Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Daniel Deronda and Andrew Davies

I've been wondering why on earth some people think Daniel Deronda has feelings for and should end up with Gwendolen.
Now I know why. Or think I do.
It's the 2002 mini-series!
The screenplay's written by Andrew Davies. Rings a bell? He's the screenwriter of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, the one responsible for the soaking wet Colin Firth image and the idea that Mr Darcy is Prince Charming! That's the one!
[His adaptations of Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey are better, though not as good as the less faithful take on Sense and Sensibility by Emma Thompson.]
Even if I sound like one, I'm not a purist. Look above (and here), I think highly of the Sense and Sensibility film, in which Emma Thompson and Ang Lee make various changes and shift the balance slightly from sense to sensibility. Changes are fine. Make Gwendolen a murderer even! I welcome that (though of course in that case everything else would have to change, the spirit of the film would also be different). What causes me dismay about this Daniel Deronda version is this: they romanticise the relationship between Deronda and Gwendolen, as though between a man and a woman there can be nothing else. Doesn't that make their relationship quite "earthly", commonplace? Doesn't that make Grandcourt right in his suspicions? Doesn't that put Deronda in the wrong, especially in the scene where he's with Gwendolen at Grandcourt's house and Grandcourt comes back and smiles at them in disdain? What kind of person does that make Deronda, simultaneously courting 2 women? And then that scene where Hans says he's seen how Deronda looks at Mirah, and looks at "the duchess"? What bothers me even more is that they romanticise this relationship, add lots of scenes showing that there's something going on between these 2 characters and leave hardly any space for the relationship between Deronda and Mirah, only a little at the beginning which hardly counts, and then in the end still let Deronda choose Mirah. I imagine that a person unfamiliar with the book, watching this film, would be quite stunned, and puzzled. 
It looks as though Deronda chooses Mirah for her Jewishness and his great mission. 


  1. Generally, I tend to avoid adaptations. As you say, they can be as faithful to or as creative with the original as they please: there is no obligation to stick to the original. But what I dislike are claims of being "faithful to the original", while ironing out the complexities - often the very complexities that make the original so profound a work. I haven't seen this "Daniel Deronda", but if Andrew Davies depicts (or even suggests) a romantic link between Daniel and Gwendolen, then that is taking the richness of the original and making of it something rather commonplace.

    Andrew Davies is also on record saying that, in his opinion, "Pride and Prejudice" is "all about sex and money". Not the novel that I read, it wasn't.

    1. Oh yeah, I remember the post. And that Pride and Prejudice is so popular!
      About the Daniel Deronda film, you can watch this video:
      Or this:
      They almost kiss several times. Read the comments too, those people are probably unfamiliar with the book.
      And then this comment "She looks old enough to be Daniel Deronda's mother. Hugh Bonneville is so sexy she should've stayed with him instead of murdering him." What?