Question of the Week: Which literary characters in film are your favorites?

Characters are the main ingredients that can make or break a movie… even if the film is so-so, a great character portrayed on screen would still make a film memorable. The same is true on the flip side, even if a film is generally well-made, but if you don’t connect with the characters, you probably aren’t going to remember them much afterwards.

AustenlandPosterIn light of the recent passing of famed novelist/screenwriter Elmore Leonard, whose works have been adapted to the big screen several times, I thought I’d focus this week’s question on literary works and the movies. I’m guilty of having seen only one of Mr. Leonard’s work, but I LOVE the character Ben Wade in 3:10 to Yuma (2007) as played by Russell Crowe (he’s one of my picks of scene-stealing bad boys, natch!).

I’m also going to Austenland screening tomorrow night, a comedy inspired by Jane Austen‘s most famous work… and one of her most famous characters, Mr. Darcy. The synopsis reads: Obsessed with the BBC production of “Pride and Prejudice”, a woman travels to a Jane Austen theme park in search for her perfect gentleman. I’m looking forward to this, sounds like a escapist entertainment type of movie for fans of period dramas like moi!

From classic authors like William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien, Emily/Charlotte Brontë and of course Austen, Hollywood has churned out interesting characters based on their works. There are also modern classic authors like Philip K. Dick, Michael Crichton (which my pal Terrence just did a Time to Vote Tuesday on last week), as well as those still living like J.K. Rowling and John Grisham whose popular works have translated to big bucks for the film industry. I’m also opening up my question to TV as well, as there are certainly some fantastic made-for-TV adaptations out there, especially from BBC. Speaking of which, did you know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed human character portrayed on film and TV according to Guinnes Book of Records??

Now, for the purpose of this discussion, I’m actually excluding graphic novels and comics as that’s kind of a whole different animal entirely. Oh, and let’s focus on human characters (no robots, toys nor fairies) just for the sake of this discussion.

I know it’s darn near impossible to narrow down to just 10, but I’m gonna try anyway, because well, it’s a lesson on decisiveness, right? 😀

There are various reasons I picked these. For female characters I listed here, I admire them for their courage and strength, not all of them are admirable characters, I mean Scarlett O’Hara is a great example of an anti-heroine, but I admire her spunk and survival instinct in a time when women aren’t supposed to be fierce. Same with the guys, they’re not all heroes who save the day. In fact, Mr. Rochester and The Phantom are both deeply flawed characters, but they sure are unforgettable. Truth be told, I agonized over picking George Bailey over Atticus Finch (y’all know how much I love Gregory Peck & his astounding performance in that role), but ultimately I feel that I identify more with the troubled and disillusioned family man. As you can see, I have a penchant for tortured souls 😉


Ok, now your turn folks! Name at least one (or more) of literary characters on film that you love!

My Movie Influence: Sense & Sensibility (1995)

My friend Andina over at the gorgeous Inspired Ground blog invited me last week to take part on her on-going series My Movie Influence.

Here’s the gist of what the 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.

Naturally I pick this movie…

Some of you aren’t surprised by that as this Jane Austen adaptation by Ang Lee is one of my favorite films of all time.

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.
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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.

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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.


Well, now you know why that film means so much to me. What’s your thoughts on Sense & Sensibility?

Scenes Spotlight: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 in Sense & Sensibility

Today’s the Bard’s 448’s birthday!

I didn’t realize it until Garrison Keillor, the host of NPR Writer’s Almanac, talked about it this afternoon on my way home from work. At the end of the segment, Mr. Keillor read one of William Shakespeare‘s most famous love sonnets published in 1609: Sonnet 116

Of course it was such a delight as that sonnet was featured in my favorite film of all time, Sense and Sensibility. In fact, since I regretfully wasn’t taught Shakespeare back in high school, that is perhaps my introduction to this beautiful sonnet that talks about what LOVE is [or supposed to be], and what LOVE is not.

The sonnet appears twice in the Ang Lee‘s film, though it wasn’t part of the Jane Austen’s novel. Emma Thompson, who deservedly won an Oscar for the screenplay, must have been a fan of this particular poem, and why not, it’s so beautiful and poignant.

The first instance the sonnet was spoken was in this scene when Willoughby asked Marianne what her favorite sonnet was… and of course, as soon as he started reciting it, she was done for.


The second time it’s spoken, the circumstances between the two has changed dramatically… it’s such an emotionally-charged scene that is filled with deep pathos of a young woman mourning the loss of her first love…


So whether or not his intention was honorable in the beginning, Willoughby’s love is not exactly ‘an ever-fixed mark.’ Winslet’s rendition of the sonnet here is so heart-wrenching… it’s as if she could barely notice the soaking-rain and though she should’ve been shivering in the cold, the stormy weather still can’t drown out the bitterness of Willoughby’s betrayal.

This is just one of the reasons I love this movie so much… the use of the sonnet is so fitting, so brilliant and so iconic that I think I’d forever associate this sonnet with this film. It goes to show just how timeless Shakespeare’s work really is.


Thoughts on this movie? Feel free to share YOUR favorite Shakespeare-related work in movies.