Sense and Sensibility (film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Sense and Sensibility is a 1995 American period drama film directed by Ang Lee and based on Jane Austen's 1811 novel of the same name. Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay and stars as Elinor Dashwood, while Kate Winslet plays Elinor's younger sister Marianne. The story follows the Dashwood sisters, members of a wealthy English family of landed gentry, as they must deal with circumstances of sudden destitution. They are forced to seek financial security through marriage. Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman play their respective suitors. The film was released on December 13, 1995, in the United States.

Producer Lindsay Doran, a longtime admirer of Austen's novel, hired Thompson to write the screenplay. She spent five years drafting numerous revisions, continually working on the script between other films as well as into production of the film itself. Studios were nervous that Thompson – a first-time screenwriter – was the credited writer, but Columbia Pictures agreed to distribute the film. Though initially intending to have another actress portray Elinor, Thompson was persuaded to take the role.

Thompson's screenplay exaggerated the Dashwood family's wealth to make their later scenes of poverty more apparent to modern audiences. It also altered the traits of the male leads to make them more appealing to contemporary viewers. Elinor and Marianne's different characteristics were emphasised through imagery and invented scenes. Lee was selected as director, both due to his work in the 1993 film The Wedding Banquet and because Doran believed he would help the film appeal to a wider audience. Lee was given a budget of $16 million.

A commercial success, earning $135 million worldwide, the film garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews upon release and received many accolades, including three awards and eleven nominations at the 1995 British Academy Film Awards. It earned seven Academy Awards nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Actress. Thompson received the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, becoming the only person to have won Academy Awards for both acting and screenwriting. Sense and Sensibility contributed to a resurgence in popularity for Austen's works, and has led to many more productions in similar genres. It persists in being recognised as one of the best Austen adaptations of all time.


On his deathbed, Mr. Dashwood tells his son from his first marriage, John, to take care of his second wife and three daughters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, since they will inherit nothing. John promises to do so. John's greedy and snobbish wife Fanny convinces him to give his half sisters nothing financially; John and Fanny immediately install themselves in the large house, forcing the Dashwood ladies to look for a new home.

Fanny invites her brother Edward Ferrars to stay with them. Elinor and Edward soon form a close friendship, but Fanny tells Mrs. Dashwood that Edward would be disinherited if he married someone of no importance with no money.

Sir John Middleton, Mrs. Dashwood's cousin, offers her a small cottage house on his estate, Barton Park in Devonshire. She and her daughters move in and are frequent guests at Barton Park. The Dashwoods meet the older Colonel Brandon, who falls in love with Marianne at first sight. However, Marianne considers him incapable of feeling love or inspiring it in another.

One afternoon, Marianne takes a walk with Margaret and slips and falls in the rain. She is carried home by the dashing John Willoughby, with whom Marianne falls in love. They spend a great deal of time together, but on the morning she expects him to propose marriage to her, he instead leaves hurriedly for London.

Sir John's mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings, invites her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, to visit. They bring with them Lucy Steele. Lucy confides in Elinor that she and Edward have been engaged secretly for five years.

Mrs. Jennings takes Lucy, Elinor, and Marianne to London where they meet Willoughby at a ball. He greets Marianne uncomfortably and barely acknowledges their acquaintance, and they soon learn he is engaged to the extremely wealthy Miss Grey. Marianne becomes inconsolable. Colonel Brandon later explains to Elinor that Willoughby seduced and abandoned his ward Beth, the illegitimate daughter of his former love. When Willoughby's aunt and benefactress Lady Allen learned of his behavior, she disinherited him and so he chose to marry for money.

Lucy is invited to stay with John and Fanny. Lucy, believing she has a friend in Fanny, confides her clandestine engagement to Edward and is thrown out of the house. Edward's mother demands that he break off the engagement. When he refuses, she arranges to have his fortune transferred to his younger brother, Robert. On hearing this, Colonel Brandon offers Edward the parish on his estate, feeling sympathy for the unfortunate but honorable Edward.

On their way home to Devonshire, Elinor and Marianne stop for the night at the country estate of the Palmers, who live near Willoughby's estate. Marianne becomes gravely ill after walking in torrential rain. Colonel Brandon finds her and brings her home. Elinor stays at her side until she recovers, and the sisters return home. Colonel Brandon and Marianne begin spending time together as Marianne has a new appreciation for him. She admits to Elinor that even if Willoughby had chosen her, she was no longer convinced that love would have been enough to make him happy.

The Dashwoods soon learn that Miss Steele has become Mrs. Ferrars and assume she married Edward. Later when Edward visits their house, they learn that Miss Steele married his brother Robert. Declaring his love, Edward proposes to and marries Elinor. Soon afterward, Marianne is married to Colonel Brandon, whom she has come to love, by Edward. Willoughby watches their wedding from a distance with a look of regret on his face and then rides away.


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