The Making of a Movie . . . ?

Dana Thompson

Before we begin the usual shenanigans, let’s make one thing clear: I highly recommend you watch the movie BEFORE reading this book.

That’s right. You heard me. I won’t say it again.

Before you start throwing anything heavy at me (Wait! No! It’s not really me! It’s your computer! Stop! Don’t throw the bookend!), let it be known that this is no romance novel. This is a book about a movie based on a romance novel.

It seems that I am on a bit of an Austen kick. That’s okay. I am coming to understand that I will be on an Austen kick for most of my life, except for one year in my early thirties in which I will allow myself to snub the author as boring and idealistic, stating cynically that no love story could ever be so neat and perfect. Shortly after I will give up, grab a cookie, a kitten, and one of those blankets that is so soft it feels like woven bunny fur and watch “Sense and Sensibility” directed by Ang Lee.

I bought this film on a whim before my month-long trip to Spain in 2010, hoping that the British accents and general gentility would remind me of home (I live in northeastern Washington among loggers and oddly misplaced cowboys) (I dunno). I watched it almost every night and fell in love with Elinor, Marianne, Edward Ferrars, and ESPECIALLY Colonel Brandon (my favorite Austen man!) each time I watched it. I suppose that’s why I nearly wet myself when I saw this book during one of my late-night Barnes and perusals.

Image courtesy of Newmarket Press

Now that I think about it, this book may have a bit of a limited audience. How many people, really, are interested in “Sense and Sensibility” as a book, a film, and a book about a film to the point at which they would actually buy it? But honestly, this is a truly fascinating read that gives a delightful behind-the-scenes look to the mystery and mind-blowing effort it takes to transform a beloved novel into an enjoyable and relatable film.

“Sense and Sensibility: The Screenplay & Diaries” contains not only the entire Golden Globe-winning screenplay adaptation by Emma Thompson (forever known to the Harry Potter Generation as Professor Trelawney) but also the personal journal she kept while filming the movie (she––reluctantly––accepted the part of Elinor). If you are one of those people that watches movies and then goes straight to the behind-the-scenes features, then this book is for you. Besides getting a really good idea of what a screenplay looks like, this book provides an exciting and oftentimes hilarious peek into what our favorite British actors are like off screen. My personal favorite moment? When Alan Rickman (Colonel Brandon) and Kate Winslet (Marianne Dashwood) are chatting during a short break in filming:

“Kate: Oh God, my knickers have gone up my arse.

Alan: Ah. Feminine mystique strikes again.”

I honestly cannot recommend this book (or the movie) enough. Pick it up somewhere! Enjoy it! Make a day of it.

  1. Watch the film.
  2. Read the screenplay.
  3. Watch the film while reading the screenplay.
  4. Read the screenplay while watching the film (subtly different).
  5. Lunch break. (If you started early.)
  6. Read the diaries

There! I planned your day for you! You’re welcome! Now, I’m off to work. But I’ll be thinking about how wonderful a good screen adaptation can be and how lucky I’ve been to get a glimpse as to how it’s all done.