Jane Austen


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Jane Austen’s life

Jane Austen’s life and work attracts phenomenal interest, as the universal attention given to the recent bicentenary of Pride & Prejudice (published in 1813) so vividly demonstrates. “It’s perennially among the top favourites in any poll of books the British reading public can’t do without.” (The Guardian Jan 2013.) Her other books follow close on the heels of Pride & Prejudice, which is probably the most widely read and best loved English novel in the world. By any standards Jane Austen remains very much in the public eye with the 200th Anniversary of Mansfield Park’s publication in 2014, Emma in 2015 and 2016, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in 2018. Jane Austen will also appear on the ten pound note (sterling) from 2017, only the third woman to be so honoured.

As Jane Austen’s fame continues to grow with no sign of abating, this film acknowledges her struggle to express herself in novels which are all about the right to self expression.

‘Bright and Sparkling’ is her own description of her delightful comedy of manners, which belies the struggle she faced as a woman to become a published writer over thirty years before the Brontë sisters went into print.

Jane’s achievement in overcoming pride and prejudice within her own experience and society confirms her place in the forefront of women’s emancipation at the dawn of the nineteenth century. And her bid for freedom not only includes women, but, as her novels so powerfully demonstrate, the very best of men.

Director's Notes
I did not understand Jane Austen until I lived and worked in East Berlin, behind the Iron Curtain. Until then she meant nothing to me – a maiden aunt from a period long gone, of puffy sleeves and waspish waistlines. But after living in East Germany in the 1980’s, where writers and thinkers must use wit, symbolism and satire to communicate their ideas in a repressive regime, only then did I go back to Jane Austen and understand her relevance, her subversion, – her brilliance.

Jane Austen lived and worked in what was for her, a repressive state. She could not settle into a sparkling career as a novelist. She must count on a good marriage to find financial security and a position in life. So she wrote in secret, hiding her pages whenever anyone came into the room.

She must find her own conventions, write in her own secret code, and it was once I realised this that her novels opened up to me in a whole new light.

She uses her wit and brilliant social observation to confront issues of class, relationships and marriage, equality of the sexes: views which would be considered unpalatable for
a woman to engage with publicly in the early 1800’s.

It is too easy to love Jane Austen for the celebratory Regency Balls, the banquets and high society and too simple to discount her for the frothy frocks and the small canvas she worked on at a time of the Napoleonic wars and revolution brewing in Europe. Look again and look deeper, and you are rewarded with a far richer experience.
Sue Pomeroy, Director