[Cinema Sunday] ‘Sense and Sensibility’ – Alan Rickman Shines in Jane Austen Classic

Sense and Sensibility
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Marianne Dashwood would no more think of me than she would of you, John.” – Colonel Brandon

February is here at last. As the weather begins its mad campaign of change, people’s thoughts turn to flights of love and romance. Valentine’s Day fast approaches, the time to celebrate with one’s spouse or beloved. And as for this little venture down cinema lane, it shall be to honor the birthday and career of a beloved actor who was taken from this world not long ago. He played many parts in his life, both hero and villain. I speak of Alan Rickman, or as many would remember him, Severus Snape.

To start things out, the first time trip shall be back to the year 1995. Star Trek: Voyager debuted on TV, Bill Waterson’s Calvin and Hobbes comic strip ceased publication, and Microsoft released its Windows 95 software. And on December 13, Ang Lee’s adaptation of the Jane Austen classic Sense and Sensibility hit theaters.

Ang Lee (center) on set with Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman

Ang Lee was the man responsible for such films as The Wedding Banquet, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Taking Woodstock. To know that a man of his caliber was directing the movie, makes all the more appealing in addition to its superb cast. Although at the time, Lee no doubt felt producer Lindsay Doran and Emma Thompson (who both starred and wrote the screenplay) had made a mistake. In an interview he conducted with the Daily Beast a few days after the film’s release, Ang shared his thoughts with readers:

“I thought they were crazy: I was brought up in Taiwan, what do I know about 19th-century England? About halfway through the script it started to make sense why they chose me. In my films I’ve been trying to mix social satire and family drama. I realised that all along I had been trying to do Jane Austen without knowing it. Jane Austen was my destiny. I just had to overcome the cultural barrier.”

Sense and Sensibility is a beautiful love story set against the backdrop of 19th-century England. Following the adventures of the Dashwood family, Jane Austen lovers and filmgoers experienced the many highs and lows of the Dashwood ladies, in particular Elinor (Emma Thompson) and Marianne (Kate Winslet). In particular their respective quests to find true love amidst the class separations and social norms of the time. For Marianne, love comes to her in the form of Alan Rickman’s wonderful portrayal of Colonel Brandon.

The Colonel is not at first glance a very exciting figure. Quiet and reserved, he finds himself instantly attracted to Marianne, though she does not feel the same. Seeing the course of their relationship bloom and grow, from friendship to eventual courtship and marriage is such a treat. Colonel Brandon is, in many ways, the ideal British gentleman. Unswerving in his views, willing to stand fast to what he feels to be true, honorable, kind and caring. Not to mention well-to-do, having inherited his family’s estate of Delaford upon the death of his brother.

There never was a more happy ending than that of Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon. It takes time for Marianne to feel for him what he already feels for her. She wishes to marry someone her age, or at the least exciting. Nearly losing her life to severe fever and being rescued and brought home by Brandon, shows her how much the Colonel truly cares for her. It is that moment, the bonds of love are forged between them.

At the time of its hitting move theaters, Sense and Sensibility was an overwhelming success critically and financially. Against a budget of $16 million, it more then made up the cost by taking in $134 million altogether. As for reviews, Roger Ebert wrote in the Chicago Tribune:

I liked the wit, I liked the charm of the actors, I enjoyed the way that Rickman chewed his role as if he wanted to make it last, and the tension when Grant’s Edward is made to suffer – particularly since he appears to be a cad only because he has tried to do the right thing. And I appreciated the way Thompson’s Elinor kept her character’s face carefully expressionless as she negotiated scenes in which some knew her secrets and others did not.

While it is still cold and gray outside, inside there can be warmth, love and family togetherness aplenty. Make it a point to enjoy time with loved ones, and as Valentine’s Day arrives, make sure to plan something special for yourself and your wife, girlfriend, husband or boyfriend. And take a moment to remember Alan Rickman, and his many fantastic contributions to the world of movies. Come along as Cinema Sunday examines some of the great highs of his career…it’s a journey that won’t be regretted.