This week I was invited to post my pick for my friend Andina’s My Movie Influence series. Naturally I picked Sense & Sensibility (1995). Before we get to the post, here’s what this series is all about:
“Many people have their own movies they think highly, praised and probably started seeing things differently after watching them. I’ve shared mine and I always wanted to know what others have. I asked other people which movie they think to have the best influence on them.”
If you have to pick one movie that changed your entire/one phase of your life, what would it be?
Sense & Sensibility (1995) – a Jane Austen adaptation by Ang Lee, starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman and Greg Wise. I’m forever indebted to my cousin who rented this movie when I visited her in college, but somehow it didn’t have as much an impact as it did the second time around. I couldn’t remember when exactly I saw it again but I was so swept away by it.
Set in the late 17th century, the story centers of the two Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, who must navigate through the harsh realities of their circumstances after losing their father. The two sisters are very close but of polar opposites, one is passionate and very much driven by feelings, and the other is much more guarded, strongly guided by her senses. Emma Thompson won an Oscar for her brilliant screenplay, deservedly so, and the film was nominated for seven Oscar. I wish Patrick Doyle’s music also won Best Original Score, it stands as one of my favorite movie music of all time.
In what way does the movie changed you?
This film not only sparks my love for period dramas but also opens the world of Jane Austen. I never read Austen growing up but now period romance is one of my favorite movie genres. I have seen many, many period dramas since but none compared to how I feel about this film. I’ve seen it countless times and I love it more every time.
There’s so much human emotions explored in this film… love, wickedness, patience, heartbreak, devotion, passion… themes all of us could relate to hundreds of years after this film is set. What I love most about this film is the decency of the main characters, choosing to do what’s honorable no matter how painful. Elinor and Col. Brandon truly suffered for love, so tormented for their feelings for Edward and Marianne respectively, but neither one is self-centered and so wallowed in self pity, but instead I find their kindness and compassion to others so inspiring. That’s why Brandon is one of my favorite period drama heroes, he’s the quiet hero who’s so worth the wait.
What character of the movie you could relate to?
I go back and forth between Elinor and Marianne. At first I identify most with Marianne and her unbridled passion, I love how she defied convention and the strict norm of society of her day in the name of love. I love how she doesn’t care what people thinks of her, and she loves with all her heart. But the older [and hopefully wiser] I am, the more I could relate to Elinor. She loves just as much but at the same time she isn’t defined by it. I think I am more inspired by her than being able to relate to her, but at the same time, I feel that I probably would’ve acted the way she did given the circumstances.
I also identify with the Dashwood sisters in losing a loved one so young in life, as I lost my mother when I was 16 years old and so I could relate to growing up without a father and raised by women.
Favorite quote of the movie?
Though I LOVE the ‘Love is not love’ sonnet that Marianne uttered in this wonderful rain scene, but it’s this quote from Elinor that I find so wonderfully inspiring…
“…It is bewitching in the idea of one’s happiness entirely depending on one person”
She said it to her sister Marianne when it’s finally revealed that Edward has been secretly engaged for five years, that is dashing her hope to be with him once and for all. Marianne always thought that Elinor never really deeply loved Edward but this scene shows that obviously that’s not the case. Yet even in her deepest heartbreak, Elinor still has her head screwed on tight and she never lost her perspective. I wish I had such strength, such wisdom could be applied at any era, whether in romance or otherwise.
If you could summon/conclude the entire movie’s message, what would it be?
I think the message that I get is that one must follow their heart but also has the good sense not to be controlled by our emotions. Seems that Austen also has a strong notion about marrying for love instead of money, which is quite a modern thinking as women like her in her day could not earn a living on their own.
Yet, it’s sad to say that some women today do choose marry for money more than love, and their parents perhaps even advise them to do so.
There’s also a message about defying social conventions that are deftly portrayed by Austen’s characters. Though Elinor seems to have proper decorum and seems to conform to society’s norm, there’s a subtle sign that she doesn’t necessarily agree with them. She is a headstrong woman so naturally she’d rebel against the idea that women had no status except through marriage.
Regardless of the era though, there’s that timeless theme of the eternal struggle between following our heart and using one’s head, especially when it comes to the intricacies of love.
Now, this portion is not on the original post, but I felt that it’s a crucial aspect of why this film resonates with me so much…
Faith plays a big part on the characters’ lives, and I find that so refreshing and beautiful amongst a plethora of dark films out there that seems to glorify the dark instead of celebrating light. The Dashwood family attends church and Edward in particular wants to be a vicar. He tells Elinor that he’s always prefered the church even though his parents would rather he go into law, as that is deemed a ‘smarter’ and more suitable profession for a man of his position. Yet Edward doesn’t care about all that and when he falls for Elinor, he feels that she would be supportive of his chosen profession, which shows that she places matters of the heart more than worldly wealth and social standing.
What Edward did in honoring his promise to Lucy, Brandon offering his parish to Edward when he’s disowned by his family for doing the right thing, and also Elinor offering her hand of friendship to Edward despite her broken heart… they are all God-honoring decisions as they are not driven by whatever their hearts desire, nor do they become embittered when things don’t go according to plan. It’s a subtle thing in the story and despite the fact that the filmmaker/cast did not intend Sense & Sensibility to be a ‘Christian’ film, the virtues that Christ exemplified are inherently present. There’s that underlying theme of self-sacrifice and thinking of others above yourself that I find incredibly inspiring.