Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A movie for the masses

The Q&A with Whit Stillman after "Love & Friendship" brought to light some ideas I would not have thought otherwise. His words that struck me most were, "Jane Austen is the voice of Samuel Johnson." Knowing limited information about Johnson, I decided to try and make the connection between the two. Along with creating the most widely used English dictionary (before the OED) Johnson was a literary critic who reviewed works on Shakespeare, Milton and other seminal authors. Johnson's defining critical analysis was to celebrate the usage of normal, simple language; he also celebrated the everyday.
Johnson in all his literary critic glory
Jane Austen, too, is seen as an author who exemplifies literary realism. Her characters are straightforward and use relatable, ordinary language. Stillman, it seems, was influenced by this technique as well. In his opening portrait shots, he showed all the characters up front as well as gave a short 1-2 sentence description about each one. After the movie, Stillman said those shots were only intended for agents and production heads. It was not meant to be in the final cut and most certainly not for the general public. But, like Austen and Johnson, Stillman also decided that clear, concise, simple language was the best way of conveying information to his audience and it showed. Stillman turned an epistolary novel--which could have been a convoluted mess--into a witty, engaging, easy to follow movie.

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