Over the past few weeks I've been watching Andrew Davies movies as background for my projected book on the Austen movies. My justification for watching as many as I did is that if I did try to cover all the Austen movies, he'd be a major player. Together with different directors, producer, and actors, he's done 6 Austen movies -- and all of them clearly reflecting his obsessions, like and dislikes, character types which mean something to him. I also enjoy his films marvelously. And it is a kind of marvel that I do as they often lack real subtlety and fineness, or do not have empathy for psychological vulnerability. He walks away from this, for example, when it comes to delving Louis Trevelyan in Trollope's He Knew He Was Right. Still there is otherwise so much there that is rich, thoughtful, entertaining, filmically brilliant, humane, liberal in attitude and so on and so forth.
So which are his six Austen films: the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, the 1996 Emma, the 2007 Northanger Abbey, and 2008 Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, as well as 2001 Bridget Jones' Diary, and 2004 Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
I thought I should write about these on this blog rather than Jim and Ellen have a Blog, two where I'm writing about Davies' movies from books other than Austen, or Austen-derived, relates texts. There I've written about his films, The Signalman (Dickens's ghost story), Middlemarch and Wives and Daughters (George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell).
I have written about Davies' P&P and Emma and Northanger Abbey on my previous blog, websites, as postings and for conferences, but separately and not as a group written by Andrew Davies. I've also touched on the connection between the Bridget Jones' movies and Nora Ephron's You've Got Mail as screwball romantic comedy.
So what's been left out are the parallels and paradigms which repeat in these series and are found in other Davies movies and are transmutations of Austen's material or consonant with it. Motifs found in other Austen movies include the female narrator obvious in both Bridget Jones's movies. This is across the Austen movies a repeating motif that makes them different from other female diaries or novels. All six make a strong use of fantasy and dream-sequence to pull the audience along. All but Northanger Abbey has some sort of bridal scene. All six have clever graphics and paratexts. All of them operate to solace us (or me): the strong presentation of characters who care intensely about one another is deeply appealing. I don't think this is necessarily from Austen, but it is typical of women's and the Austen films. So all these Davies uses: what other film-makers have taken from Austen.
Unique to Davies is the self-evidently emotional vulnerable male who cannot articulate who he is. Davies likes to question point of view. He has this in all his movies whether out of Austen or not. His ability to write simple eloquent dialogue is not, for one sees that in all his film adaptations -- phrases from the sources are intermixed. His drive towards social criticism is in all his film adaptations.
Now I wonder what specifically is in Austen enables Davies to present something his rivals don't or cannot. I haven't got an answer to this question.
I really wonder if he was drawn to her or it's a matter of opportunism as she is such a central text for English and BBC film adaptations. With Eliot and Dickens there seems to be something in the text drawing him; so too Dr Zhivago; with Austen he picks up on general paradigms and (as he says) seems to "tussle" with her, change her meaning to suit his preoccupations, not stealthily pulling out or elaborately cinematically upon hers. The 2008 Sense and Sensibility shows him going into a romantic direction which goes against the spirit of the original.