• Jane Austen,  TV and Film

    “…No, I haven’t, but I’ve seen the movie.”

    Now, in reality, the world have paid too great a compliment to critics,
    and have imagined them to be men of much greater profundity then they really
    are. –Henry Fielding

    Thank you, Mr. Fielding. I hope to remember to be humble. I have finally seen the new Pride and Prejudice movie (I am not addressing this part to Mr. Fielding, as he is dead of course, and the book was written about 60 years or so after his time) and I am weighing in.

    Firstly, I welcomed it with delight. As I sat in the theater during the opening scene–a marvelous, expansive scene of a country sunrise–I thought of how much I enjoy seeing a new adaptation of this old novel. And I asked myself not to expect it to be what I…er…expected. I know the novel, having read it several times, and I don’t mind seeing something that adds to it. In fact, I love being shown something more about the characters I love in a credible way. But I tend to be rather protective of the story, and hate to see it unnecessarily tweaked, and heavens–altered.

    I attended the movie with four friends–all of whom are familiar with the story from previous film versions. One is currently reading the novel–she hadn’t finished it yet, but she does have a good grasp of the period.

    This movie tries hard to put the long book into movie length. It did so by changing scenes in the novel, eliminating some and causing the necessary conversation to occur elsewhere. It eliminated Mrs. Phillips, a sister of Mrs. Bennett, and the Hursts, the married sister of Mr. Bingley and her husband. The latter did not do any real harm to the story, but being anal about P&P, I had to mention it.

    I had made some critical remarks before about some movie photographs re: costuming, but now I am going to take them back–because I feel the movie did an excellent job with that. It illustrated very well the difference in dress between an ordinary young woman and a member of the nobility, and I also admired how Mrs. Bennett was dressed in the style of her own youth–something I feel is realistic for a woman of her time who did not have the time or money to spend in London keeping up with the latest style, and like many older women of today, chose to stay with what she was used to wearing. Even her shoes were of a Georgian style–shabby and soiled, but right. For that, I am (as Jane would say) all admiration.

    I have mixed feelings about the relative poverty the Bennetts were shown to have. (If you haven’t seen the movie yet–although I believe I am one of the last to have seen it–the Bennett manor house seemed to be in the center of a barnyard). Possible–certainly. Intended by Jane–I tend to doubt. The Bennetts in this movie appeared to be more like a relatively well-to-do farm family than gentry. They were restricted financially, but I believe that they would not have lived so inimately with their livestock. Mrs. Bennett was conscious of appearances, and if they could afford expensive ball gowns for their daughters, I should think they could afford to have fences. Ahem….

    Other story elements…I have to wonder if someone not familiar with the story could have followed it in the film very well. I can’t have that perspective, and neither could any of my friends. Has anyone heard anything in that respect? The scenes cut rapidly from one to the other, leaping across time without giving any indication of it. There was almost a feeling that the story took place in a few weeks’ time instead of several months. And I did miss the nuance that the eliminated scenes could have provided…as a better showing of Lydia’s character before her downfall, and more of an understanding of Elizabeth’s character.

    Additionally, I think it did not give Lydia’s elopement the emphasis it deserves in the story. I may be mistaken, but her act, a shattering event in the book, did not seem to come across as the crisis it would have been. Perhaps in needed more real time in the movie? I am not sure.

    Nitpicks: Some scenes bothered me, as the one in which Mr. Bingley looked in on Jane in her sickroom–I am sure this would not have happened. Darcy with his shirt unbuttoned! This was a great departure from propriety for a gentleman, and if it could not have been helped, he would have begged Elizabeth’s pardon for his state–even if he was in love.

    I could have done without the very last scene. ::Sigh::. Something about it seemed… well…modern to me. I was glad to learn they were already married in that scene, but their being out of doors in what constituted their underwear (with servants about somewhere) seemed a bit wrong.

    Not nitpicks: In many ways I loved this movie. The characterizations were wonderful and so was the acting. I loved Darcy’s shyness, once one of my friends pointed out that his discomfort was likely due to not knowing how to act when socializing with his inferiors–and I mentally kicked myself for not thinking of that. In short, I want to see the movie again. And I feel it will generate more interest in Jane Austen, and this is always good! And I did love that kiss in the proposal scene, in spite of Darcy’s shirt. Some things are just timeless.

    Thank you for tolerating my reflections on this movie, since it is not a new topic here. I am going to go back and read previous opinions given in Risky Regencies now that I have a perspective.

    Laurie

     

  • Jane Austen,  TV and Film

    P&P Finally!

    Yesterday I finally got the chance to see the new Pride & Prejudice movie, after having spent several weeks listening to rants and raves and mixed reviews. Now I can be opinionated about it, too, and at great length, for which I apologize!

    I’m always fascinated (and sympathetic) to those who take the huge RISK of trying to bring a beloved book into a film. In fact, my critique partners, Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton, and I wrote an article on the path taken by the producers of the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and how we as authors could apply similar methods when faced with the task of revising an unwieldy manuscript.

    There are things that must be cut, for practical purposes, and then many things which must be added as well in the way of sensory detail not supplied by the author. And inevitably, these changes will annoy some viewers. So I have a healthy respect for anyone taking on the task of reinterpreting a classic, even if I don’t always agree with the interpretation. How stale a production might be that tried too slavishly to reproduce a book! Rather like a musician merely playing every note the composer wrote, without putting her own soul into the work.

    Since we’ve already talked about it, I’m not going to delve too much into details of historical accuracy and fidelity in this P&P. Some things did jar me but I got used to them as there was so much to like, even love, about this film. Anyway, on to my favorite thing about this movie: the characterizations!

    First let me say I’m a huge fan of Colin Firth in the role of Mr. Darcy. But I absolutely loved Matthew McFadyen’s different take on it, too. I’ve already heard protests that Darcy was arrogant and not shy, but I disagree. I think of this passage from the book (which was kept in the movie, though slightly adapted):

    “I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

    To me this doesn’t smack of a lack of desire to make friends; just an admission of difficulty negotiating tricky social waters. I see this Darcy as a serious young man, who succeeded to wealth and its accompanying responsibilities fairly early in life, and who has already been burned at least once (by Wickham) and possibly by fortune-hunting females as well. He’s too smart to be unaware of Caroline Bingley’s plays for him. I could see that that might add a level of wariness that would make it hard to start up relationships.

    At the same time, he’s powerfully attracted to Lizzie’s playfulness, which comes across nicely in Keira Knightley’s performance. She comes across a bit sillier at the start than I expected, but it gave her more room to grow, too. Again, a different but effective interpretation (and I loved Jennifer Ehle in the ’95 version, too). As for the critics who must endlessly harp on her underbite—it’s just plain mean-spirited. She’s very cute and has such lovely expressive eyes.

    I was also impressed by the treatment of secondary characters. Rosamund Pike was lovely as Jane (the actress in the ’95 version was not quite pretty enough—I feel mean-spirited myself to say that, but it’s true). Simon Woods was a bit startling as Mr. Bingley—what a buffoon! But also fun. Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennett was an interesting blend of wit and sympathy (I always found him a fallible but sympathetic character despite some Austen scholars’ desire to assign him the role of villain in the piece). And it was no surprise that Dame Judi Dench made a splendid Lady Catherine De Bourgh.

    The really pleasant surprises (to me) were the well-rounded characterizations of Mr. Collins, Mary and even Mrs. Bennett. Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) was delightfully absurd and yet escaped pure pomposity because he was so earnest in his desire to please. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him as he presents that little flower to Lizzie, or when he tries to get Darcy’s attention at the ball. Mary (Talulah Riley), too, was more than a mere pedant; she looked so sad and confused and out of place in that household. Now I really understand why people are interested in writing her story! Even Mrs. Bennett gets her semi-redeeming moment, when she challenges Lizzie to think how she would feel with five daughters to settle in life.

    Now as for that controversial ending—I have to say it felt wrong to me. NOT because it added a prologue not in the book, and NOT because it showed a bit of sensuality. I liked that! But it felt rushed and somehow out of order. A friend with whom I saw the movie said it was odd for Darcy and Lizzie to be talking about pet names after they’d clearly consummated their marriage already. That may be part of my problem.

    What I personally would have liked to see is more of what happened between the engagement and the post-coital bliss. Maybe a wedding scene. Or maybe even the beginning of the wedding night, with all that lovely awkward tenderness of young lovers, then a discreet fadeout, to keep the rating OK for teens but allow those who want to imagine the rest.

    OK, everyone, feel free to agree or disagree. What did you think of what was done with the characters? Did you like the ending? If not, how would you have ended the film?

    Elena
    LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, a Romantic Times Top Pick!
    www.elenagreene.com

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