Listening, Yet Again

Menopause, with its accompanying insomnia, has become my friend over time. Often, up in the night, I watch or re-watch old favourite DVDs (yes, I’m ancient), especially those my husband shares no enthusiasm for.


However, even I get tired of gorgeous scenery and classic costume dramas, and as a consequence, I’ve resorted to listening to the movie with commentaries—director, producer, writer, or some combination of those.


It’s FASCINATING. I learn so much. Often, I learn that I watched a whole different movie. Especially when the movie adapts a classic.

Yes, I've seen autumn here before. But I haven't seen THIS autumn. Yet.


I used to be a Jane Austen purist. I believed the BBC 1995 Pride and Prejudice adaptation was JUST BETTER than any other. I had LOTS of opinions that ranked adaptations on a scale I didn’t bother to specify, but which was mostly “faithfulness to the original book” plus some sense of seriousness and who knows what else.

I had no time for adaptations that were telling slightly different stories. And as a result, when I watched those adaptations, I missed the stories THEY were telling.


Recent examples, though OF COURSE I have watched more “adaptations” than these:


* Pride and Prejudice 2005: a mother with five daughters to marry off without any practical help from her husband finds it especially difficult to deal with the one who criticizes everything she says and does, usually to her face.

* Emma 2020: a very young woman, bereft of sister and governess/friend/mother, learns how friendship requires honesty and gentleness through shifting relationships with the women around her.

* Little Women 2019: adolescence knows no chronological age, and saying “I do value you your life perspective” doesn’t mean you actually do. Grr. Actually, I’m still not sure what this one was trying to do, but to the extent I could let go of my knowledge of Louisa May Alcott and Little Women, it was an interesting take.


They’ve all taught me something different. Just listening to a director’s process is illuminating. Joe Wright (P&P 2005) talks about living with a project day in and day out, and how a car trip on a sunny day, his eyes closed to the light, inspired one of the scenes. Eleanor Catton, writer of Emma, talks a lot about the halfway point and apparitions, characters that come into her life in the course of the year.


Yes, I know this openness to adaptations, and change, isn’t revolutionary. Think of how each actor portraying James Bond played the same character differently. Or the actor who plays Dr. Who—a show I’ve never actually seen, but as with Bond, it’s hard to live without knowing about it.

Plus, I’ve been trying to accept books on their own terms—is this book successful in what it’s trying to be—for many years. That doesn’t keep me from saying, “This book didn’t quite do it for me.” But it lets me extend my generosity of spirit to anyone who’s brave enough to create something and share it to the world.

Maybe I’m just mellowing with age and life-related fatigue. Regardless, I’m grateful for anything that pushes me to greater kindness.

That need to listen to the story someone else wants to tell—regardless of the one I want to hear—has been on my mind. 

Especially as new works are released and prize lists come out, I appreciate all acts of creativity and courage.