Sense & sensibility is one of those English novels that’s seen more than its share of adaptations. Big screen and small screen.
A very popular Jane Austen novel adapted into a very British film with amusing British characters being quite British. No, not the one with Mr. Darcy.
All with a backdrop of beautiful landscapes and stately manors. Begging for a list of Sense and Sensibility movie locations already. Please sir, can I have some more?
And that is the last time I try to reference anything English literature.
But the adaptation remembered best is the 1995 movie written by and starring Emma Thompson. It was the first movie, which Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for.
This was a pretty big project for someone to start their career in writing movies. It eventually turned out to be an Oscar-winning effort.
It also starred a very young Kate Winslet, a pre-Notting Hill Hugh Grant, and a pre-Snape but post-Hans Gruber Alan Rickman.
I consider it the perfect movie for a matinee at home. For me, everything about the movie screams (pleasantly) matinee.
Take a look at the movie poster. Doesn’t that almost demand (politely) that you watch it on the couch after a light meal?
But the focus here is not the characters. Rather, the beautiful locations the movie was filmed. It was primarily shot in and around Devon in the UK.
So I figured I’d make a list of sense and sensibility movie locations you can check out right after you book a flight ticket worth 2 months rent.
The Sense and Sensibility cast is one of the primary reasons for the success of the movie.
It is a quiet and mellow movie. The original material was well known and the story, not exactly new.
But the cast provided the stardust that took it to a mainstream audience. Plus to be fair, English period dramas are never out of fashion. Downton Abbey and The Crown says hi.
Kate Winslet is the obvious standout in the cast. But this was before Titanic and the many, many (, many) Oscar nominations and wins that would come.
Sense and Sensibility, and Heavenly Creatures before it, were probably the two films that kick-started her career. She certainly had the critics singing praises.
Emma Thompson, lead star and first-time screenplay writer, had already won an Oscar at this point and was well known.
Hugh Grant was well known by now, thanks to the success of Four Weddings and a funeral.
But he still hadn’t become the star he would after the releases of Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s diary and Love, Actually.
It also had a pre-House MD Hugh Laurie. Not yet a megastar, but a big name in Britain thanks mainly to A bit of Fry & Laurie. But as charming as ever.
The movie was directed by Ang Lee before his monster success Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The catering was done by ….
The setting of the movie is in 1810 in England. So it comes with all the customs and manners of that time. Oh, the manners. So many manners.
The movie is set around the Dashwood family. The three daughters of the family are thrown into the deep-end of upper-class English society when their father dies leaving them no money.
Something about property laws and inheritances and women not getting a piece of the pie. Something, something, old traditions.
He had asked his son, their half-brother, to take care of them in his absence. But of course, being the half-brother that he is, he acts like a douchebag and screws them out of their inheritance.
This leaves the eldest daughter, our heroine, Eleanor Dashwood to find a way to handle the affairs of the family.
And by affairs, I mean marrying into respectable families so that they may have comfortable lives. Ah, old times.
The obligatory wrench in the works being that they have no money, so they become less-than-ideal matches.
Also in Eleanor’s case, 19 in the novel and 27 in the movie, she’s apparently too old for a good marriage proposal.
As you might imagine, a lot of issues faced by these women are shown and tackled in the movie. A hallmark of all Jane Austen novels.
So now we’re left with a lot of situations of matchmaking and people totally into the match but their parents not getting with it and inheritances and the match-making that gets you inheritances.
There’s a scene in the rain where reserved characters talk quite politely, the British version of spilling their hearts out.
It’s all very mellow and reserved and bloody gorgeous. Ang Lee shows in his first big feature in the West, why he would go on and direct splendid movies like Life of Pi and Brokeback Mountain.
The cinematography captures the sometimes lush, sometimes soggy landscapes of the English countryside. Then the warm but foreboding insides of magnificent manors before electricity came around and saved future generations.
So it becomes a great movie around which to cover real-life locations you can visit next time you’re in jolly England. (Book your tickets now).
So we come to the meat. The breathtaking locations that filmmaking genius Ang Lee captured so beautifully. Right before he moved on to tree-tops and bamboo and Kung-fu.
Flete Estate in Devon
This is the location where the Dashwood girls (isn’t that catchy) relocate to after their dad checks out and the scummy half-brother screws them over.
A very impoverished neighborhood indeed.
This beautiful area provides a wonderful backdrop to a lot of drama in the Dashwood family’s lives. The term bitter-sweet is perfect for the story that is told at this location.
Right now, it’s a great retreat for families to spend a week or more at.
But apparently a bit too romantic for Mr. Lee as he omitted the pesky swans from his shots. Didn’t want the audience feeling a bit too warm about what was going on.
Of course, they didn’t want the audience to get the feeling that the Dashwoods traded up when they were kicked out of their home.
So they used Saltram house to really rub it in the audience’s minds. Really drive home the drop in overall poshness the family was experiencing.
Of course, if you were to go there now, you can explore the big house and the large grounds that surround it. Make a day of it.
And to equally establish how terrible the half-brother and his wife were, they had to show them at their worst in a London home separate from their newly inherited mansion.
To see this house, you’ll have to travel from quaint Devon to the capital city of London.
And while you’re in London, you can visit the place where the Palmers lived. The Palmers are one of the more sympathetic families towards the Dashwoods.
It is all of 2 miles from the scheming couple’s home. It housed the air-headed Mr. Palmer (Laurie) and his wife and acted as a refuge for the Dashwoods.
This is the location where they filmed the shots that were held in the fictional ‘Barton Park’. Also known as the large house where one or more of the Dashwoods are given hope before they are dashed.
Of course, there’s a ball scene in the movie. Why wouldn’t there be? The traditional place where eyes can be locked and dances can be had.
But of course in accordance with the movie’s general direction, here too a Dashwood heart is broken.
But still, the place is a treat to look at.
St. Mary’s Church
And we can end on a happy note. The Church scene is for a wedding and not a funeral, I can tell you.
They picked the St. Mary’s Church in Devon to shoot this scene. It is a perfect setting to say goodbye to the characters that you’ve watched suffer and fall silently in love.
Of course, if it was never in your plans to visit the spots, there’s still the movie. Ready to be played at any time to transport you to another place and time.
And if you were so intrigued by the story and characters, you owe yourself the unadulterated vision of Jane Austen. With the original 19-year old version of Eleanor and not the one you laughed and cried with.
And then if you did fall head over heels with the book, you can check out the definitive collection of Jane Austen novels that include Pride and Prejudice.
Do check these out and let me know your thoughts in the comments.