. I haven’t read Northanger Abbey but after this post of yours it sounds like it’s a contender to become my fave Austen. Hm. Well, I really need to read it, and also Mansfield Park. I’ll postpone watching this film (which looks marvelous!) until I’ve read it.

  7. Claire – I haven’t actually read the book myself, so I’m going to read it later for the Everything Austen Challenge. Mansfield Park is also another on-screen adaptation that I’ve seen but I’ve never read!

  8. Lovely review πŸ™‚
    I also find myself not liking mr Darcy quite as much as mr Tilney.Mr Tilney is a good man.

  9. ayabinha – thanks! From this movie, I think Mr. Tilney is the kind of guy I think I would enjoy being with (I don’t think I could handle such a moody broody Darcy, though I do love the P&P romance!).

  10. I hadn’t seen any filmed adaptation of NA before I got this ITV version last year. I especially liked the first meeting between Catherine and Mr Tilney in Bath but I loved the whole movie , though I didn’t review it Anyhow, I wrote a post some time ago about Catherine Morland, her ancestor and her heiress. Curious to know who they are? Have a look here:
    http://flyhigh-by-learnonline.blogspot.com/2009/05/heroine-her-ancestor-and-her-heiress.html

    BTW, Excellent post! Great blog! I’m going to link it to mine, if you don’t mind!

  11. Really enjoyed your review of a first-rate Austen adaptation. NA is not my favorite Austen novel, but this adaptation is one my favorites. And everything you liked about it speaks to how they found the spirit of the novel and were true to it. Henry Tilney is even more charming on paper πŸ™‚

  12. This Northanger Abbey is one of my all-time favorite movies! I’ve seen another version (wretched) and have read the book twice. LOVE Tilney – a truly amusing, honorable, and admirable gentlemen. I too will go as far as to say that I prefer him to the oh-so-moody Darcy.

    I love the very tentative, but then passionate kiss at the end of NA. There are SO MANY parts I adore. lol

  13. Maria Grazia – Thanks for providing that very interesting link! You thought so thoroughly about the books in question. My favorite part in the movie was the carriage ride to Northanger Abbey, when Mr.Tilney teases Cathy about all the horrors in NA, and when you enter, it really does appear creepy – especially if you have a wealthy, snobby old man breathing down your shoulders over what sort of kitchenware you have to use while eating!
    charleybrown – I dropped by your pretty blog several times – I love what you have there! There’s so much fun and interesting things to read there =)
    JaneGS – Is he really? I really must read the book now! I heard that it’s not the best of Jane Austen but it’s still a must read! Thanks for dropping by!
    Lisa Quing – You know, I have watched another adaptation of this too and I don’t think I liked it either! I think Darcy only works if you’re an Elizabeth and I’m not one =) Henry is so much kinder and he can recognize a true and sincere heart, which I is a lovely thought. I, too love that sort of awkward beginning to their first kiss! And also the scene when they first met at the dance. So delightful!

  14. Lovely review…i just have to watch it. I have read Northanger Abbey and it is one of my favorites. Highly recommend reading it!

    I just chanced on your blog today, and I just know this is going to be regular reading for me πŸ™‚

  15. Nish – I will read it! I will! I’ve been saying that for a while, but everyone’s enthusiasm about this one makes me wonder all the more about it. Thanks for coming by! I try to post things regularly but I’m a lazy person at heart…. and school likes to make to-do lists for me.

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