200 Years of “Pride & Prejudice”

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A portrait of Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. 

Thus begins one of the most-loved/discussed novels of English literature.  It has been read in high schools, colleges, etc., by most of the women we know.  We keep coming back to this book, and don’t forget the numerous TV/film adaptations. 

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Modern-day JA fan, Amanda (Jemima Rooper), gets Lost in Austen (2008) with Darcy (Elliot Cowan)

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Darcy (Laurence Olivier) & Elizabeth (Greer Garson) in the 1940 film

It seems like Lizzie and Darcy are almost as iconic as Romeo and Juliet when it comes to famous couples.  Other relationships are also important: Lizzie and her beautiful/shy older sister Jane, Lizzie and her hands-off father, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett (an odd couple), Lizzie (romantic) and older friend Charlotte (practical), etc.  Let us focus on the main love story…

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Jennifer Ehle (an American) as Elizabeth (A&E, 1995)

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Keira Knightley as Elizabeth (2005)

She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.

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David Rintoul as Darcy (1980)

Ouch!  Suffice it to say, Darcy does not make a positive first impression on Lizzie, her family, and the community-at-large.  He doesn’t even dance once at the assembly ball in Meryton, which makes him look proud, vain, and disagreeable.  (He later explains that he’s not at ease talking to strangers.)

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My favorite Darcy: Colin Firth (A&E, 1995)

A geological sample of Darcy’s core, as portrayed so beautifully by Firth, would show the following layers:  at the bottom, his breeding and wealth.  Undeniable.  On top of that, confusion, the push-pull of class–egad, 10,000 pounds a year and a house 10 times larger than Downton Abbey!  -Elinor Lippman, Huffington Post (January 28, 2013)

Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year.

Mr. Darcy’s sly humor comes out when Lizzie and Caroline are walking about the room.  (Lizzie went to Netherfield, Bingley’s house, when Jane became ill.)

You either chuse this method of passing the evening because you are in each other’s confidence, and have secret affairs to discuss, or because you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking; — if the first, I should be completely in your way; — and if the second, I can admire you much better as I sit by the fire.

Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride — where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation.

Well, Darcy knows he’s an eligible bachelor, but he won’t be caught easily.  (He’s not easily impressed-  he’s still be a bachelor at the age of 28.) 

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Matthew MacFadyen as Darcy (2005)

…But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence. Nor am I ashamed of the feelings I related. They were natural and just.

Darcy’s first proposal is is very surprising to Lizzie- she tells him off!  (After all, she thinks he’s treated Wickham very unfairly and ruined Jane’s chance at happiness with Bingley.)  I really like the lines above that Darcy says, about how he hates to hide his true feelings.

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Elizabeth (Ehle) tells Darcy (Firth) about family troubles

When all hell breaks loose (because of Lydia’s running away with Wickham), Darcy becomes very concerned.  We see his sympathtic side (above), but we won’t discover until much later just how much he has helped the Bennett family.  (Actions speak louder than words.)  If Lydia and Wickham hadn’t been married off quickly, then the the other sisters would’ve been tainted for life.  Elizabeth felt guilty because she hadn’t revealed Wickham’s true character to others; Darcy had to protect Georgiana, his teenage sister, so he couldn’t expose Wickham either.

…Let me thank you again and again, in the name of all my family, for that generous compassion which induced you to take so much trouble, and bear so many mortifications, for the sake of discovering them.

If you will thank me,” he replied, let it be for yourself alone.  That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.

The crisis, and its aftermath, propels the love story forward, though the couple are not together.  Lady Catherine becomes a catalyst when she barges in on the Bennetts and insists that Lizzie never become engaged to her nephew.  Darcy hopes to have another chance with Lizzie.  (Bingley and Jane finally getting engaged brings happiness to them both, too.)

As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper.  I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit.  Unfortunately an only son (for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own.  Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth!  What do I not owe you!  You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous.  By you, I was properly humbled.  I came to you without a doubt of my reception.  You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.

How can you not love such words, these characters, and such a terrific ending!?

Persuasion (2007)

In this  newest adaptation, a sense of urgency is infused into Austen’s last novel- a story of lost love found.   Anne Elliot (Sally Hawkins) becomes a woman of action (note all the running toward the end).  Also, the ending is changed in a (rather BIG) way- Capt. Wentworth doesn’t leave a letter tucked under some other paper for Anne to discover, as in the ’95 film version. 

Okay, I wasn’t TOO impressed w/ this film when I first saw it on PBS.  But when I saw it last week, I was VERY impressed by Penry-Jones’ subtle acting.  And talk about dashing… WOW! 

Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister; her word had no weight, her convenience was always to give way — she was only Anne.

Though Hawkins is NOT how I pictured Anne, she does a fine job in portraying a sensible, warm-hearted, and low-key woman.  Anne is described as a bit of a faded beauty in the book.  (To use modern terms, she’s not the type that gets noticed in the club.)

Casting created some problems here.  Elizabeth is too old, Mary is too irritating and unpoised, and Mr. Elliot (Tobias Menzies from Rome) has zero chemistry w/ Anne.  The other actors suit their roles well, esp. Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as Sir Walter and Alice Kriege (the Borg queen in Star Trek: TNG) as Lady Russell. 

My favorite scene is when Wentworth ducks into the shop (to wait out the rain) and almost runs into Anne.  While discussing the sudden engagement of Louisa and Benwick, Wentworth reveals HIS true feelings.  It’s movie magic!   

Persuasion is in some regards a fairy tale.  Anne has to leave her home for a place she hates.  Her father spends too much money and her sisters ignore or take advantage of her kindness.  Wentworth reenters Anne’s life when she’s given up hope of marrying.  He isn’t taken w/ the charms of the Musgrove girls.  The heroine gets her prince, finally!

Here is my review of the ’95 film:

https://knightleyemma.wordpress.com/2008/07/23/movie-review-persuasion-bbc-1995/

“Pride & Prejudice” (2005)

Running Time: 127 minutes

Starring: Keira Knightley, Matther Macfadyen, Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland, Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan, Jena  Malone, Simon Woods, Tom Hollander, Rupert Friend,  and Judy Dench

We all know that the camera loves Keira Knightley, just like Michelle Pfeiffer.  But Keira’s not just a pretty face.  “She worked like a dog,” then first-time director, Joe Wright, says on the fun/informative commentary track of the DVD.  Wright’s version of the P&P story (that many know and love) is a must-see!  (When I saw it in the theater, I wasn’t very impressed.  I think it takes a second look to appreciate all that’s going on under the surface.)

The Bennet parents are humanized by Blethyn and Sutherland.  Pike is the perfect Jane.  Malone (who’s American like Sutherland) does a terrific British accent and plays the flighty Lydia w/ gusto.  The adorable Carey Mulligan makes her film debut as Kitty.

I think looking at it now, Darcy would seem much more snobbish in our understanding of the word than he would then. To somebody like Darcy, it would have been a big deal for him to get over this difference in their status, and to be able to say to Lizzie that he loved her.  –Matthew Macfadyen

Macfadyen (a theatrically-trained actor) is a terrific Mr. Darcy- tall, slim, subtle, and not too much of a pretty boy.  He looks posh and elegant in all the costumes, but never overly imposing.  Darcy’s feelings are reigned in tightly, but his eyes are expressive.  And don’t forget that voice– one of the most gorgeous in all of show business!

 

“They just fancy each other,” Wright comments, noting the deep physical attraction between Lizzie and Darcy.  When she follows Jane to Netherfield Hall on foot, Lizzie’s hair gets mussed and her hem gets muddy.  Darcy is shocked, like best pal Bingley and his sis Caroline, but also intrigued.  He has never met a woman like her before!

When Jane gets over her bad cold, and she and Lizzie have to leave, Darcy helps Lizzie onto the carriage.  This is the first time they touch, and he’s very affected by it.

For the Netherfield ball, Lizzie makes a special effort to look cute, hoping to meet the dashing Wickham.  To her surprise, Darcy asks her to dance!  This dance sequence is one of the best moments of the film.  (Dances were very important in Austen’s time; it was one of the few times young, single people could meet, chat, and hold hands.)

This film was almost entirely shot on location- in Derbyshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, etc.  Pemberly in this version is actually the house of the Duchess of Devonshire.  (Interestingly, Keira played the role of Georgiana in The Duchess in 2008.)

We can’t overlook the rainy scene!  Toward the end, Darcy leans in close and almost kisses Lizzie.  Wow…

Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1R-Zg5es7mg

3 must-see period films

Lost in Austen (BBC, 2008)

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This show (seen last year on BBC) is a MUST-SEE for all Jane Austen fans!  It has a great cast (including gorgeous/talented new faces), looks beautiful (costumes, cinematography, lighting), and is full of humor.  There are jokes viewers of ALL ages will get, BUT there are also in-jokes for devoted fans of Jane.  (I liked those jokes best, of course!)

Amanda (Jemima Rooper) and Elizabeth (Jemma Arterton)

Amanda Price is a modern-day JA fan who enters into her fave novel, Pride and Prejudice.  She takes the place of P&P’s main protagonist Elizabeth Bennett.  But life in Georgian England is NOT as easy as it seems in the book!

The newest Mr. Darcy (Elliot Cowan)

Amanda meets the the entire P&P gang, plus a few NEW characters (Mr. Collins has brothers- LOL!)  Alex Kingston (ER) and Hugh Bonneville (Daniel Deronda, Miss Austen Regrets) are TERRIFIC as the Bennett parents.  

But the best part is Amanda’s complicated relationship w/ the newest Mr. Darcy!  As in the novel, Darcy is tall, imposing, and irritatingly proper.  (His voice is VERY cool, too!)  At first, he is shocked by Amanda’s (modern/odd) behavior.  She doesn’t want to fall for Darcy- she wants to keep  things EXACTLY like the novel.  But things quickly go wrong!     

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An interview w/ Elliot Cowan:

http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/celebrity/article4635114.ece

 

 

Middlemarch (BBC, 1994) 

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I bought this DVD a few weeks ago b/c it was a VERY good price.  (If you’re a fan of Austen or Dickens, you should definitely check it out!)  It’s a miniseries based on George Eliot’s most famous novel.  She (the pen name of George was in honor of her long-time love, George Henry Lewes) was a writer who could describe a wide swath of society, much like Dickens.  There are MANY interesting/young people trying to carve out a place in the world w/o compromising their dreams.  (These include Jonathan Firth, Colin’s younger brother, and the unusually handsome/intense Rufus Sewell.) 

Dorothy (Juliet Aubrey)

The main female character is intelligent, serious-minded, natural beauty Dorothea Brooke (Juliet Aubrey).  She and her younger sister Cecilia (a more conventional girl) were orphaned before their teens, so they live on the estate of their wealthy bachelor uncle, Mr. Brooke.  (The estate is near to the town of Middlemarch.)  Though she has many fine qualities, Dorothea wants to “do something more” w/ her life than what’s expected of a young woman of her time.  She draws up a plan for improving the cottages of Brooke’s tenants, but he doesn’t want to spend money on the project.   

Even though her youthful/outgoing neighbor (Sir James Chettam) is in love with her, Dorothea merely sees him as a friend.  But she quickly grows interested in Rev. Casuabon, a VERY serious/middle-aged/scholarly man.  Dorothea thinks that she can help him in his work.   They have a brief courtship before marrying, much to the disappointment of her family/friends.   

During most of their honeymoon in Italy, Casuabon buries himself in libraries while Dorothea sees the sights with handsome/young Will Ladislaw (Casuabon’s cousin).  Will paints for fun, but wants to find a profession where he can make an impact.

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Back home, Dorothea is impressed by the painting of a beautiful lady hanging in her house.  Will tells her the story of the unconventional romance between his British grandfather and Polish grandmother (in the picture).  Sadly, the lady wasn’t treated very well by her in-laws.  As he tells it, she is full of quiet amazement at the idea of such a relationship.  (We KNOW Dorothea hasn’t married for love.)     

Casuabon is emotionally distant and refuses his young wife’s help w/ scholarly work.  Dorothea desperately wants to make him happy, but she grows disenchanted with the cold, lonely marriage.  But she never complains. 

Will, who begins work as her uncle’s assistant, continues to see her as a friend.  Casuabon suddenly prohibits Will from coming to his house.  Dorothea is shocked- they did nothing wrong!   Did her husband sense something neither she nor Will can admit?              

Dr. Lydgate (Douglas Hodge)

The main male character is intelligent, ambitious, and worldly Dr. Tertius Lydgate (Douglas Hodge).  Unlike most of the others in the provincial town of Middlemarch, he is a well-trained MD (w/ specializations done in Scotland and Paris.)  Most docs of that day were NOTHING like ours!  Lydgate is a newcomer who elicits much attention- sometimes of the negative kind.  The other doctors bristle against his techniques (such as warning patients against wacky potions and refusing to operate when not needed).   They feel he’s too young to overstep them.

Like Dorothea, he gives part of his time to the poor.  (They become friends as the story goes along.)  Lydgate’s an idealist who hopes to create BIG changes.  In his personal life, he is quickly drawn to the vivacious and chatty Rosamund Vincy, the daughter of a tradesman.  They fall in love and marry, though he’d intended to wait until he was financially/professionally more stable.   Rosamund dreams of status and money, ignorant of the goals he has.  Will marriage curtail Lydgate’s ambitions?

A GREAT in-depth review of this film:

http://costumedramas.wordpress.com/2009/04/18/middlemarch-1994/

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)  movie_WindThatShakes

  We have a responsibility to attack the mistakes and brutalities of our own leaders, past and present.  If you lie about the past you won’t tell the truth about the present.British director Ken Loach  playing

You may not have heard of this film that came on recently on Encore; I saw it first in the BBC catalog.  It’s a glimpse into the Irish war for independence in the early 1920s as seen through the eyes of a group of very young men in rural County Cork.  At the center of the group is idealistic/sensitive Damien O’Donovan (Cilian Murphy- a native of Cork; The Way We Live Now, Red Eye, Batman Begins) and his older/charismatic brother Teddy (Padraig Delaney).  Damien is soft-spoken, slightly built, and well-respected for his smarts.   Teddy is tall, talks forcefully, and a natural leader.    harassment

Though most of his scrappy country pals are IRA (led by Teddy), Damien is about to go to a London hospital for training.  Then he witnesses some humiliating, unnecessary, and violent events perpetrated by the Black and Tans (British soldiers sent to quash the growing rebellion).         damien_sinead

He takes up arms quickly- his community needs him.  Even Damien’s long-time female friend is part of the rebellion- she works as a messenger.      bros

This film juxstaposes the beauty of Ireland with the violence of the rebellion.   In some cases, long-time friends are pitted against each other b/c they have to preserve themselves.   Freedom is not the only issuse; in one scene Damien examines a little boy who’s near starvation.  How will this rag tag group of guys defeat the soldiers?  When a compromise is reached with England, Damien and Teddy are pitted against each other.  

More info re: this film: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wind_That_Shakes_the_Barley_(film) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0460989/   cillian

More info re: Cilian Murphy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cilian_Murphy http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0614165/

Movie Review: “Pride & Prejudice” (1940)

Pride & Prejudice (1940)

 

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No, these are not Regency-era dresses; they’d suit Scarlett and Melanie!  LOL…  Once you get past these poofy costumes, you’ll enjoy this quick, breezy take on Austen’s most famous novel.  Mrs. Bennett is funny and husband-crazy (for the sake of her girls).  Mr. Bennett is has a great dry wit.  Mr. Collins is silly, and looks it, too!      

 

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Elizabeth (Greer Garson) is just as independent-minded as you’d expect.  Mr. Darcy (Laurence Olivier) is tall, stylish, BUT much more friendly/outgoing than in the book.  Olivier is JUST how one would picture Darcy, however, and he plays a posh Brit gent very easily (and well)! 

 

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Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan) is pretty, but reserved and sensible. 

 

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Lizzie reveals her REAL feelings to Darcy in her family’s large, lovely garden.  Both the leads stay w/in the bounds of propriety, but play the emotional scenes well.  There are no extremes of drama, however, so it feels true to the book.  Check this film out if you’re an Austen fan!